Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Crazy Like a Fox

I don't know about you other pastors out there, but I am used to occasionally getting mail sent to me that is most likely from someone who is suffering from mental illness. Please believe that as someone who served as a chaplain in a mental health facility for a year, I am in no way, shape or form cracking a joke.

I have received everything from scrawled ramblings to a a bound book entitled "The Gospel of Owen." I know other pastors who have received various things like this and I've never really worried about it.

But last week I received something that made me just a little bit nervous. What made me nervous was that the ramblings were written on the back of our church newsletter and then placed in an envelope and sent back to me using the address cut out once again from the newsletter. Huh. Not so random when the diatribe is written on a piece of paper that we most likely first mailed to them.

IT was fairly nonsensical except for one sentence which I can't get out of my head: "A cruel father sacrifices his own son."

I gotta tell you, I never thought of it that way.


Listing Straight said...

Yeah. We lead worship at a local homeless shelter a few years ago and I got a diatribe a few days later in the mail from someone who was obviously there about the sins of having women ministers.

It didn't help that I tried to reply nicely (not telling him why he was wrong but thanking him for his note and wishing him well) and I mis-spelled his name. In my defense, his handwriting was difficult to read.

The diatribe I got back was bad enough that I almost considered contacting the police.

On the newsletter... Wow... And he does make a good point. Except, God didn't kill Jesus, we did. God was just (just!) willing to give him to us, no strings attached.

Do I win an award for the longest comment?

cheesehead said...


But I have had that ("cruel father") pointed out to me before.

reverendmother said...

God didn't kill Jesus, but in certain theologies of the atonement there is a definite thread of "God's perfect judgment was appeased through Jesus' death."

Not such a big fan, myself, but that's part of orthodox Christianity!

Elaine said...

I am drawn back to the story of Abraham and Isaac. A father sacrificing his son. The son (if you think about it, almost necessarily) obediently accepting.

"God will provide the lamb."


Accepting our pain as his own?

Norman, Oklahoma

NotShyChiRev said...

I hear you on the sometimes scary mail. We, for some reason, have become a target of a very unpleasant person with quarterly diatribes.

But his mail isn't as scary as a file in my desk left to me by my's hate mail from a couple of the churches in the neighborhood...both from congregations of a more traditional ilk. One stream of mail is related to the fact that in the 18 year history of this merged congregation, I'm the first man to be pastor here. The other has to do with, of all things, the historic work of the church for economic justice. Who'd of thought promoting affordable housing and donating tax rebates would so rile Christians?

As for the divine child abuse angle...I think it's an example of our failure as the church (not YOU or your church, but THE WHOLE church) to have a clear understanding of the Trinity. Father and Son are one...this is self-sacrifice, not infantcide.

Sue said...

Been there, done's not pleasant at all. The tough part is trying to remain pastoral while assuring that you are safe.

Two years ago we had a similar kind of person who took a dislike to me because of the whole "women don't belong in the pulpit" thing. It seemed harmless until he started telling other pastors that he would make sure they never found my body. Ya. The police were involved and he was placed in care, which is where he needed to be.

revabi said...

I am wondering if this is a cry for help, and a way of drawing your attention to him, without you knowing who it is. So if we were CSI; we would try to find fingerprints on the envelope, who lives in that zip code, who is a father with boys? Who has said other kinds of remarks similar in SS, Bible studies, small groups? Has a young male said anything in youth or to youth, in children's ss or to other children. Have you seen anything? Does the secretary or you or other staff recognize that handwriting? I am being funny but not joking either. I am with notshychirev.

Songbird said...

That's a sad, sad point of view on the writer's part. So painful. I would be both sad and spooked, I think. I've heard that point of view articulated before, about the cruel father, and I suspect it comes not from a person who is concerned about his own child, but from a victim of some kind of abuse.

St. Casserole said...

If you find yourself feeling creeped out, take it to the police.

Reverendmother, the substitutionary theory of atonement was presented at presbytery yesterday as the ONLY understanding of Jesus' sacrifice.
Wanna come down here and pastor???

I think we all get this kind of mail or notes and often we can just put them in the round file. However, if your intuition is beeping, you gotta tell somebody official.

Thinking of you.