Blocking Trolls

I can’t really tell you why but I am not a big fan of blocking people on social media. It just doesn’t typically feel right to me. I have blocked a few people before (a total of four as I write this post) but all but one have been people that I don’t really know in real life and they had to be extreme pains in the butt for me to finally block them. Thanks to the small group of “threads” that Pam and I meet with regularly (BTW if you are not a part of a small group of believers, hopefully within your church, I would highly encourage it) that is about to change.

We have been reading Paul’s letter to Titus and this week I was reminded through the reading and discussion of the fact that Paul was by no means shy about blocking people when he saw them as a danger to the church. Here’s the portion from Titus that hit me:

10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Titus 3:10-12

What a great passage for dealing with trolls. People who are trollish online are concerned with fighting, not truth. They enjoy the argument itself and merely winning that argument is the goal. Arguing with a troll is like fighting with water, there is nothing of substance there so they take whatever shape or argument necessary to win the discussion. Bruce Lee gave this advice in fighting, be water. It is great advice for winning a fight … but not for exploring truth.

Exploring truth requires substance pounding against substance. Finding truth isn’t about winning the argument. It is divergent viewpoints chipping away at each other to find the truth that is somewhere beneath all the extraneous points. Finding truth is believing there is a David underneath that big block of stone and chipping away at what doesn’t matter to find it. This requires hard substance to pound against. This is iron sharpening iron.

But trolls don’t sharpen anything because there isn’t any substance there to pound against. There is just water that takes whatever shape is necessary to win an argument. I often find myself wondering what a conversation was actually about after I have had an online discussion with a troll. There was nothing really there to discuss or than one’s desire to win an argument.

So what does Paul say to do with people who divide for entertainment and power? He says “to have nothing to do with them.” Hopefully, I’m learning to be a little better as spotting those whose goal is merely to be divise.

Today I have blocked my 5th person on Facebook.

Piously Unfaithful

Golden Calf

One of my favorite stories from scripture is the story of God giving King Ahaz a sign that the Lord is with him. The situation was that Judah was under siege by her enemies and God sent the prophet Isaiah to the King to reassure him that God was still with him.

Here’s the passage:

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 

(Isaiah 7:10-14)

I love this passage for two main reasons:

1st, Immanuel – can’t get much better than that.

2nd, Ahaz rebels against God while looking like he is actually obeying God. He is right not to “put the Lord to the test” in all situations EXCEPT for when the Lord tells you to put Him to the test. When God tells you to do something you are supposed to do that. But Ahaz spouts off religious-sounding language while refusing to do what God has told him to do.

He sounds so pious as he is actually disobeying God.

This is a theme you will see often in scripture. Someone does an action as though they are obeying God while actually doing the opposite of what God wants. Israel did this with the golden calf. God tells them to wait and instead they get bored and create an image of the brought them up out of Egypt and worshipped it (The Bible Project has a great podcast episode on this HERE – thanks for introducing me to this podcast Adam) (Exodus 32:1-8). Saul does then when he feels like he can’t wait any longer for Samuel to come and make a sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:7-14). It happens again and again where someone acts pious while they are actually disobeying God.

This isn’t just true in faith.

I believe it is true in so much of life. We love the symbolism and language of things (the piousity – I may have just made this word up) but not the actual day to day obedience to and sacrifice for the thing we are praising. We talk about loving family, tear up at sentimental family themes, and say that “family is what is most important”, while not actually spending time with our family. We love the symbolism of patriotism, put flags on everything, and sing the national anthem with gusto, but don’t actually love our country enough to sacrifice or serve within it. Etc. etc. etc. You probably can think of your own examples.

Piousity, of all types, is easy, costs us little, and gives us the reward of feeling and looking pious. Actually loving someone or something is more difficult, much more costly, and while the visible rewards are often not much the actual rewards are more real and long lasting, if not eternal.

Cool Cats & Kittens and a God Who Isn’t Chased Away

The above video is Eric G’s latest half-hearted attempt to get this phrase past me and into the weekly Tapestry Worship Video Gathering. He has been saying this phrase from the Netflix documentary series Tiger King for the past 10 weeks or so. I think it is pretty funny but I am also thankful that he only does it at the beginning of each video so it is easier for me to remove. This week’s version was a little cuter, and ironically creepier than normal because of the Glaze girls being involved in it, so I asked his permission to post it. Enjoy and try not to be too disturbed by it.

Not actual color

I have been meaning to post for a while now concerning my favorite part of each week’s videos. They aren’t usually a part of the final video though I find myself leaving more and more of them in the video. My favorite parts of the videos sent to me are usually the small moments that happen before and after the actual video.

In these intros and outros, I get to see small moments of real life that are wonderful. Couples that I now and love smiling knowingly at each other, kids that I have seen grow up in the church interrupting the video, people improving at musical or oratory skills, friends pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, pets suddenly causing a second take of the video, conversations that have ended just prior to the video where I get to hear the last phrase of it, sometimes messages that are meant for me telling me something that is going on, etc., etc. These moments of life pop up in the videos and I smile almost every time. I find myself allowing longer and longer pauses of seeming “nothingness” to be left in the video segments because I want other people to be able to see these moments too. Each week I find myself thinking “Look! Jesus is peeking out of that moment!”

He is so often barely hiding in plain sight.

I have worked with a few ministers in my life who were very concerned with the flow of a worship service. They were worried that anything could interrupt the smoothness of a service and thereby distract from people intimately connecting with God. So they spent a real deal of time making sure everything flowed smoothly.

I appreciate that these ministers were concerned with enabling people to connect with God, but I worried that their focus was on the personal emotional feeling of connection rather than the actual presence of God. If your god is chased off by a cell phone ringing, a missed cue, or the songs having space in between them as something is rearranged, well, you have a rather small god. My God isn’t chased off by the ordinary, mundane, boring, slow, or awkward moments of life. Thanks to the Incarnation He is actually present in those moments. Of course, He is also present in the exciting and emotional moments of life too, but there are many more boring moments than there are exciting ones. At least that’s true in my life.

I am so glad that Jesus is peeking through the boring moments hoping I will see Him. I hope I regularly see Him. I can’t wait to see Him again in these week’s batch of videos.