This may sound like an article that is going to rubbish a certain type of Christian.  However, it’s not as black and white as that.  Some of what I am going to describe has happened to a lot of us.

Internet etiquette condemns what are called “trolls”.  Trolls are people who abuse the rights and liberties of various web sites… forums in particular, until they are eventually chased away or banned.

There are people who actually make a game of trying to wreck sites… kind of Internet vandals.  But more often than not, the trolls at least start out as people who want to share their opinions in a forum which allows different opinions to be heard.

The problem comes when a web site puts restrictions on how those opinions can be expressed.  Rules may range from bans on insults to demands that posts stick to the subject of the thread on which they appear.

Making an occasional insult, or veering off-topic from time to time is something that almost everyone has done at one time or another.  But the potential troll is one who cannot accept correction when it comes.  Heated exchanges quickly escalate until the administrators or moderators are being called Nazis, Satanists, or something similar.  At the same time, the person whose opinion is not being heard starts to think of themselves as a martyr, being persecuted for the sake of righteousness (usually their own).

By this stage, the would-be troll has blossomed into the real thing, going from thread to thread and causing as much disturbance as possible before they are banned.  This is, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They actually WANT to be banned, in order to bolster the claim of martyrdom, and so the more trouble they can cause on their way out, the more certain they can be that totalitarian censorship and guilty consciences on the part of everyone else is the cause of their suffering.

When the ban finally hits, they then go elsewhere to continue their hate campaign, posting diatribes about how unfair the web site is from which they have just been banned.

Sadly, many of these people go through the cycle over and over, never recognising that they are the ones who need to change.  I don’t know of any long-standing forum that has not had to ban someone like this at one time or another.

I said at the start that a lot of us have experienced some of this from the “troll” side of the fence.  We often have a strong belief that we want to share, and public forums seem like a good place to do it.  People are almost invited to come and argue.

But then, when we do not feel we are being heard, we assume that it is either because we have not explained ourselves clearly enough, or because our listeners have seen the truth in what we are saying and are just being dishonest and unfair in return.  At some point we start turning the volume up. (The appearance of more and more words in capital letters is usually one indicator!)  Then we try to shock people, in order to impress on them that they are doing something very bad by not accepting what we have said.  We call them names.  We tell them that they have blasphemed God, that they are working for the Antichrist, that it is not another human being whom they are rejecting, but it is God Himself.

Bible verses start getting thrown at people, assuming that everyone will know that the bad people mentioned in the passages are the other guys and the good people mentioned refer to the innocent troll himself/herself.  Of course, if anyone asks, you can always plead innocent and say that it must be the other person’s own feelings of guilt which presumed that the Bible verse was being used as a weapon.

Well, that’s the problem, and I confess that I don’t know what the answer is.  I know that people come here with their various beliefs to promote, and it’s good for people to get a chance to hear those opinions.  But in the end, the owner of the site has opinions and beliefs too, and so it would be understandable that there are limits on how much opposing beliefs can be tolerated, especially if things start escalating.

We have recently banned someone from this forum, and we will probably ban others at some time in the future.  But we don’t want to do that.  A host of differing opinions is necessary to make a forum interesting.  So please do share your differences… but only to a point.  If they have been heard, but others are not accepting them, then try taking a different approach; try looking for clues as to where your opinions have veered away from those of others with whom you agree on other points; ask yourself if you can agree to disagree on some points while continuing to discuss others.  And if none of this works, then it may be time to go looking for a different forum… probably one that is closer to your own beliefs.  But if you find yourself having similar problems on those other forums, do consider that at least part of the problem may lie with you.  Maybe your truth is not as obvious or as fundamental as you would like to believe it is.

I think that many forums (this one included) are willing to accept people back who show a willingness to work on better communication skills… especially if you can acknowledge your need to change.

All the best!

Bro. Dave, for End Time Survivors