Thinking Out Loud

March 21, 2014

Fred Phelps Passing: A Different Kind of Sorrow

fred-phelpsI’m writing this at 11:30 PM on Thursday night. Some major media outlets have noted the passing of Rev. Fred Phelps for almost twelve hours now, but coverage on Christian media has been spotty. Odd that the person who loved publicity and loved to play the media should pass in relative obscurity.

There have been a few smirks, but not everyone is gleeful. Phelps was despised and really still is despised. A comment at CNN’s religion blog reads, “To paraphrase a famous actress, ‘My mother said to only say nice things about the dead. He’s dead. How nice.’” A little cruel, a whole lot dry, but not exactly celebratory. As I write this, comments there have surpassed 17,000; I’m not sure what the number will be when you read this in the morning.  Similarly droll on Twitter: “Westboro Baptists flying the God Hates flag at half-mast today” (@plyrene).

The mainstream Christian community is mostly shrugging its shoulders. What to say? The question of how to respond is the theme of the few Christian blogs on the two Alltop blog aggregators (Alltop Church and Alltop Christian) that had mentioned Phelps’ passing.

At Christianity Today, Ed Stezer asks How Should We Respond?

…But, today, Fred Phelps learned that “because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).

At Relevant Magazine Brandon Peach writes,

Temptation to dance on the grave of the godfather of grave-dancers is certain to crop up. However, as a church, we can choose to respond differently to the death of one who caused irreparable emotional and spiritual damage: with mercy, compassion and even pity.

Veteran religion journalist Cathy Lyn Grossman writes at Religion News Service,

The message he spread across the country never took root, and in fact helped galvanize the gay rights movement and put other Christians on the defensive. The image of Christianity he painted was a hateful, judgmental collection of rabble-rousers — an image that, paradoxically, did more to help his targets than it advanced his message.

Experts say Phelps’ ultimate legal and social impact on the American religious landscape will be a footnote. Religious leaders lament the damage they say he did to Christians who preach God’s love and mercy.

Counter response from several years ago

Counter response at Crosspoint Church in Nashville when WBC visited their church, Summer 2012

Jessica Ravitz, in a follow up piece at CNN’s Belief Blog also asks, Should We Celebrate Fred Phelps’ Death?  This is the first of three responses they published:

We reached out to several advocates for those who may have taken Phelps’ message most personally – Christians who are also gay – to see what they thought.

“The words and actions of Fred Phelps have hurt countless people. As a Christian, I’m angry about that, and I’m angry about how he tarnished the reputation of the faith I love so much,” Justin Lee, executive director of The Gay Christian Network, said in an e-mail message.

“But as a Christian, I also believe in showing love to my enemies and treating people with grace even when they don’t deserve it,” he said. “I pray for his soul and his family just as I pray for those he harmed. It’s easy for me to love someone who treats me kindly. It’s hard for me to love Fred Phelps. To me, that’s the whole point of grace.”

The Christian Post came the closest among Christian websites to offer a more standard obituary, noting some of Phelps’ earlier days:

Outside of his work at Westboro, Phelps also earned a law degree at Washburn University in 1964.

Before being barred from the practice for being overly abusive to witnesses, Phelps worked as a civil rights attorney until 1979, where he once claimed that he had “systematically brought down the Jim Crow laws of this town [Topeka, Kansas].”

Phelps was closely tied with Kansas’ Democratic Party, helping Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign. He also was invited to and attended both of Bill Clinton’s inaugurations, though the second time, he showed up as a protester.

A few days ago before his death, son Nate Phelps, who left the movement, wrote these words on his Facebook page:

I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.

I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.

Nate, believe me, we share your sadness and sorrow.

Nothing to celebrate here.

February 11, 2013

Westboro: Two Phelps Family Members Flee

Megan Phelps-RoperTwo members of Fred Phelps’ family have exited Westboro Baptist Church including one who was considered an heir apparent to give greater leadership to the clan in the future.  Megan Phelps-Roper and her younger sister Grace have posted their news online and Megan has given several media interviews.

The Toronto Star reported last week:

“We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes,” wrote Megan Phelps-Roper. “What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.”

The Westboro Baptist Church was started in 1955 by Fred Phelps, Grace and Megan’s grandfather, exclusively for the Phelps family. The parish has been lambasted for protesting the funerals of American soliders, whom they claim died because of America’s acceptance of homosexuality.

