Earlier this week, a post appeared on my FB page, saying that the parents of the teenaged girl shot and badly injured on Tuesday in yet another school shooting in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland, had asked members of the public to pray for her. In what appeared to be the first comment, a man had typed out the entire text of the “Hail Mary,” a prayer dear to me and certainly familiar to most Catholics. I’m guessing that the man may have been prompted by the name of the county where the girl goes to school.
Under the “Hail Mary” prayer, in a small but highlighted script, was the instruction that I might click here to see the intervening 130 comments. Wow, I thought. One hundred and thirty. That’s a lot of prayers. How nice.
Well, not exactly.
In the next visible comment, the poster was scolding a previous writer for saying something that “spit in the face” of the girl’s parents. Curious, I clicked to see the hidden comments.
Well, let me confess it was too disturbing to read all 130 comments. I’m not a journalist; I did not do the full research. But best as I can tell, several people were incensed that anyone would pray to Mary because she was a mere human and only Jesus is Lord and Savior and God, and a prayer is not legitimate unless it is directed to Him. Someone else pointed out that Mary was a sinful woman, a comment many Catholics would decry as tantamount to blasphemy!
As many of you know, I was raised Catholic and often feel a great affection for the church. But you may also know that the church has pissed me off in more ways than I can name right here, so I’m not going to get my panties in a knot over folks arguing on my FB page about Catholic doctrine. However, a bunch of rude people making venomous comments to each other, arguing about the finer points of what is essentially two branches of the same darn religion!!!–when parents of a critically injured girl are asking for prayers!!!–THAT upsets me.
Fortunately for me, I learned a long time ago not to be drawn into arguments with friends and certainly not with strangers, so I scrolled on and soon logged off for the night. But obviously it bothered me or I wouldn’t be writing this now.
The next day while walking by the river, I prayed that I might write something that would be healing and promote harmony, and that would not be easily dismissed. That’s when it occurred to me: maybe this post wasn’t written by a bunch of argumentative Catholics and Protestants. Maybe it was written by Russian trolls.
When I got home I tried to find the post, but it no longer showed up in my feed. I don’t remember who shared the post in the first place, but the comments were all from folks I didn’t know. What’s more, it’s no secret I’m Catholic. I’ve posted that online many times. Maybe there are other versions of this post where Muslims, Jews and Hindus offer prayers and are roundly criticized for “spitting in her parents’ faces.”
I have no proof this post came from Russia. I know there are plenty of Americans who are mean and stupid all on their own. But the trolls have admitted that their primary mission was to sow discord, to get us all fighting amongst ourselves. Obviously this was not hard to accomplish.
My point is this: be vigilant. Don’t get sucked into arguments online, no matter how much you’re provoked. Turn the other cheek. Be a peace maker.
Seriously, I wish we had a viral meme or catch phrase that would cue us to behave in a civil way, like “Play nice, or I’ll think you’re a Russian troll.” Or more simply, “Harmony.” Ideas?
Thanks for reading. Be safe out there. And be safe in here too.