Best Religion Blog Post of the Year: On Holy Trollers

Thank you John Blake – Blake, editor at CNN’s Belief Blog, sets out the types of commenters on religion blogs. Here’s the opening and then I list his types — at the link you can read his excellent descriptions and advice.

(CNN) –”Yo mama…”

Whenever I heard those two words while growing up in inner-city Baltimore, I knew something bad was about to happen. Trading insults was a childhood ritual. But everyone understood that one subject was off-limits. You didn’t talk about anybody’s momma unless you were prepared to start swinging.

Now that I’m all grown-up, I’ve discovered a new arena for combat: The reader’s comments section for stories about religion.

When I first started writing about religion for an online news site, I eagerly turned to the comment section for my articles, fishing for compliments and wondering if I had provoked any thoughtful discussions about faith.

I don’t wonder anymore.

When I look at the comment section now, I see a whole lot of “yo mamas” being tossed about. Readers exchange juvenile insults, condescending lectures and veer off into tangents that have nothing to do with the article they just read.

For years, I’ve listened to these “holy trollers” in silence. Now I’m calling them out. I’ve learned that the same types of people take over online discussions about faith and transform them into the verbal equivalent of a food fight. You may recognize some of these characters.

You might even recognize yourself.

The Street Corner Prophet

The Provoker

The Atheist

The Scholar

The Peacemaker

What kind of holy troller will you be?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • tedstur

    Hmmm…. interesting. The Scholar and the Provoker are different. I guess we do have a problem in higher ed!

    Don’t mind me, just trolling…. ;>)

  • http://prodigalthought.net/ Scott Lencke

    My heart is always warmed well within when I read a commenter that happened to pop on my blog (maybe through a Google search?) to tell me just how wrong I am and even worse. Then, I also remember that I have done this before, and I sometimes only read a few people’s blogs so I can know just how bad the “other side” is, and I repent in sackcloth and ashes. Lord have mercy on us.

  • attytjj466

    I am going to change my online name to katierose. ;) OXOX

  • Susan_G1

    At Sturbridge Village, people work as they did in early America, as coopers and chandlers and potters, etc. We walked into the sawyer’s area just as another group was leaving. The sawyer was obviously exasperated.

    “Did you hear that question?” he complained loudly to his fellow sawyer. “Geez, what an ***HOLE!!!” The space was filling up silently. After a short while, he turned angrily to our group and said, “Well, does anyone have any questions?”

    Of course, we did not want to ask this man anything. “So, you all know everything about what I’m doing! Good for you. You’re all brilliant! You don’t need to be here. So move along.”

    I raised my hand. My husband cringed a bit (he does not like conflict.) “I have a question,” I volunteered.

    “Excellent! Someone who doesn’t know everything! What’s your question?”

    “Why,” I asked as evenly as I could muster, “are you being so obnoxious?”

    “Great question!!!” he bellowed. “You’d be obnoxious, too, if you had to listen, day after day, to a bunch of stupid people asking a bunch of stupid questions! Who’s next?”

    No one was next. We all filed out silently. I did volunteer very quietly as we passed him that I thought he should look into getting a different job.

    People who blog, and make money off of the comments of their readers (incorporating provocative or insightful comments into their books or getting benefits from the number of comments) should not complain too publicly about the commenters being trollish. I think it’s a nuanced form of unkindness. A sanctified judgmentalism. A godly way to stick it to them.

    Would that we could all speak the truth in love, just say what we mean, mean what we say, and not expect others to be mindreaders. In blogs, this is what moderation is for.

    Blessings to all. Stepping off my soapbox.

    Edited to add: Blake’s post is full of speaking the truth in love. Your clipped version does not do his post justice, especially since you don’t have many of the kinds of commenters he has. At least as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve never seen people to wish for others to “rot in hell forever, LOLLOL.”


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