By Rev. Nicholas Hull
The worst bullies are the ones hurting the most on the inside. When some people become filled with doubt, insecurity, loneliness or anger, they seek out negative attention from others in the hope that causing another’s misery will somehow fill the void in their souls. In an odd way, bullying behavior can become an addiction. Bullies who are good at making themselves feel better by making others feel terrible will structure their lives to maintain conflict.
This week, a bully wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Martinsville Bulletin singling out Reverend Libby Grammer, the pastor at First Baptist Church. When the individual wrote this letter to the newspaper, I highly doubt that he had any intention of changing anyone’s mind or starting a civil conversation about roles of women in Christian communities.
Rather, his intention appears to make a new member of our city and her family feel unsettled, unwelcomed and exposed as they are still making Martinsville their home. Christians are supposed to be identifiable by the love that they share for each other, and this letter not only falls short of Christ’s hope for his followers, it is nothing more than harassment with Biblical trappings.
I believe that being a woman should not be a barrier to any ministerial role, but I do not expect you to believe the same in order to see that Libby Grammer is doing good work and does not deserve to be bullied in the local newspaper.
On paper, Libby is far more qualified to lead a Church than I ever will be. She is completing her doctorate in ministry, has an impressive record of serving those in most need, knows how organizations work and is willing and able to do the administrative work that is so very necessary (tasks that most clergy avoid like the plague). What Libby has brought to First Baptist that is far more important than her credentials and work ethic is her faith and her genuine desire to love her community.
Libby is not only an amazing speaker. She knows how to preach from the heart and with conviction. When she preaches, her desire to love God above all and to love her neighbor as herself fills her church with a sense of authenticity, honesty and faith. The members at First Baptist in Martinsville should be proud to have someone that is not just qualified to lead them but to have someone who also has profound faith and compassion.
You do not have to agree with having female leadership in church, but I hope that you can see that, at the very least, Rev. Grammer deserves to serve her church without being publicly harassed.
I understand that letters to the editor should not be excluded because of the personal opinions of the newspaper staff; however, there need to be more robust community guidelines. At the very least, bullying behavior such as undeserved personal attacks should be off of the table. If you have a problem with female pastors, then speak to the issue as a whole rather than harassing an individual member of our community.
Martinsville Bulletin, I imagine that you see yourselves as guardians of the freedom of speech, but giving bullies a pulpit silences those seeking civil discourse and creates an environment where only the loudest and meanest get heard. For your own sense of integrity and for the integrity of our community, I urge you to raise the standards of what appears in your publication.