Foreword: I originally wrote this for my writing blog, but criticism is something we all have to deal with, especially during the school year. I’m sharing it here so you can also be encouraged by it.
When I first talked to my mom about starting a blog (or two or three), she warned me about comments. I had lots of helpful stuff to share, I was a good writer… all that sweet mom stuff. But she also warned me that I, as a Christian, would be a target. People would immediately try to attack me without hearing me out. That was okay with me- it still is. As my brother so eloquently says it, “Haters gonna hate.”
What I didn’t count on was how many “haters” would actually read my blog.
You would not believe some of the comments and feedback I have received, even if I’m talking about something that has nothing to do with Christianity. People have called me a second-rate storyteller, a hater of women (not even joking), an indoctrinated homeschooler, a tyrant, and- my favorite- Robin Hood with merry men. I have even seen people creating false identities and leaving scathing reviews for Son of Ren… without reading the book first.
How can we answer such outrageous claims? Sure, I laugh about them now, but it’s harder to see clearly when hearing such comments for the first time. My mind is blown at some of the things people come up with, but I still have to answer them in a way that reflects God’s grace and truth. So today I’m making a list of things I want to remember when giving an answer for the hope that is within me.
In the world we will have trouble.
God said so, therefore it’s going to happen. That’s the thing about God’s predictions; they always come true. Jesus explained in Matthew 10:16 and John 15:18 that if people hated Him, they will most certainly hate us who represent Him. No way around it.
Persecution is a blessing.
Another one of God’s predictions is that persecution grows us. It’s the funniest thing about nonbelievers; even when they think they’re doing great, mocking and persecuting and killing us for being representatives of Christ, the true church ends up growing all the more stronger. (China is a good example.) Why does this happen? Because, under persecution, Christians have to think about what we believe and decide what is really worth fighting for.
Maybe the person is right about some things.
I always say to my siblings when teaching them about logic, “The first step to winning an argument is to be right.” When I receive a comment that presents a claim, no matter how rude or illogical, I want to look for the truth in it. Of course I am not a legalistic do-good-er who hits people with Bibles, but could it be that my theological terms are confusing or offensive to the unchurched reader? Looking for the nuggets of truth can make me a better storyteller, debater, or even friend.
Ask the right questions.
Honestly, when someone flames me, it’s usually not because they think my storytelling is going to melt children’s brains, or because they believe that Tauriel’s love story contributed to The Hobbit trilogy in some way. Meanness is significant of a deeper problem. The troll who calls me a second-rate storyteller might have been horrified at a Christian twaddle book years ago and now thinks that all Christian writers are artless idiots. The Tauriel-fan may be angry at Christians because her grade-school teacher told her that the Bible condemns women.
Now, of course those things don’t make a whit of sense, but people are not entirely rational creatures- least of all without God’s truth. Satan’s traps run deep. There is always an underlying problem, and I can find out what it is by asking the right questions. What do they mean by such extraordinary claims? Can they explain why they think that? What if there was a different answer?
It’s an opportunity to represent Christ.
This one is hard. When God wanted Him to stay silent, Christ did not open His mouth to defend Himself. It didn’t matter that the people were bringing false accusations; Christ would only say that He is the Son of God, and no more.
Maybe it’s time to try a different tack. People come and demand that I explain why I hate Muslims or am homophobic or don’t take responsibility for my own actions. We could easily explain that these claims are wrong, but most of the time, the people who ask these questions have already heard all the answers. They’re spoiling for a fight. When I meet people who are only interested in listening to themselves talk, I won’t be the one to knock the chip off their shoulder. My actions (or books or blog posts) can speak for themselves, and through us people will see something- or Someone- better.
Even the worst troll can change.
This one really blows my mind, but I’ve actually met commenters who were very rude and attacked me personally, but when I replied graciously with the truth, they came back and apologized. Since then, we’ve come to a few agreements and realized just how many ideas we have in common.
Imagine that the zealous, Christ-hating Saul lived in our day and could interact with Christians online. What do you think he’d be like? Open-minded, polite, and conversational? More like rude, obscene, and illogical! And yet God changed Saul’s heart, turning him into the world-changing Apostle Paul.
You see, Saul was not unlike many “trolls” and “haters” today; he believed what he believed, and he was willing to do anything to make sure no one disagreed with him. That didn’t stop God from using honest Christians like Ananias to show Saul the truth. I want to be Ananias- the one who fears God, who can change the heart. I want to be the one God uses to show Himself to unbelievers.
Haters gonna hate, so of course God is going to use it for good, and I want Him to use me in His plan.