Kristin Du Mez, author of the excellent Jesus and John Wayne, recently wrote about the demonization she gets online and why she responds the way she does:
I’m asked frequently how I hold up being so often targeted by these types. On the one hand, it can be frustrating because it feels like such a waste of time. I can present all the evidence and documentation in the world. Authors and experts can weigh in on my behalf. And it doesn’t do squat. At least, it won’t convince them or change their course. But what it does do is hold this behavior up for others to see. It’s no longer secret, no longer conducted behind closed doors or in email or group texts. It’s there for the whole world to see, and I think there’s something worthwhile about this exposure.
And how their attacks and petty trolling is just following the patterns she wrote about in her book:
I spent over a decade watching conservative evangelical culture, and I saw this pattern repeatedly. So much so that it became a theme of Jesus and John Wayne. So, when they come for me now, I often just smile. Why wouldn’t they? This is exactly how their world operates. I know I am dangerous to them primarily because what I did in Jesus and John Wayne was hold it up for all to see. It’s not personal.
This next paragraph is so accurate to our own experiences in trying to raise concerns and eventually challenge leadership, I wonder if Kristin Du Mez has been reading my journal entries:
There is a culture that flourishes in conservative evangelical spaces that punishes those who raise concerns. There is a longstanding practice of circling the wagons, and of quickly and ruthlessly demonizing anyone who challenges those in power. From what I observed, those who end up demonized are often not the crusader types, at least not initially. Many begin by gently and respectfully raising concerns. Many do so in good faith and assume they will be heard in good faith. Many are then shocked by how they are treated. Many end up leaving quietly. But those who don’t are ostracized, maligned, painted as troublemakers. As feminists. As liberals. As moral degenerates. As vile.
As she writes in ending the article, "...pay attention to the dynamics. Who is affirmed, protected, tolerated, praised? Who gets pushed out? Who is publicly maligned?"
It's so difficult to not scream, shout, and go down to that same level of demonization and malignment of the person. The safest thing for many is to leave. And even if you don't leave quietly, the church walls with the expensive sound materials will make sure nobody inside really hears or notices you on the way out.