The family gained notoriety after a 2007 BBC documentary by Louis Theroux, The Most Hated Family in America, was broadcast. Since then, they’ve gone on to protest at Michael Jackson’s funeral, gay pride parades and other churches. A White House online petition to have the church declared a hate group has garnered more than 330,000 signatures.

Megan Phelps-Roper, 27, was an active voice in the church; she spearheaded the church’s social media presence and was often the brain behind the controversial protests, including one in Newtown, Conn., after the Sandy Hook school shooting.

“She was the visible presence for the younger generation at that church, she was a leader,” said Nate Phelps, Megan’s uncle…

…“The rapid percentage of young people leaving has left this fragmented group,” Phelps told the Star, saying that the [church] has shrunk from 100 members to about 50. “Eventually this will die off. It can’t survive.”

continue reading here

In her online post, Megan Phelps-Roper demonstrates a very balanced perspective on her situation:

In a city in a state in the center of a country lives a group of people who believe they are the center of the universe; they know Right and Wrong, and they are Right. They work hard and go to school and get married and have kids who they take to church and teach that continually protesting the lives, deaths, and daily activities of The World is the only genuine statement of compassion that a God-loving human can sincerely make. As parents, they are attentive and engaged, and the children learn their lessons well.

This is my framework.

Until very recently, this is what I lived, breathed, studied, believed, preached – loudly, daily, and for nearly 27 years.

I never thought it would change. I never wanted it to.

Then suddenly: it did.

And I left.

Where do you go from there?

I don’t know, exactly. My sister Grace is with me, though. We’re trying to figure it out together.

continue reading here

The Christian Research Network points out a danger inherent in coming out from a group such as Westboro:

Here lies the tragedy of Megan’s story. In escaping a false, legalistic expression of Christianity, Megan Phelps-Roper finds herself without the saving truth of the gospel. Here it sounds as if she rapidly is wandering into a softer version of the common, yet damning, gospel of good works and a “right life.” And just as Westboro Baptist removed Jesus Christ from their message, so too is Megan Phelps-Roper, now separated from WBC, in danger of proclaiming a gentler message that is just as erroneous if it does not proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

continue reading here

In the view of Westboro, the sisters are now consigned to the same fate as those they regularly picket, they are going to hell. The Kansas City Star reported:

Steve Drain, a spokesman for the church, said in an interview Wednesday that the sisters had rejected the Lord.

“We can’t control whether or not somebody decides, when they grow up, that they don’t want to be here,” Drain said. “Those two girls were kind of straddling the idea that they wanted to be of the world but that they would also miss their family, the only thing they ever knew. If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell.”

Megan and Grace are among 11 children of Brent and Shirley Roper, who is the daughter of Westboro pastor Fred Phelps.

continue reading here

In an article subtitle, Salon asks, “[W]here do kids raised in hate go now?” The article continues:

And now … two members of the Phelps clan have shown that old Phelps’ revolting influence may not persist into a new generation…

…It’s almost impossible to imagine what it must be like to be that deeply steeped in a culture that almost anyone on the outside looking in would understand to be reprehensible. How strange and confusing it must be to grow up loving and depending upon people who would stand outside a dead soldier’s funeral screaming…

…Megan says, “The environment we grew up in was very ‘us vs. them.’ It’s been nice to see that the ‘them’ have been overwhelmingly kind — as we’d kind of hoped and suspected.” Welcome to the other side of the picket line, Megan. Welcome home.

continue reading here

Indeed, welcome home.

Related article at Thinking Out Loud: The Westboro Children (story of Lauren Drain)

November 29, 2011

Westboro Seen More Up Close and Personal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:40 am

Isn’t enough coverage enough?  I have to agree with Get Religion’s Bobby Ross, Jr. when he says,

If I never had to read another story about the Westboro Baptist Church and its “staged-for-media hatefests” … I just might make my own sign. “Thank God for small blessings,” it would read. Or something like that.

But I also have to agree with his decision to come back to the story in the light of this 4,000-word article at the Kansas City Star.  Reporter Dugan Arnett got up close and personal with the family and especially Megan Phelps-Roper.  I have to agree with the parts of the article that Ross at Get Religion selected to highlight:

She loves her iPhone and the band Mumford & Sons and the Showtime series “Dexter,” which is about a blood-splatter specialist for the Miami Metro Police Department who also happens to be a serial killer — a complex character both good and evil. She went to high school at Topeka West and got straight A’s. She went to college at Washburn University and got straight A’s. She thought about going to law school, sat down to write her admissions essay and decided she wasn’t all that keen on becoming a lawyer. So she joined the family business.

