Saturday, October 25th, 2014
The Layman Online > Carmen's Writings > The strangest piece of mail I’ve ever received

The strangest piece of mail I’ve ever received

It may not surprise you that I receive a fair amount of “hate” mail.

The barbs are predictable and the accusations unsupported by fact but the feelings might best be described as “hot.” Sometimes the sender includes a token of their disaffection. I’ve received dead flowers, a  Millstone coffee bag and lots of my own writings scrawled through with language I am surprised to find on the lips of fellow Presbyterians.

I read and pray over each one. I collect the correspondence in what started as a prayer folder but, in the five years I have served in this position, the folder has grown into a large box.

Recently I sent a “reader survey” out to everyone who subscribes to the print edition of The Layman. The primary objective was to begin segregating our mailing list for the three editions (standard, EPC specific and ECO specific) we plan to begin publishing beginning in February 2014. We sent a business reply envelope to make it easier for folks to reply. Which brings us to the mean-spirited impulse of one particular PCUSA minister.

asphalt shingles

Knowing that if she filled the envelope with dense heavy material the Lay Committee would have to pay the U.S. Postal Service a premium amount for the envelope to be delivered, she took the time and exerted the effort to cut asphalt shingles to size and stuffed the envelope full. She also filled out and returned the reader survey indicating that, at the PLC’s expense, she would like to continue receiving The Layman. Her hatred seethes with each sentence of vitriol.

My guess is that asphalt shingles was the closest thing she could find to proverbial “burning coals.” But that seems to miss the meaning of Romans 12:20 altogether.

Thus begins another day as the President of The Presbyterian Lay Committee – fully committed to speaking the truth in love, come what does, even in the mail.

About the author: Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge heads the ministry of the Presbyterian Lay Committee as its President and Executive Editor of its publications, including The Layman.

19 comments

  1. Jack says:

    With pastors in the PCUSA like that, is it any wonder the accelerating downhill slide continues?

  2. A. Seaman says:

    And you forget about all the attacks on PCUSA leadership over the last 40 years? I have read the constant refrain of the PLC that attacks motive and manner of leadership in the church. Words like apostate and heresy are part of the often inaccurate attacks and misinformation.
    I don’t condone what is said to you, but the PLC gave up civility many years ago.

    • Loren Golden says:

      Mr./Ms. Seaman,
      If you are going to accuse the Executive Editor of The Layman of incivility, then at least do her the decency of providing specific examples of where she has been incivil toward the leadership in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Whom has she accused of apostasy? Whom has she accused of heresy? Which “attacks” are inaccurate, and why? Where has she given misinformation? Without such examples, your blanket condemnation is baseless and incivil.

      • a. Seaman says:

        Just to summarize some of the adjectives used by the Layman in the last 30 years.

        Left wing
        left leaning
        communist inspired
        feminist inspired
        anti-Jesus
        communist leaning
        These are the descriptions of people the Layman disagrees with. There are more. From time to time the Layman has attacked presbytery officials in the exercise of their duties in pastoral/congregation oversight. Presbytery officials cannot comment on personnel matters and the Layman often accused the presbytery of heavy handed action to a conservative. It has always been unfair and biased. The Layman knows better but acts with disregard.

        • David says:

          I am glad to know “turn the other cheek” no longer applies. Perhaps now I can “Go and do likewise.”

        • Deborah says:

          Carmen, Thank you for speaking truth to power. You have afforded so many disillusioned PCUSA members the opportunity to have their voices heard amid the madness of apostasy disguised as “inclusion”. Inclusion, as it is being executed by the PCUSA today, means “without a moral compass”. The breakdown of the family and moral relativism has not only invaded the church, but it is now being validated by the church. It is a sad state. Thank you for being an Ezra. We need more people with your courage.

    • John Sanders says:

      The LAYMAN has never encountered a hard right position with which it disagreed. Periodically, columns even stray from theology topics and move into a more political environment where the positions match the far right wing adjenda. Few years ago a column castigating Obamacare took up an entire page. More recently gun control comments seem to follow the right wing adjenda without leavening the discussion with contrarian positions.

