at least he spelled it right
I am this close (holding my hand up, pinching my thumb and forefinger together) this close to telling you the name of the guy who posted the following review on the facebook page I manage for my church (verbatim):
Ya all need satan in ur life ifit wasnt for satan the churches wouldt be in business still
There was a brief flurry of panic when the review was first discovered: some emergency texts from a vigilant colleague, and I postponed my evening retirement to take the necessary steps to hide the review and block the dude from further contact. We can’t have that showing up on the facebook page of the First United Methodist Church.
But before I blocked him, I checked him out. He’s local - lives in our neighboring city - a year or two younger than me. The posts on his timeline tend toward the vulgar: “humorous” one-liners about oral sex and bondage - the kinds of things junior high boys would say when they want you to think they’re gettin’ some. He’s got a couple of graphics of bats and gothic images, and he’s shared some posts from Satanic organizations.
As I think more about this guy’s review of our church, the less of a PR emergency it seems. While evil certainly exists, I’ve never felt especially threatened by Satanism as an organized religion, or by its followers. I could be wrong, but my perception is that organized Satanism is a pretty small crowd of folks who just haven’t found another place to fit in. In large part, they keep to themselves. They tend to not have church buildings with signs out front announcing their worship times and Sunday school hours. They don't advertise their potlucks or rummage sales in the local newspaper.
There’s a rural park nearby with a railroad culvert under which - according to high-school lore - the local Satanists would gather and do their thing - whatever that is. I went and checked it out a few years back and found a couple of pentagrams and “SATIN” painted on the wall. “SATIN” with an “I”. I wanted to call all of my old buddies and tell them that no, it was not the satanists, it was the satinists who were meeting down there - guys who like slippery sheets and shiny shirts. I’m guessing that the most illicit thing that ever happened under the railroad tracks is that a couple of joints got smoked. As a “faith”, Satanism doesn’t seem to have much traction.
I think anyone who visits our church’s facebook page and clicks on the reviews, would understand that this guy has probably not actually visited our church, and it’s not so much a “review” of our church as it is a statement of his personal disdain for Christian churches in general. And if a reader’s curiosity were piqued enough to check the gentleman’s facebook profile, they would find what I found: a lonely dude who jokes a lot about sex, but has enough time available on a Friday night to troll church facebook pages. I don’t believe his review is particularly damaging to us.
There actually is a grain of truth in what he said - a grain. If Satan is the personage who represents evil, if Satan is the one who exists to draw us away from God, then yeah, the church exists, in part, to counter Satan’s efforts. So the dude might not be wholly wrong.
I said I was this close to telling you his name. He created a hassle for me that I didn’t need. He attempted to embarrass the organization that I work for. That kinda ticks me off. It would make me feel good to embarrass him back, but embarrassing people is not what we do at our church - not intentionally, anyway. And engaging in tit-for-tat pettiness is for people who have more time on their hands than I do.
It just so happens that it's my turn to preach at our sister church this Sunday and, wouldn’t you know it, the scriptures of the day are the "love your enemy" ones and the "turn the other cheek" ones and the "be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" ones from the Gospel of Matthew. So, just when I’m ready to expose this guy as a creep and a no-good internet troll, I’m tasked with sharing a message of loving my enemies, and being charitable. This is something I want people outside of the church to understand about people inside the church: that just because one says they’re a follower of Christ, this "loving your enemy" thing isn’t easy. It doesn’t become automatic. It isn’t intuitive. We wanna kick their asses just like everyone else does. But that’s not the pathway to holiness, and it's not really productive, so instead of telling you his name, I should probably find something nice to say about him.
At least he spelled it right.