Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom of the ring that they bore and of the domination of the One which was Sauron’s. And they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Úlairi, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death. — The Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”, 346.
It’s to be expected. The internet provides anonymity (of sorts) to trolls, who arrive at any given blog with a variety of motivations. Not knowing our Lord Jesus – yet anyway — they spew forth all the evil they can muster. That’s also why I have comment moderation turned on. I know that’s annoying, but I imagine that to be easier than trying to register every commenter and weed out the bad guys. I’m sure you’ve seen the struggles some have with this right around the Catholic blogosphere. I might change my mind on this, but that’s where I’m at right now.
Yesterday, three comments appeared here on the blog, I suppose because the boyhood chapters of my autobiography that I’ve been putting up is rather offensive to those who have taken a different path. All the comments, all identical, began with the words: “Oh little boy: have…” and went on from there in the most monstrously aggressive, pedophilic manner, but were just a little too clever, so that it seems to be no more than a psych student having a bit of ”fun”, not realizing, however, that such exercises at the expense of others manifest a rather grave need for repentance and healing. This is psychology as raw power, an illusion — the basis of pedophilia – much like the goals of the Ringwraiths, the Nazgûl, pictured above.
One of the most important rules of running a blog or in putting up comments on a blog is to never but never respond to trolls. As soon as they realize that they are being ignored, they will fade away like so much fog in the night. I follow that rule of never responding, well, mostly. There are exceptions. This is one.
When Jesus was confronted with an hypocritical challenge, He did not offer a simple answer, and thus did not allow Himself to be mired in the vortex of passive/aggressive nonsense so desired by the trolls of the time, but instead stunningly answered their confrontation by raising the stakes, presenting the justice and mercy, the goodness and kindness of our Heavenly Father. He knew that this raising of the stakes would be the occasion for the raising of Himself up on the Cross, using that, however, to turn their monstrous aggression into repentance. Talk about raising the stakes right unto the revelation of our salvation!
The last thing trolls expect is that their vile aggression be used for their own salvation. But when all is said and done, after we have all shown our worst, cynically rejecting that God could love us even then, we find ourselves saying with the now repentant Roman soldier who just moments before had thrust his spear into the side of Jesus: “Truly this was the Son of God.” Indeed, Jesus knew we would see His goodness and kindness as an incrimination of our evil, instead of as an invitation to the fullness of life. But He also knew that in taking our worst rejection of that “incrimination”, and remaining innocent, He would then have the right in justice to demand mercy for us from our Heavenly Father: “Father, forgive them! They know not what they do.”
I would like to take up the example of Jesus and point such trolls to the goodness and kindness of our Heavenly Father by raising the stakes in what I’m sure is an unexpected manner, part of what raising the stakes is all about, right? I once did this with a sycophant follower of Richard Dawkins who tried to enlist all the other sycophants on Dawkins’ website. He didn’t get the point, however, not wanting a discussion, but desiring only to smash all those with whom he came in contact. That would be about right for this kind of thing. But, it’s worth a try. One more soul eventually in heaven is always worth a try.
I’ll raise the stakes by saying that any of us could sin in any manner (1) if we were without the grace of God and (2) if we lived in circumstances heavily favoring such sin. For not a one of us is better than anyone else. Not a one of us has a rung up on anyone else just because we are who we are, pelagianistically pretending we can thus climb such a ladder of self-righteousness right into heaven, ignoring the redemption of our Lord, blinded to reality by what we think is the overwhelming light of our self-fashioned halos. In short, we’ve all crucified the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace by way of our sins. Anyone who says any different is a liar, as we read in the New Testament, in the First Letter of Saint John, 1,10.
We can congratulate ourselves for having been born into nicey-nice circumstances, and hypocritically think we are better than others merely because of this façade, this pretense of being nice. But we would then prove in this way that we deserve to take upon ourselves the guilt of all those whom we so despise, and, indeed, we would thereby give ourselves the licence to commit whatever crime, whatever sin, because, you know, nice people like us don’t do bad and evil things, only bad and evil people do. So no matter what we would do with that rationalization would be virtuous in our eyes. And that nicey-nice self-congratulation is the height of how low humanity can sink into demonic degradation. Dangerous, that.
And while self-righteousness is the definition of despair, that unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit, to rule out the forgiveness which that same Holy Spirit was sent among us to bring, as the absolution prayer for the sacrament of confession puts it, we can hardly say that that sin was committed fully until one dies in that sin. Again, while one breathes, there is hope. Sometimes trolls are just crying out for help, right?
I remember an Australian bishop who once famously offered an examination of conscience, asking his listeners to call to mind the person they most despise, and then, having done that, they were to know that that is precisely just how much they despised God Himself. For while we can hate the sin, we are only to hate the sinner is such manner that they be radically transformed, sinners no longer, but rather those who are drawn to the love of our Lord and the respect He would have us put into action for others. Of course, one’s feelings can scream “I despise this other person!”, but feelings, and even such emotions, only trying to protect us in their exaggerated, fallen human way, are not the definition of who we are, for we can make an act of the will — in the Lord’s grace — that others come to know what it means to repent, to know the goodness and kindness of Jesus.
Finally, and just to say this to our pedophile troll: Jesus loves you. And He will forgive you. But He will also tell you to sin no more. And He has the strength for you to learn about His goodness and kindness, and to live it. It’s not about us or our abilities or lack thereof. It’s all about Jesus. Look to Him. He also gave Himself for you. He’s just that good, and just that kind.
Now, in saying all that, in raising the stakes with Jesus, I suppose that the pedophile commenter could either take up what I said, or become all the more aggressive, a risk one takes when raising the stakes. One might be crucified. Whatever. That’s not important. What’s important is whether someone, in the end, will come to know that Jesus Himself is truly the Son of God.