  3. John Lodge says:

    That letter expresses clearly why the PC(USA) has been going through its crises. When its ministers have lost sight and practice of 1st Corinthians 13 along with 2nd Timothy 2:24. Until the majority of the leaders become disciples of Jesus the church with a great heritage will continue in its death spiral.

  4. fbastiat says:

    Carmen-

    We have a member of our Administrative Commission that exhibits the same type of behavior. They represent the PCUSA well, don’t ya think?

  5. Rob Lowry says:

    Carmen-

    As someone who sees the world from a somewhat different theological perspective than your writing reflects, I want to offer a) my sorrow that you have been subjected to this kind of childish prank and b) say that in my experience speaking with you personally and in your correspondence with me when I have written the Layman, I have never experienced anything but collegiality and friendship from you. From time to time, I have to admit that your writing can be a little sharp for my taste, but I have not experienced it to be mean-spirited.

    I save all my “hate” email about my blog posts for Tuesday morning. I too pray for those who write and I try to respond to those who leave some sort of contact information. I’m sure there are all sorts of clever ways I could respond in kind or with some sort of childish prank, however I try (though I do often fail) to see the writers as children of God and pray for them as such.

  6. Tom Edwards says:

    Jesus is speaking to you: “God bless you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. God bless you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

  7. Amy Kosari says:

    Hi Carmen,

    I’m so sorry someone sent you shingles. And I am sorry people send you dead flowers and hateful notes too. I’ve noticed though that the insults that people hurl at me work out for good. In fact, sometimes they are more helpful than compliments! Not because the person who is doing the insult hurling is good but because God is. He seems always to turn the hurt people throw at me into a blessing. Maybe you could send her a thick chocolate bar and return good for evil!

  8. Frank Lee says:

    I bet she preaches tolerance and diversity from the pulpit. A study in contradiction?

  9. My “favorites” are folk that send me hateful stuff without a return address so I can’t even take them off the mailing list. Sheesh

  10. mateen elass says:

    Unfortunately, Carmen, though there is a vaccine for shingles, there is none for vitriol. “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mk 9:29). May our Lord show you His pleasure over your work for the Kingdom.

  11. Viola Larson says:

    Carmen, thank you for lifting up the gospel so fervently that those who love Christ will rejoice and those who despise the gospel wish to do harm to the message and messenger.
    “but thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, and to the other an aroma from life to life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16)

  12. Glen Hallead says:

    It reminds me of the story Bruce Metzger used to tell of the person who sent him a package of ashes from a burnt copy of the newly introduced Revised Standard Version with a note that said he too would be burning (in hell) for changing the beloved KJV… Gotta love them and pray that God will soften their hearts.

  13. john ebdon says:

    Carmen ~ You are at the tip of the spear! The work you are doing to build The Kingdom is second to none. I am a deacon at Windwood Presbyterian (in Spring, Texas), and also a Christian musician. My music is centric to the unchurched. Like C.S. Lewis did so well, I try to tell a story in a manner that (I can only hope and pray), reflects Biblical principles, to those that might not be opening their Bible, attending church or even know “what they believe.” I was very blessed to receive my degree in theology and medieval philosophy from The University of St. Thomas, many years ago. I say that to suggest the education of scripture is a sacred endeavor, whether done formally or informally. I will tell young kids considering their collegiate careers, that education is a privilege, not to be taken lightly. I am always surprised when I see scripture being twitted to fit the argument of a worldly, attempted point. To the point that you receive mail like this from a minister, a studied individual of the scriptures, is ridiculous! This minister missed on so many levels, I can only pray for the congregation, they serve. That the verse (Rom. 12.20), invoked was completely backwards, only shows proof positive, the direction that this minister is leading their flock. We are truly blessed to have you as a voice of truth and reason in this hour of spiritual warfare. May God Bless You and The Work You are doing – to build The Kingdom.
    Your In Christ ~ john ebdon

  14. Ralph Davis says:

    Hmmmm, perhaps you should send her back a polite acceptance letter, telling her of her continued subscription….sent by registered COD mail in an envelope filled with fishing weights.

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