The Troll From Under the Bridge: A Response to Seth Crocker

This is a self-portrait of the Irish Atheist. No, really.

This is a self-portrait of the Irish Atheist. No, really.

Sometimes the troll from under the bridge has something to say.

Sometimes the troll from under the bridge just wants to be heard over the sound of the trip-trip-trapping.

Sometimes the troll from under the bridge never wanted to be there in the first place.

If I sat down with Seth Crocker and he had an ear to listen (unlikely), I might tell him what it’s like to be caught in a war zone. I would tell him about what it was like to walk by peace lines, walls built to divide the warring Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast. I’d talk about what its like to fear dying in some ignominious manner because you were standing on the wrong street corner. Graffiti scrawled across the walls, screaming for your death. The whispers every day, of more disappearances, more knees shot out in retribution, more deaths. I’d tell him what it sounds like when a car explodes on the street you’re playing on, what a hundred voices raised in a chorus of horror sound like, what the smell of burning shrapnel and congealing blood is like, all because some Christian fanatic wanted attention.

I would tell him what it’s like growing up Romani where your ethnicity is hated, where people say that you have no soul because you’re a stinking Gypsy, and you’re a little boy wondering if it’s true, if you can’t be saved because you don’t have a soul to save. What it’s like to stand in front of the mirror and breathe a prayer of thanks that you’re white enough, that they can’t tell what you are just by looking at you.

I’d tell him what it’s like to move to America, to believe for one shining moment that it’s all over because it’s America. Because Christians don’t kill each other for sport or politics or creeds in America, and being a Gypsy is just a passing curiosity for most, not something you never bring up in unfamiliar company. And then you learn that American Christians are just the same, but they abuse and hurt with so much more glee and enjoyment, and they swaddle it in a cover of love, not because of war, and not because you’re a gypsy, but because you like boys.

And then I’d ask him what it’s like in his ‘war zone.’

You see, Seth Crocker writes a blog called “Building Bridges in War Zones” in which he boasts of being a bridge between the LGBT community and the Christian Church. His goal is reconciliation, a unity which I, as I’ve said, vehemently oppose for the protection of the LGBT community. Crocker is LGBT himself, which is immaterial here. He is also a ‘Side B’ Christian, which is not. I’ve written about ‘Side B’ before, so I’ll just reiterate a few points. Side B refers to the Christian position that homosexuality is disordered and morally deficient, that people who engage in same-sex intimacy and relationships are displeasing to God. But it swaddles it up in a veneer of love and acceptance so that the bigotry of the position is easier to stomach. Side B Christians like Crocker claim to affirm the humanity and value of LGBT people. Just not, you know, those things that make us human.

Recently, Mr. Crocker posted an article on his blog where he describes how hard it is to be a Side B Christian and how he feels like he’s caught in a war zone in the Church. I responded, rather pointedly, about his use of hyperbolic language and how the ‘Side B’ position is a position of religious privilege since it carries the weight of the abusers. Soon enough, I got a notification for a response, only to find that my comment had been swiftly deleted. On his person Twitter, Crocker made a statement that ‘he doesn’t build bridges with trolls.’

Because that’s what we are to Seth Crocker. Just trolls. And in a way, it’s true.

Yes, Seth Crocker. I’m the troll under your bridge. And do you know why I’m here? I’m here because you and your Church and your brothers and sisters in Christ have thrown me down here.

I’m here because all of my life, people like you have made it clear that I’m morally deficient. Because I was a Catholic born in the Republic, because I was Romani, because I was LGBT, it has never mattered, there has always been something.

I’m here because there was never a moment as a child when I wasn’t afraid of Christians. Because to be afraid of dying, of hurting, and to be afraid of your Church was the same thing.

I resent it.

I spoke out against your use of hyperbolic language to describe the difficulty of the position of the abusers because I’m tired of Christians trying to twist their abuse and facilitation of their abuse as some sort of struggle. War zone. Persecution. Militant. A Christian war zone isn’t where you get push-back and anger for telling people that you believe their intimacy and relationships are morally deficient. It’s when a church service reads out names and they last for three hours. You’re a writer, and you should be held accountable for the meaning of the words you use.

And this troll, watching you build a bridge across to the people who tore apart my home and destroyed so many of my communities, is speaking out against your dehumanisation of people like me.

If you state publicly that you believe same-sex intimacy is morally disapproved of by your god, you have dehumanised my intimacy. Once you’ve done that, you’ve dehumanised my relationships. Once you’ve done that, you’ve dehumanised me. And once that’s done, it doesn’t matter what I say. I will always just be a troll, because I’m not even human anymore.

You can decide that celibacy is your personal calling, but y9u cannot cite the moral superiority of Side B as a reason without contributing to the moral shaming that has been inflicted by so many.

I’m the troll beneath your bridge, Seth Crocker, but I’m not alone. There are so many of us here, thrown down beneath the bridge-builders. To you, we may just be trolls, but down here we’re still dying. While you lament how hard it is to be ‘Side B,’ these people are dying.

Seo iad mo mhuintir.

‘I don’t build bridges with trolls.’

Be honest, Mr. Crocker. You don’t build bridges with people like me.

So when you contribute to the moral shaming we’ve endured so long, Seth Crocker, this troll will always speak out. When you do it publicly, I will respond publicly. With anger and vehemence if I must because I’m not your nice little Christian applauding you from the other side of the gully.

Mr. Crocker: You can hold me as morally deficient because I don’t listen to the commands of your god and dare to fall in love other people no matter what their gender is. You can hold me as a troll for feeling the pain that your words rake across the scars on my back that have been there literally all my life.

