Christians Responsible for Most 'Hateful Internet Speech,' Says Washington Post Religion Reporter

Sally Quinn is journalist who has reported on religion for The Washington Post. | (Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons)

An editor for The Washington Post's religion section claimed that Christians were behind the majority of nasty and vile feedback she had received throughout her career in an op-ed Thursday.

Sally Quinn, the moderator of the religion website On Faith, which spun off from The Washington Post last year, described the earliest "hate emails" she had "did not just attack what I wrote ... but were also vicious ad hominem attacks."

"I can't tell you how many people wrote in to say that I was a whore and a slut and so much worse that I can't even write it here. And these all came from Christians," wrote Quinn. "I was going to hell. I had made a pact with the devil. Jesus and God hated me. One man wrote that he hoped I would get in a car accident, that the gas tank would explode and I would be burned alive. He was a God-fearing Christian, and he ascertained that I obviously was not one."

Quinn said online feedback was so poisonous that she decided to stop reading the comments for her article, though her actions had little effect on the content of the feedback. She also noted that she was hardly singled out for harassment.

"One friend, a well-known Catholic, wrote a lovely spiritual piece about his faith, and he was excoriated for it. ... Another guy wrote to a colleague that he hoped she would be raped by a donkey with AIDS. I thought that was pretty original," she continued.

Quinn discussed with theologians, pastors and scholars what might be at the root of this behavior.

"Nobody had a good answer. ... Perhaps they have bought into the popular notion that Christians are the new religious victims in this country. Maybe they feel guilty about their own sins. Maybe they are afraid of going to hell. Maybe they are frustrated because they have to actually act like Christians in real life and need a place to unleash their dark sides. Who knows?" said Quinn.

One effect on Quinn from the constant barrage of negativity from Christians, was the title "Christian" seemingly increasingly hollow.

"I began to see that there is a big difference between being Christian and following the teachings of Jesus. In fact, sometimes those two things can be polar opposites. Our Christian haters clearly paid little attention to Jesus."

Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists never targeted Quinn, she asserted, noting that the only other group that had targeted her in such a manner had been atheists, whom she characterized as "contemptuous, insulting and condescending."

Earlier this year, The Christian Post examined the uglier side of Evangelical Twitter.

Sarah Jones, an avid tweeter and fundamentalist-Christian-turned-atheist who often engages with Christians about homeschooling or her alma mater Cedarville University, noted that she had been trolled for sharing her beliefs on issues for which Christians disagree.

"There have been times when my account gets flooded by tweets and a lot of them just have really vile content, particularly when the subject has anything to do about the pro-choice movement," said Jones. "I've been accused of hating children. I've been told I shouldn't have children because I'd obviously be abusive to them. [There's been] comments about my hypothetical sex life and just really inappropriate things, and often when I click through to the account in question, there's a Bible verse in the bio."

Alan Noble, a Baylor University professor and editor of Christ and Pop Culture, told CP that while disagreements are inevitable, part of the problem is the channel of communication itself.

"The difficulty, it seems to me, is that on Twitter we talk about issues that are really important sometimes, and important issues tend to be complicated," said Noble. "There can be a lot resting on them, so I think there are times when you need to take a firm stance, even on social media, and say something's wrong or right. Sometimes that doesn't look pretty, but it's important."

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