A clergywoman received a letter or e-mail from someone affiliated with her congregation that provided quotes from that minister’s Facebook page that the letter writer found unbecoming of a minister, and so this minister went and deleted all of that content.
I’m sure she isn’t the only one who has had this happen to her and who made that same decision. It’s very sad.
Let’s call out that kind of fine-tooth combing of any of our writings for what it is:
obsessive behavior. Internet stalking, even.
No one healthy or fair does that.
Some folks may fall down a rabbit hole of following their minister’s writings or postings, sure. But healthy people do this out of curiosity and the desire to better understand or know someone who fascinates and influences them and they do not carry a yellow highlighter along the way, looking for offense and feeling entitled to present their findings.
I hope none of you will feel compelled to edit and delete your honest observations because someone bullies you into it.
We all say things we regret, and it may also be that we take time to develop our own social media best practices and make some mistakes along that way. So what? Are you a criminal? Are you a terrible person? Probably not. And if you are, that will be discovered by other means than stalking your Facebook page.
Being yourself in all your interesting complexity is not objectionable. Also, lest you forget, not everyone needs to like you. It’s part of this generation of ministers’ task to pop the balloon of old, outmoded clergy archetypes.
If confronted with evidence of your failure to live into someone’s Pastor Fantasy via a roster of your objectionable remarks or photographs, you might direct people to focus their laser atttention and their red pen on a more worthy set of writings than your Facebook page — say, Scripture, or the collected works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, or the journals of May Sarton. Surely little ole you isn’t worthy of all that energy and study. Or perhaps this ultra fan might consider doing a very close reading of all your sermons: surely there’s time better spent mining the gold there than examining your Facebook posts through a microscope.
I am not surprised that this happened to a woman minister and by a woman antagonist. Quite seriously, women tone-policing and emotionally controlling other women is the great underreported abuse in the Church. There are still many women in religious communities who expect women to lift their pinky every time they dare venture an opinion, and pass a plate of brownies and praise the name of Jesus before making an observation. If you challenge them, they will attack. This is a generational form of sexism that plenty of women internalize — even women clergy.
It makes me grateful every day that I’m a Unitarian Universalist. We’ve done a lot of work confronting sexism and misogyny and our communities have alwasy encouraged and supported this strong woman. Thanking God for them tonight.