She is peppy, goofy and, by all accounts, happy.

Oh, and one other thing about Megan: She wants to make it perfectly clear that you and the rest of this filthy, perverted nation will be spending a long, fiery eternity burning in hell.

…and this snapshot:

Megan has little problem handling the vitriol that pours in on a daily basis. Not long ago, she brushed off a Facebook message in which someone told her he planned to travel to Topeka and rape her. But when asked whether she has considered the possibility that the countless people who consider her deranged, insane, nuts and “bat-s—- crazy” might be on to something, she smiles and says, “You can’t listen to the whole world tell you you’re crazy, without wondering, ‘Am I crazy?’?”

Does that last bit show a little fracture in the fortress?

Then there’s:

She has no real friends. Few acquaintances. The majority of her outside interactions comes with the people — journalists, mostly — who stop by to profile the family. Two years ago, after a group of student filmmakers from Holland spent a week in Topeka documenting the church, Megan cried when they finally had to go. She still keeps a voice recording of one of them, a handsome, 20-something guy named Pepijn, saved in her phone.

So sad.  So very sad.  A prisoner of her own convictions.

But that’s also clear in this video; the thing that drew me in to the Get Religion story, a brief clip posted by Jewish News Weekly:

That video is actually about 18 months old, Jewish News Weekly filmed a more recent protest at this video, with an interview that begins just past the 1:00 mark. (The online site also contains this video of  Shirley Phelps-Roper being arrested earlier this summer at a funeral for a soldier, an arrest no doubt complicated by the fact that many of the Phelps clan have legal training.)

Why would God only reveal his truth to this very small handful of people?  Why would the Phelps clan continue relentlessly trying to advance their cause when it’s not advancing?  People aren’t rushing to join their church; the attrition rate is only compensated by the birth of new relatives.  America isn’t listening to their message.  Christians are not supportive of their message.

Why not pack up the signs and consign the protest to photos in albums and clippings in scrapbooks?  

Megan, regardless of who God may or not hate — and I believe he hates sin, but not the sinners — I think he has a much better plan for your life than what you are experiencing presently; it’s not too late to jump on board that alternative future.  When this life is over and you stand before God, you will stand alone; your family will not be alongside you.  Dive deeply into the gospels and gaze into the face of Jesus and allow Him to guide you.

Here again is the link to the Kansas City Star story.

March 16, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Survived the Ides of March did you?  In honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, we’re in green today!

  • Hands down, today’s top entry has to be Mark Galli’s very balanced look at Rob Bell’s Love Wins at Christianity Today.
  • Here’s Bell being interviewed by Martin Bashir on msnbc.com who, refreshingly, begins by asking Bell for his take on the disaster in Japan.
  • If you read the book Life Without Limits you know the story of Nick Vujicic, a young man born without limbs. What you may not know is that Nick been cast in a Depression-era film The Butterfly Circus, about a limb-less performer in a carnival sideshow.  You can buy a copy on DVD for only $12.99.
  • Here’s a preview of an organization I’m going to be a full profile on sometime soon.  Megavoice is an organization, a Bible translation project, and a playback device that has no moving parts and needs no batteries.
  • The Church Report has a summary of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s forum at Saddleback with Rick Warren in which the former PM discussed the role of faith in a 90-minute Q & A session.
  • Blog discovery of the week:  GraceWorks has archives going back to January of 2000 — that’s eleven years ago.  As Homer Simpson might say, “Was the internet even available for computers back then?”
  • The plot thickens:  In episode three of John Shore’s Smith Family Chronicles, Bob and Betty discuss daughter Jane’s gayness.   But does Bob let something slip out accidentally?  A new episode every Friday. (Also, FYI, some backstory on the series in this article.)
  • When I blogged last week about looking for “something completely different” (obvious Monty Python reference), I got a reply from Anita who blogs at Dreaming Beneath The Spires from C. S. Lewis country, Oxford, England.
  • Good evangelists always have some good stories.  Our latest catch from Stuff Fundies Like is this video, a reworking of the old hymn “I Love to Tell the Story.” A total and complete reworking.
  • Here’s a bonus video link to something at Lance Morgan’s blog (HT Pete Wilson) titled “A Message To The Sound Guy.” This might strike a little close to home for some church volunteers
  • No link for this one, but Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program, by which many of your favorite bloggers get their books to review, is sounding out its membership on the idea of sending review copies out as e-books in order to save money.  Good idea or bad idea?
  • Speaking of books, don’t miss the two book mini-reviews here from the past weekend, both centering in on books with the word “lies” in the title!  (Would I lie?)
  • If you can’t stop wacko protests at military funerals, get The Patriot Guard to cover them over and drown them out.
  • Last month Trey Morgan posted Francis Chan’s Ten Signs You May Be A Lukewarm Christian from Crazy Love, a book I’m finally getting around to reading.
  • That’s all I’ve got time for this week, but suggestions are always welcomed.

