Being trolled for an article on this site taught me how unwelcome Christian talk can be

On Sunday morning I woke up to a delightful discovery. Overnight my column had climbed up the Christian Today 'Most Read' charts and was occupying third place. Wonderful, kind, Christian Today readers said lovely things. Thank you.

But by midday, my delight was replaced with dismay. By the time I got home from church the internet haters, fakers and ego shakers had piled in to post incendiary comments onto a personal, but public, Facebook page dedicated to sharing snippets of news about my work.

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A steady spew of hateful anti-faith dribble poured relentlessly onto my page with all the charm of a burst sewer pipe. Soon the uninvited 'trolls' began taking inappropriate verbal pot shots at each other. Chaos broke out as arguments escalated into a sort of virtual pub brawl. Eventually I banned 18 Facebook users, all total strangers, from posting comments on my page.

They're still out there, they're still on Facebook, and as far as I'm concerned they can 'shout' their ridiculous rantings all they like. Just not on my little piece of the internet, thank you very much.

And yet I'm kind of grateful to those naughty trolls for telling me, in no uncertain terms, to shut up and go away. They've reminded me just how angry and broken some folks are, just how harsh and nasty the world can be, and just how hostile public spaces, both real and virtual, can sometimes be.

They've reminded me that Christian talk can be truly unwelcome, and that some folks are outraged that we dare to voice it at all.

A video clip showing the arrest of a Street Preacher in a public space in London has gone viral and sparked a tirade of responses on social media. The majority of comments I've read appear to be largely sympathetic towards the preacher and supportive of his right to preach in public. Other comments were antagonistic towards the police for their heavy handed actions.

Some posts were concerned about the legality of the arrest, others about the man having his bible taken away. Others expressed grave concern and were very worried about freedom of speech in the UK. The story reached the USA and was covered by Fox News and CBN. The London Metropolitan Police have issued a public statement about the arrest and subsequent de-arrest.

As a woman who has survived abuse, I have to admit that I'm really not a big fan of being aggressively shouted at. And that's a polite understatement. Very loud, shouty, in-your-face, manic, pointy preachers, politicians, teachers and speakers switch me off entirely and I refuse to hear what they're saying. In a public or private space I will give them a wide berth. If they can calm down and speak to me in a civilised manner, well ok, I'll listen. Natural enthusiasm, excitement and energy are also acceptable.

But no matter how important the message, how crucial the information, how serious the intent, or how desperate the plea, I flatly refuse to be aggressively shouted at. Not in my home. Not in my church. Not in the pub. Not on the internet. Not on the street.

Unless of course there's a runaway truck barrelling towards me, then shout at me, please.

Val Fraser is an author and journalist. Follow her on Twitter @ValFraserAuthor.

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