Quit Beating Up On PeaceBang

I don’t know what’s in the air lately, but there’s a whole lot of projection going on along with unfair, petty and insulting comments being lobbed at me. Please cut it out.

First of all, over-reaction. How anyone can read a phrase like, “But in general, closed toe shoes are the best choice for worship” as an ultimate commandment never to wear sandals in the pulpit needs to get out her reading glasses and check the content again before accusing me of being geographically limited (who isn’t?) and “imposing my northeastern values” on my poor, geographically diverse readership. For heaven’s sake. My “northeastern values” are what give me the requisite strength, sass and staunchness to keep authoring this blog, pioneering in the field of clergy image, and doling out endless oodles of New England Spinsterly Tough Love.

Just today, I wrote a post in which I clearly and emphatically stated that parts of our body are never a problem, but that we should be aware of how displaying them may be distracting to members of our community. I brought up the simple scientific fact that there are a lot of humans out there with foot fetishes (and thank you, Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, for thanking me for bringing up the subject). For this, I was subjected to accusations that I am blaming women for being the “occasion for lust.” Oy vey! For saying to that reader that her remarks this was both unfair and non-productive, someone else accused me of being unwilling to receive criticism. A quick glance through the archives will readily inform you that this is also untrue. I change my mind on this blog, thank people for correcting me, and remain open and interested in a variety of opinions. The fact that I don’t agree with your opinion doesn’t mean that I am an inflexible taskmistress.

I basically made up this ministry, whole cloth, as the result of a call from God. I could never have started an international conversation about clergy image and personal style without adopting a pointedly authoritarian tone, kids, it’s part of why this took off and became such a phenomenon. As I said recently at a gathering, “Victoria Weinstein cares a LOT less than PeaceBang does about what you’re wearing today.” Most of my readers are mature and self-differentiating enough to get why I need to be strong, firm and not easily swayed as PeaceBang. There are too many frumpy and unkempt clergy still among us for me to waver in my mission and my approach. Have you SEEN the jumpers and arm pit-stained tie-dye T-shirts at clergy gatherings out there?

Please think before you comment or send an obnoxious bit of hate mail offline. I am, if not a national treasure (!), then certainly an important resource for hundreds and even thousands of readers. Behind the scenes, I am constantly responding by e-mail and phone to inquiries and calls for help and support. I devote as much time to this ministry as is reasonable during the year, and a tremendous amount of time while on vacation from my parish ministry. In lieu of husband and children, this is my baby. Ministry is my life, and it is all I live for (well, that and theatre, and my animals). I don’t expect you to throw roses at me every time I appear in print, and I receive nothing from my readers but the occasional (much appreciated!) gift or small contribution. When you show up just to throw shade, you’re interfering with my ability to keep my heart open and my joy alive for the other readers. Why some of you feel entitled to rip on someone who is giving of so much of herself, heart, soul and effort, is beyond me. It speaks poorly of your manners and sense of accountability in community. Here’s a hint: if you’ve never contributed to the conversation before and you suddenly show up to give me a slap out of nowhere, I’m much less likely to treat your point of view with the respect you think it deserves than if you’re a regular participant in this community, or even an occasional commenter.

I am fueled entirely by my love for this work and the energy and appreciation I get from those I help. If I’m not helping you, please don’t feel the need to make that known to me. There’s one of me and thousands of you. For every person out there who is irritated by a phrase I utter, there are many who needed to hear it.

Please participate in this community in a productive way or do not participate at all. I’m a real, live person and I am not a punching bag.

There. Now I can simply refer future haters to this post. I’ve been wanting to get this down on paper for years.

Kiss of peace, PB

Hi, my name is Vicki. I am very lucky to be on vacation this month, but I am committed to writing every day because it is my spiritual practice. I have a dog and a cat and great friends, and I serve a lovely congregation of New Englanders. I love to cook, to eat, to read, to swim, to sing and dance and act, to study and to learn. I work as hard as I can because I am not sure how long I will have this level of energy, passion and health and I want to use it well while I have it. Like most other humans, I respond well to love and flourish in a supportive environment. I am, at heart and by vocation, a teacher and a leader. This puts me “out there” in deep and risky ways, a fact that most people seem to appreciate and respect even when they don’t agree with me. I am going to a meeting now, and you should know that I skipped dinner so I could write this post.