November 3, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Not enough links for you in yesterday’s NIV post?   Well then here are few extra…

  • First of all a quotation from Bishop Fulton Sheen we found at Big Blue Wave:  “So much of what people call atheism is not so much the negation of God as the deification of the ego.  All atheists believe in God, but the god is themselves.”  Ouch!   This is a website that deals with social issues from a Christian perspective.
  • A story in the Imperial Republican in Imperial Nebraska is one of the most amazing things I’ve read this week.   Little Colton Burpo had a near death experience that resulted in his dad, Todd Burpo publishing the story with Thomas Nelson in the just-released book, Heaven is for Real. Check this one out, and be sure to read the four reasons why his dad concluded that his son really did get a look at heaven.
  • It took Kelley Mooney two years, but she finally got the mechanical rights to use Leonard Cohen’s song Halleluljah with substituted lyrics which look at Jesus’ road to the cross.   Check out the video premiere in Nova Scotia, Canada with an awesome children’s choir.
  • Some great stuff at Christianity 201 recently including:  Michael Krahn’s look at the Wayward Son’s older brother;   Mark Batterson on the Jewish “3D” understanding of sin;   Bob Coy wonders aloud how long The Flood was effective in wiping sin off the face of the earth;  an anonymous e-mail forward takes a look at the 23rd Psalm;  Daniel Jepson cites Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ take on the subject of brokenness;  David Fisher finds a church in Belfast which, rather than a statement of faith has a statement of ethos.
  • Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason takes a cue from Jesus’ ministry and suggests that when someone is trying to trap you with a question about some controversial social issue; turn the table and answer the question with a question.
  • In Christian circles preoccupied with pastors who are major authors, or attendance figures at megachurches, Darryl Dash celebrates the beauty of average or ordinary churches including this quote from Derek Webb:  “I’ve found that often success looks more like failure, riches more like poverty, and real life often feels more like death.”
  • Regent College theology professor John Stackhouse flat out thinks that Mark Driscoll needs to take a study break to sharpen his exegetical skills.   C’mon, John; tell us what you really think.
  • Robert A. Schuller does an unscheduled 20-minute interview with Jim Cantelon at the daily Christian talk show in Canada, 100 Huntley Street; including a mention of how his son, Robert Vernon Schuller, aka Bobby, pastor of The Gathering, brokered a meeting between Robert A. and grandfather Robert H. Schuller.  This is a two part video; here and here.
  • And speaking of the Crystal Cathedral, Karen Spears Zacharias suggests that Joel Osteen should be taking notes on what is happening at the big glass church.
  • Joshua Harris looks at the big picture of how we approach Sunday morning worship, including a growing lack of punctuality, which we’ve also noticed recently in a few churches.   Does it say something about our increasing apathy in our hearts?  Do people in your church fill the front rows first?   Is the hunger there, or is there complacency?
  • Our picture below is from a general interest website, BoingBoing; which spells out the scripture mentioned in the sign:  “Mark 11:12-14 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.”

October 5, 2010

Absence of Compassion is Less Than Human

Even animals express some kind of sympathy, or grief, or compassion when there is a loss among their kind.

The family members associated with a small U.S. religious fringe group do not see it that way.   They see death as opportunity.   They argue their right to advance their agenda in the middle of a family’s sorrow is protected by free speech.

Free speech indeed; the men who drafted the U.S. Constitution would be horrified to learn what “free speech” is currently permitting.

