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On Trolls and Other Self-Righteous Monsters

If you spend anytime online, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media or simply peruse the comments on various news websites, you likely have come across that ever-present argumentative behemoth known as the internet troll. The physical separation provided by the internet and the empowering nature of computing, whether desktop or handheld, has combined to create a safe-space for anyone specializing in verbal mugging. While disagreement will happen in the course of almost any discussion, the troll craves arguing so much that he will insult people, bait people, and cajole people until they participate so that the troll can fight the bad fight and declare himself the winner when everyone else wearies of his sophistry and slurs. Yes, some people troll others to feel better about themselves. It is disgusting. It is verbal thuggery. And it ought to stop. But the worst part of such behavior is how many Christians employ such tactics in the name of righteousness.

Despite how technology has empowered many trolls, the attitude and behavior underlying it has existed for millennia. After Job offered a defense of his own character and behavior in response to the assumptions of iniquity made by his friends, rather than listening carefully to him and considering his words, Zophar took it upon himself to put Job in his place. He justified his decision from the outset, asking Job, “Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be vindicated? Should your empty talk make men hold their peace? And when you mock, should no one rebuke you?” (Job 11:1–3). This series of questions reveals much about the self-righteousness of Job’s friends. 

  1. It showed that they expected Job to sit and listen quietly to their “wisdom” and just accept what they said. (See Acts 17:11.)
  2. It showed that they had assumed Job was wrong and would not consider any other possibility. (See Matthew 5:17.)
  3. It showed that they were looking only for someone to agree with them rather than seeking an honest evaluation of the problem. (See Luke 10:25-37 and Matthew 22:29-32.)
  4. It showed that they were prepared to call Job a sinner without sufficient evidence but took offense at Job pointing out their failed reasoning. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.)

There is a difference between having a discussion on a topic where honest disagreement exists versus deliberately provoking people through anger, pomposity, and general haughtiness. A Christian’s goal in communication should be speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15)—not demagoguery. This does not equate with soft-soaping truth. Truth is truth and must be the standard for all that we say and do (Jn. 17:17). But a cabal of people exist who view what others say through the scope of their own opinions rather than through the standard of God’s Word. They try to outtalk you, demean you, bait you, and berate you, but they apparently do not have the time or inclination to show patience, to reason with the scriptures, or to love you. “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matt. 7:20).

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