Thoughts on anonymous letters

Published 4:11 pm Monday, June 21, 2021

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By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest Columnist

The old-fashioned letter has almost disappeared. I remember being taught in grammar school how to write business letters and “friendly” letters. And we Baptist children learned about missionaries and wrote letters to them in faraway places.

Today e-mail and social media afford quick communication, and sometimes angry communication. I left one site several months ago after several experiences of posting opinions and receiving vile responses from people I don’t know. Social media gives opportunity to do this while hiding behind a screen name of anonymity.

But years ago we had the same thing with anonymous letters.

A pastor friend got more of these than I did, and he told me he never read them. I asked how he knew not to read them when he opened the envelope. He said if there was no signature, he threw it away. My curiosity prevented me from doing this!

I suppose I got three or four anonymous letters over the years. The most unique one took me to task for a grammar issue.

I wrote in our church newsletter about Gettysburg or Vicksburg, as I recall. Both climactic battles were on July 3, 1863, and were the “last gasp” of the Confederacy. After this, the Federal victory was certain. Now I don’t remember the point I was making—surely some spiritual point about ultimate victory—but I wrote that the battle “insured” the defeat of the rebels.

The anonymous letter-writer explained that “insure” meant to purchase coverage for a potential loss, while “ensure” meant to guarantee a certain conclusion. I showed the letter to the ladies in the office and whined a little bit, until I realized the writer was correct and I needed to know the difference. I’ve not forgotten. I just wish the writer felt free to call or talk with me in person.

Correction is never a pleasant thing, but it’s part of our Christian responsibility. Paul “called out” Euodia and Syntyche in his Philippian letter, and instructed church leaders to “admonish” unruly members. But we’re reminded while admonishing to speak the truth in love because of our genuine concern for the welfare of others (Ephesians 4:15).

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is