Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Exchange

An Open Letter to “Bishop Barbie”

by Barbara Bruneau on Monday, October 11, 2010 at 5:25pm
To whomever is posing as “Bishop Barbie” on Facebook:

You’ve made quite a splash on Facebook in the past ten weeks – that’s how long it’s been since your first blog post and your first appearance on Facebook.  In less than ten weeks, you’ve accumulated over 500 “friends” along with probably an equally large number who follow your comments without benefit of friendship.

At first your posts were witty and clever.  While I didn’t agree with everything you said, I enjoyed following your daily comments.  As time rolled on, however, your comments took on more of a biting edge.  Even so, I continued to read your posts and occasionally found a nugget of truth under the sarcasm.

Today, however, the slippery slope has led you to cross the line into the territory of malicious, hurtful statements.  I posted a status update indicating my prayers for those employees of ELCA headquarters who might learn today that their jobs are in jeopardy.  You were quick to enter into the resulting conversation, not with any expression of care or concern for those whose future may look very bleak indeed, but instead with a snide comment about ignoring denominational difficulties as you celebrate National Coming Out Day.

You joke about this being National Coming Out Day – perhaps it is you who should “come out” from behind the “Bishop Barbie” mask and make your real identity known.  If you have comments, criticisms, even sarcasm, that’s fine.  But it seems to me that only a coward would take such cheap shots at others without owning their own statements.

You showed no awareness at all that these ELCA employees are real people experiencing real pain, unlike the artificial identity you have created.  The price they are paying is high, unlike the cheap shots that flow so easily from your keyboard.  The Gospel that you say the ELCA has left behind… doesn’t it call you to care for your neighbor in need?  The catechism you hold in such high esteem… doesn’t it call you to put the best possible construction on the words and actions of your neighbor?  Excuse me, Pesudo-Bishop Barbie, is that a log I see sticking out of your eye?  Perhaps your plastic persona has blinded you to what it means to be real; you might check with a nearby Velveteen Rabbit for some coaching.

You have stopped being entertaining or thought-provoking.  I’m sad to say, Pseudo-Bishop Barbie, that you are no longer my friend.

An Open Response to Ms. Barbara Bruneau

by Bishop Barbie on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 11:10am
Dear Friends and Acquaintances of Bishop Barbie,

Mrs. Barbara Bruneau wrote an open letter to my Pinkness and I’d like to offer a brief response.

First, I’d like to respond to the charge of identity.  I don’t “expose” myself for two reasons (and neither reason is in the interest in cowardice).  First, the character frankly doesn’t work when you know the writer behind it.  Second, far too many have realized that dissent in the ELCA is greeted with vocational and social difficulties including firings, shunnings, etc. of too many pastors, leaders, and church members.  You do not know this author’s place of employment and the fact that this author’s ability to speak freely is limited.  Those who disagree with the ELCA’s decisions are brazenly put down and shunned while the content of grievances continue to go ignored amidst the clarion cry of “all are welcome!” and “we respect all bound consciences!”

It is a terribly sad sign of sin in the world and in our church body when there are objectively bad decisions made on all levels, only to see the results of those terrible decisions result in the job losses at ELCA Headquarters and in other places around the U.S. and the world.  Even while Bishop Barbie and friends see a clear correlation between the reasons behind this layoff and church-wide decisions, we shouldn’t view the layoffs with joy as if it were the justice of “an eye for an eye” (“a job for a job”).  In the end, it just means everyone is jobless and barely scraping by, which does nothing in service for the Gospel because all outsiders then see is our flagrant harm and further abuse of one another.  Bishop Barbie realizes that the people who this affects on Higgins Road and elsewhere are real people with real families, real needs, and a real future to manage.  Job loss is a type of death and these are real people experiencing the death of security, community, and more.  You and I are called to pray for and objectively support those who suffered these losses.  Along with prayer, where you find opportunities to support the life and livelihood of those who have lost their jobs, you are called to do it immediately, resourcefully, respectfully, and cheerfully.

All of this being said, Ms. Bruneau has called the author of Bishop Barbie to repentance. The author of Bishop Barbie confesses to the sin of misplaced and overly sharp words on this occasion – and even on other occasions.  Bishop Barbie’s intent is to lampoon the circumstances of many in and surrounding the ELCA and is rarely at a loss for material.  The intent of the comment on Bruneau’s page was intended to critique the cause behind the job losses, not the job losses themselves.  Nevertheless, the author realizes he caused unnecessary pain and chose to comment unwisely about terrible circumstances - circumstances in which even the author finds reprehensible regardless of reasons behind them.  I repent of this sin against you and those who lost their jobs.  I apologize to those I hurt by my misplaced comment so wisely exposed by Ms. Bruneau.

Not a Moment for Butterfly Kisses,
The Author of Bishop Barbie

An Open Response to Bishop Barbie

Dear BB Author,

Thank you for your candid and thoughtful response to my open letter.

I have read and re-read your description of the sense of vulnerability that you and others feel, which results in your choice to remain anonymous. While I’m not convinced that anonymity elevates the level of any discussion, I am so very sad that you experience a spirit of intolerance that makes you feel that you must remain hidden. I suspect that all of us, on all sides of this conversation, need to examine our own words and actions that may serve to polarize rather than to foster dialogue.

I believe that the layoff decisions by the ELCA are the result of a complex set of causes. While you have identified some of the threads in that matrix, I would argue that the economic recession (predating the 2009 CWA by at least a year) also plays a role. And what seems to me to be an increasing sense of distrust for any hierarchy (in church, in government, in all sorts of social institutions) has also served to erode support for the institutional church (in the ELCA as well as other denominations). Whatever the cause, I completely agree with your description of the tragedy of job loss, and I join in your call for all of us to help in any way that we can.

One of the persons who commented on my open letter said that my words “have fulfilled the function of the law, and brought repentance and a confession.” If God has used our conversation in that way, I am honored to have been part of this dialogue. And even though I don’t know who you are, the Office of the Keys allows me to assure you of forgiveness. Go in peace. Amen.

Pastor Barbara Bruneau

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