30 Replies to “Quit Beating Up On PeaceBang”

  1. Dear PeaceBang: Deep breath. You are performing a valuable service, and no one is being forced to avail him/herself of it (unfortunately). I am a laywoman, pushing 60, and plus-sized (or, as like to say, I am a Person of Vast Scope and Dimension), and I find your blog a wealth of common sense and good advice. A fellow fangirl from our local UU and I hope to take a road trip to see you in action some Sunday before too much time goes by. They will know we are UU Christians by our love, as the hymn says, durn burn it!
    [How cute are you? I know I am, hunny bunny. But occasionally I feel the need to step out from behind the mask, plop myself right in front of my readers and say, “HELLO. REAL PERSON HERE.” All it takes is a minor pile-on of nastiness to sap my joy in this work. And if we don’t have joy and fun in it, why the heck DO it? Get up here fast! Where are you road tripping from? – PB]

  2. You know what I love? You always give me something to think about. Yes, light blue is on the toe nails right now (pedicure last week — self-care, and I am ALMOST on vacation). I smile at my toes, and since the church work is most chaotic right now (instead of the “it is summer, let’s close the office early” summer) I figure it lifts my spirits a bit. I still wear shorts to the office and around town. . .I know my setting. . .and they are not short-shorts (I am well past short-shorts and know my limitations! lol) and I dress the top up with a nice top and dressy sandals, and again, I smile, knowing that the hair, the face, the skin is how it needs to be. And the Clergy Chicks have had the conversations about SDTs, , ,as we have all had that uncomfortable moment when a parishoner has confessed something to us about “their stuff” that makes us look at what we are wearing and think — YIKES! And then there are the moments which are happening now, as I am finally losing some of the large amount of weight I need to lose. . . people are saying things about it. . .and not always the things you want to hear. I channel you at those moments, and remember my hair, and face and yes, God’s grace. Dust off your sandals — ya got more work to do — there is more for us all to think about!
    A Thankful Chickie!

  3. Oh, and I tried hard to send PB vibes at my sweet former pastor, who was in town to give a eulogy at a friend’s funeral. The Methodist celebrant was in black clericals and a subdued business skirt suit, but, please, dear former UU pastor, iron your blouse and don’t wear a peasant skirt when in a semi-professional capacity. kthxbai (runs and hides)

  4. PeaceBang-
    Love you, Love you! Sorry things are tough!

    PeaceBang is a crazy, bold, sassy, tell-it like it is Diva! And yes, you need to be for this ministry!

    Victoria Weinstein, it sounds like your saying, is a little more human, although I’m sure there’s plenty of the diva in there.

    I wonder if the fact that you write as PeaceBang, and use a boldness that is well beyond most conversation invites bold responses, especially in disagreement? I know that I personally take my cues about how bold and frank to be from the boldness and frankness of the person I’m talking to.

    I suspect that your readers are disagreeing with PeaceBang, not with Victoria Weinstein, and that Vicki isn’t being attacked at all.

    I wonder if, just like there is a difference between the way PeaceBang and Vicki speaks, there needs to be a difference between the way you hear. I don’t know, I’ve never had another persona like this. Maybe the Drag Queens we both admire can give some advice about how they handle this?

    Either way, you’re fabulous and you challenge me, and I hope you have a beautiful rest of your vacation!

  5. I am a long-time reader (albeit a teacher rather than a preacher) who values your advice for all of us in the public eye — and especially those of us who are ‘traditionally built.’ Keep telling it, PB, and ignore the cranky complainers. They are almost always the kind of cramped spirits who constantly look for something to carp about, and they are not worth your time or attention.
    You Go, Girl — and know that most of your cyber-flock hear and appreciate everything you say.

  6. Just a thought: when you get comments like that, it’s usually more about them than it is about you. You struck a nerve somewhere with which they are not comfortable, and rather than deal with it, they swing at you.

    Even knowing that, it hurts.

    Thanks for keeping the blog going while you are on vacation. I hope you are getting some rest and restoration.

