Spending as much time online as I do, I hear a lot of stories about people — usually women — talking about death threats or rape threats they’ve received online. And every time, there’s this mindset among some people that the senders are always trolls, always anonymous, always joking. That the threats are not to be taken seriously. Serious or not, it still makes me wonder what the hell people are thinking when they send a message like that.
Recently, blogger Claire Van Fossen received an email like that. It’s not just the despicable content that makes it stand out so much (unfortunately). It’s that there’s a real name attached to it. Apparently, “Dave Wendt” reacted so negatively to one of her articles that he called her names, accused her of being on drugs, and then suggested he “come over and rape” her.
If that was supposed to be a joke, I just don’t get it.
But what’s especially unique in this case is that it didn’t take much digging to discover that Wendt was a Lutheran minister.
First Lutheran congregation President Mick Schwedler confirmed Tuesday morning that the email address is Wendt’s but said Wendt denied sending the message.
“We are concerned for the pastor and the congregation,” Schwedler said during an interview. “It was my responsibility as president to ask him if he did it, and he said no.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, Schwedler told the Tribune, “Pastor Wendt has submitted his resignation.”
Asked whether that meant that Wendt had written the email in question, Schwedler said, “This is a personnel matter for the congregation to deal with. That’s all I can tell you.”
I don’t understand why anyone would send a message like that to anyone — much less someone who claims to be a Man of God. I’m not suggesting his behavior reflects upon his church. Clearly, though, his faith didn’t stop him from acting like a complete asshole.
Whatever his punishment is, besides getting fired, I hope it includes a real, sincere apology. One that doesn’t invoke Satan. One that explains why he sent the letter (assuming he did) and how he’s making sure it’ll never happen again.
Ugh… I feel shitty just reading that email. Can’t even imagine how bad it is for people who receive those on a regular basis.
***Update***: Because there are different kinds of Lutherans, I should point out that Wendt is a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which is a very conservative and relatively small sect.