But in return, I hold you to the same moral level as Jen Hatmaker, John Piper, Al Mohler, and every other Christian who thinks they can love people while morally shaming them for who they are.

I hold you to the same moral level as Alan Chambers, , Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Bryan Fischer, Julie Rodgers, Tony Perkins, and every Christian who has facilitated and profited off the psychological torture of thousands of adults and children.

I hold you to the same moral level as the butchers of my people, who filled the gutters of Omagh and Belfast and Derry with blood.

Not because your actions are comparable, but because your theology is more important to you than our human dignity.

This is not a theological debate, it is not a disagreement at the table, it’s people’s lives and families and relationships and the screams of every man, woman and child trapped under this bridge you are paving above us.

Tá tú,tá tú ag teacht go dtí an crann?
Sa chás crochadh siad fear a rá siad dúnmharaíodh trí.

(Are you, are you, coming to the tree?).

I am your troll, Seth Crocker, but I won’t allow you or your ‘theological positions’ to continue to dehumanise myself and my people. Not without speaking up. Not without speaking loudly. Not until we’re all roaring out from under this bridge.

Picture via http://www.lotr.wikia/trolls


11 thoughts on “The Troll From Under the Bridge: A Response to Seth Crocker

  1. Love the portrait.
    I’m sorry for everything you’ve gone through. And thank you for sharing, and for speaking out. I don’t know if you like hugs, but if you do, here’s a hug.
    FWIW, trolls are strong and interesting (and mysterious because people are afraid of them), aren’t they? I always wanted a story from their perspective. 😀

  2. Thanks for being so vulnerable about everything you’ve gone through. If there’s anything that may appropriately be called *holy ground* it has to be the life experience of a fellow human being, and the effects it has had upon him/her.

    I’m not LGBTQ. I’m not an ally. I am a former fundamentalist. Two things changed my perspective: 1. Research, biblical and otherwise. 2. Becoming a father. What if my son whom I love turned out to be LGBTQ? It wouldn’t matter to me. I’d love him unconditionally. I would never tell him he’s an abberation of a human being or that the bible is the top ceiling of moral thought. Everything and everyone must be subject to critical inquiry. Love will lead to the truth.

    Thanks for sharing once again.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. But I think you meant to say that you *are* an ally, rather than the other way around. At any rate, it certainly sounds like you’re trying to be. If not, I’d be curious as to why you don’t see yourself as one.

      • Well, I’d rather do the actions of an ally than to claim the label. I don’t feel I know enough just yet. Still growing.

  3. Hi Irish,

    While I never use that term, I am a “side b” gay Christian. I’ve read your thoughts on that before. I also followed your link to Seth’s post, and to be honest, I identified with it a lot, and it resonated greatly with me.

    But I want you to know that I hear you. I agree with Seth, but I hear you and am not dismissing your voice. Voices like yours make it hard for me to neatly reconcile my faith with my sexuality and social sensibilities. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing, necessarily.

    • Aye, well, I wrote this post out of a lot of weariness. I’m just tired.

      I’m tired of being shamed by the Christian community for aspects of my being that I can’t help.

      I’m tired of being expected to nod and stay silent when someone says it’s just ‘their convictions.’

      I’m tired of being treated like a subhuman and told that it’s in love.

      I’m tired of dehumanising language like ‘troll’ when I show the anger I feel from a lifetime of abuse at the hands of your religion.

      I’m just tired. And it’s clear we’re not going to agree on it. If Mr. Crockett’s words resonate with you, that’s because you’re similar people, and obviously you know my thoughts.

      That being said, thank you for both listening and responding.

  4. Thank you! You have brilliantly put into words everything I was thinking when I ran across his blog today. He represents the latest iteration of theopolitical “solution” to the “homosexual problem” that christian conservatives have been trying to manage for decades. Its really just ex-gay version 2.0 since the concept of ex-gay failed its dual purpose- a) theologically, they can no longer maintain the pretense of praying away the gay to naive parents or conflicted gays and b) politically, reparative therapy was seized upon by the religious right in the late 80s/early 90s in order to justify denying gays the political and legal status of minority protected class.
    However, this latest spat of confessional bloggers have recently gotten media coverage as some sort of “third way” compromise. On the one hand, it isn’t really new – every few years some clueless reporter for the NYT, WaPo, etc. will “re-discover” Eve Tushnet and write up the same article in the Style section almost like an anthropologist discovering some long lost indigenous tribe. On the other hand, the likes of Wesley Hill and Ron Beglau have a centralized blog (Spiritual Friendship) that they are now promoting as what amounts to an online evangelical pseudo-ministry preaching celibacy. It’s quite the spectacle of pathos that attempts to put a happy face on misery. The various bloggers and commenters also seem to compete with each other over who can pathologize their “condition” the most with endless debates over how to achieve peak masculinity in order to reify essentialized gender roles and buttress this fiction of “sexual complementarity” All of this in aid of promoting heterosexual coitus as the sine qua non of marriage, which of course is denied to them because of their sinful affliction of “same sex attraction” They seem to almost eroticize their suffering like some pale imitation of a medieval nun having mystical sex with Jesus. It’s a net version of a self-indulgent passion play that is totally oblivious to how it actually reproduces homophobia that affects those of us who actually had the courage to come out and reject the shame and self-loathing they revel in.
    Sorry to rant and thank you for the blog – I was beginning to think I was overreacting to the potential danger of this shift to enforced celibacy – none of the major gay news blogs have really picked up on this yet but this needs to countered…

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