  7. I just want to thank you for your ministry! I have never been one to care about clothes before, but I’m having fun playing around with looking like a pastor. I spent a nice hour in TJ Maxx today, came out with a great deal on a snazzy pinstriped Ralph Lauren shirt, and actually had fun doing it. This is new, and sort of weird for me! You definitely get most of the credit for my realization that I can feel good and look professional at the same time.

  8. Just wanted to say “thanks,” officially. I started reading BTFM during CPE a few years ago, and it was what I desperately needed at the time. Although I’m not currently in professional ministry (I do marketing/PR stuff, with a hope toward somehow blending the two into a career down the road), I still read BTFM faithfully because it had been hugely influential in helping me learn to dress like a grown-up in general, and “dress for the part” in my professional and personal life.

    I have a cringe-worthy photo of myself pre-BTFM when I met my denomination’s bishop – I was wearing an ill-fitting black band t-shirt, baggy denim capris, and clunky athletic sneakers.

    At a huge, international, professional-type conference. Eek.

    But thanks in no small part to you, I’m typing this from my *very own office* wearing black dress pants, a cute, feminine, gray and purple floral top that actually fits and flatters me, and a killer designer cardigan from my favorite designer that I found for a steal at a thrift shop. (I actually have a favorite designer now! And I can articulate why I like the clothes!) My nails are polished and my cuticles aren’t chewed to hell, and if I was wearing sandals, you would see that my toes match. My eyebrows are groomed and my hair has had a trim in the last 3 months. I still love my sparkly Danskos, which may not be PB-approved, but they’re a step up from sneakers. I figure the advice is there for me to take, and I’m not obligated to get indignant or offended every time I read a post and think, “That doesn’t really work for me.”

    So, long story short, thank you, and don’t let the bastards get you down.

  9. Sooooo, some of your readers are unable to gleen for themselves the information that works for them, and ignore what doesn’t — and that’s YOUR fault? Sounds like someone has no internal filter, when reading OR writing.

    Keep on doin’ what yer doin’, O Mistress of Propriety! You are IMPORTANT, and you are a GEM!

  10. Love you more than my All-Clad, darling! Where is the PayPal button so I can send you a little something to encourage you?

  11. Sarah G., you can send a little something by clicking on “Make a Gift” at the top of the website. There are a couple of different options, including PayPal. That’s really sweet–

  12. I was completely puzzled by the scratchy comments on the foot post. I thought your concept of SDT was sheer genius. And it would never have occurred to me in a million years to take anything you wrote as being, what was it, condescending and noncontextualized or geographically bound or whatever the dickens…. I wonder if people are suffering from the heat, have been engaging in too much of the Angry Studies, or are annoyed by the presidential campaign. Whatever…it was a very smart post.

    I’m not clergy, but an academic, and I really appreciate this blog because academics suffer from a lot of the same presentation issues as clergy.

  13. No! Drat. Here it is again:

    I was completely puzzled by the scratchy comments on the “foot” post. i thought your concept of SDT was sheer genius and it would not have occurred to me in a million years to think your suggestions were, what was it, condescending or contextualized or noncontextualized geographically or whatever the heck. …Maybe people are suffering from the heat, too much Angry Studies, or the presidential campaign.

    I’m not clergy, but an academic, and I really appreciate this blog because academics have a lot of the same presentation issues that clergy do.

  14. Thank you for standing up and being counted. It’s tough to take a stand. And it’s even tougher when folks think they have the “right” to beat on you about it.

    I see PB as a Stage Mother, complete with larger than life attitude, and likely more than one feather boa. I have had the honour of speaking with you by phone during one of the darkest moments of my life, and I was so humbled with your peace, your grace, your respect. I know I was talking to Victoria, not PB.

    You are an amazing and brilliant woman and it’s a shame that sometimes you have to swing back. Know you are loved for who you are. And know that there will be times when folks are just plain rude. Tell them it’s not appropriate. I think if we did more of that in Church Land we’d be less likely treated as Holy Door Mats.

    My dad died a month ago today and his family motto was Nil Carborendum, which he translated to “don’t let the bastards grind you down”. Amen!


  15. PeaceBang/Victoria, thank you for your ministry! Today, I’ve ignored everything you ever taught me, but I saw myself in the full-length mirror in my office and repented of my casual ways. In my defense, it is Bible School and I do have a backup dress in my closet should I need to look like an actual pastor later today.

    For what it’s worth, I’m from the Northeast, came to a seminary in the South, and serve in the South. I love your regionalism, although I know I have to filter through where I am. A Southern persona wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. (Also, she would still recommend a nice pedi or closed-toe shoes, as did my seminary.)

    I love what you do, how you make a practical incarnational theology part of my day-to-day life, and the community of fabulous women and men that gather around your words.

  16. Hooting and hollering up here! Thanks, darlings! You’ve all got it 100% right! And it goes without saying that “I needed that!”

  17. Thanks for saying what you say and doing what you do. I was flummoxed by the comments on the foot post…I couldn’t figure out if you were on a list somewhere of blogs to troll…Seemed very out of range for the normal conversations that go on here. Shrug. Sigh.

  18. Does this not all seem a bit twee to most of you? Only a dozen or so fawning comments. Thought surely we would hear from the worldwide thousands! [Dear “Jimmy” Yea, I get the “Blurkins” joke. Thanks for trolling. Maybe there’s a site called SnottyLittleBullies.com you could contribute to. – PB]

  19. Hi – I’m just catching up with the last few days’ worth of posts and comments. I don’t want the previous comment to be the last one on this topic. For those of us who get up in front of folks and give what we have to offer, it’s so helpful to have a mirror. As I mentioned before, any time we want to cross cultures, it’s important to know where the potential issues might be. You’ve said very clearly that these issues are for ministers, not kids, parishioners, or people who are not in a leadership role.

  20. I love you and what you are bravely doing!! Nameless, faceless, cowardly haters are the worst. I had plenty of them in my former career as a sportswriter. Keep up the good work! For what it’s worth – your advice is just as helpful to a pastor at a 4,000-member church in Las Vegas as I imagine it is in the NE. People are silly 🙂

  21. Speaking as one who had a family member shredded nationally on the internet: I think whether you are PB or Victoria or some other voice entirely, it is important to keep reminding people that, remarkably enough, there is a real, live person on the other side of the keyboard, and that things you would never say to or about someone in “real life” and to their face, you shouldn’t say in an email or on the internet. Period.

    I do love your posts, I often wonder where you find the time and energy to do the thinking and writing, and I am grateful that you do, whether I agree with you or not.

    Thank you, for your other posts, and for reminding us that incarnation is the heart of our life, as well as our work.

    Now I have to go comment about my purple nail polish on my toes…

  22. I am pretty much a lurker, not because I have nothing to add,
    but… maybe I’m an introvert.. yeah, that’s it. Introvert!

    PB DArling:
    YOu have arrived! The moment the nasty trolls come out of the woodwork
    and attack your strong, loving and wise advice, you have made it!
    They have nothing more to say, and thus attack the messenger.
    Seeing that you are now a celebrity… let’s go out for drinks!
    As for me, your advice is a hoot, and very wise.
    I’m not a spring chicken, but your advice is worth every penny!
    I pay careful attention to what message I am giving by my
    appearance, and it is vital! our people want to trust us, respect us, love us,
    and admire us. Too often we women can be our own worst enemies..
    we fall prey to fads, to the wrong advice, and care too much about what others
    might say. But you, my dear, are the lovely auntie, the dear friend and the
    former college roommate rolled into one.
    I thought the foot post was spot on.
    (orange on my toes, but I wear closed shoes to lead worship,
    and for professional duties. My attire shouldn’t distract from my presence
    nor from my message)-

    Keep on keepin’ on sister!
    You are adored!

  23. My honey heads — I think ALL of us need to be able to show when we’re angry at times, and say when we feel abused. Thank you for your affirmations. I wish them right back to you, with a kiss of peace and encouragement to be honest and real at all times, and to (as Rise said) remind folks on occasion that there’s a real person behind the persona. MWAH!

  24. Sending you kiss of peace and grateful thanks from a lurker who has learned oh so much from you. You are amazing and your ministry here is a gift. Thank-you.

  25. You are a beloved child of god and IMHO you are right about this and much else. I have “robe shoes” that I swap out for the cute shoes for coffee hour. Because in my robe in the pulpit, it is NOT all about me! Keep it coming, sister !

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