The Westboro tribe claim they are using the attention to show how far down the road of moral decay American society has gone.   Instead, they are an example of it.    Their actions highlight the degree you can take the idea of one man’s inhumanity to another man.   And funeral after funeral, families simply have to let the voices of protest roll over them.

But not Albert Synder.   The father of a soldier killed in Iraq doesn’t want any other families to have to suffer as he did.   In what will certainly be a landmark case, the Supreme Court will rule on an argument for the privacy rights of grieving families.   The court faces the prospect of passing an “enough is enough” ruling, with the option of declaring a funeral to be a venue worthy of a greater amount of privacy, regardless of the public thoroughfares adjoining the church, funeral parlor or grave site.

CNN notes, “The Supreme Court has never addressed the specific issue of laws designed to protect the ‘sanctity and dignity of memorial and funeral services’”   Many of the Phelps family are trained in law.

Albert Snyder told the media outlet, “They are using the First Amendment as a sword and a shield. My son and thousands like him did not put their lives on the line so that someone could abuse the Constitution like this…”

Read the full story and watch the video at CNN.

Related Links:  Fred Phelps has turned up in this blog before; the first time in a piece about his son Nate;  the second time in a piece about is daughter Lauren.   One can’t help but hope the attrition continues.

Repeat of a personal notation in one of the above items: “…It was then that I observed a fundamental difference between Canada, where the Phelps phenomenon would never happen, and the U.S.: In the United States laws protecting freedom of religion trump any prohibitions against hate speech.  In Canada laws forbidding hate speech trump any protection of freedom of religion.”

June 8, 2010

The Westboro Children: Casualties in the Crusade of Hate

Much has been written about Fred Phelps, the man whose interpretation of scripture — the gospel of hate — represents about 0.000000001% of Christians, but somehow manages to garner an inordinate percentage of media publicity.

But what of the children that we see in the images of the Westboro protesters?   What absolutely warped upbringing are these kids experiencing?

ABC News decided to dig a little deeper and ended up at the home of Steve and Luci Drain and their three children.   After watching the nearly nine-minute segment, it was Lauren Drain who captured my interest; their estranged daughter, now in her mid 20s, who was voted out of the family:

  • “They sing lullabies about people going to hell,” she told Chris Cuomo in an exclusive interview.
  • “I saw some hypocrisy, and I mentioned them and they hated it,” she said. “You’re not supposed to question anything.”
  • Eventually, she said, when she was 21 the members voted her out of the church and out of her home, including her own parents… and the same night she was voted out she said her family sent her to stay at a hotel and cut off all communication.
  • A week later, Lauren Drain returned home to pick up her belongings and said she found that her youngest sister Faith already had been taught to hate her…”I raised her from the time she was born. I used to watch her every day. And a week later, she is happy I’m gone.”
  • As for the daughter they have lost, Steve and Luci Drain said they don’t miss her and don’t think they would ever allow her back.  “Why would I miss her?” Steve Drain asked.
  • Lauren Drain said she wishes she could speak to her younger brother and sisters, to tell them she loves them and that the hate they spread is not the true message of God.  “I miss them and I love them and I really care about them, and God doesn’t hate everyone. God has mercy on people, God forgives people,” Lauren Drain said she’d tell her siblings.

While much of the story focuses on her younger siblings, it is Lauren who gives the piece perspective.  Unlike Nate Phelps, about whom a lengthy post on this blog was published twice in 2009,  who has walked away from Christianity entirely, Lauren seems to have kept some core beliefs about God intact, or has worked to reconstruct belief, seperating truth from lies.

As I watched the parents totally “write off” their eldest daughter, I wondered how such people read the parable of the prodigal son; how do they reconcile the love that the boy’s father lavishes on him, even after the son rejected everything and squandered his father’s money?

I suspect that passage is never studied at Westboro.   Ditto the woman at the well in John 4, or the woman caught in sin in John 8.

You can read the ABC News report,  go directly to watch the video, or catch both, as I did yesterday at the N.I.F.T.Y. Christian blog.  (On the video, be sure not to miss the one child being hit by a car.  The authorities should remove these kids — the children are being put at adverse risk — and they should do it soon!)

And say a prayer tonight for Lauren, as she attempts to live a new life.

Lauren, if you’re somehow reading this, be strong in the Lord.

November 15, 2009

Reblogging 05/02/09: The Insanity of Fred Phelps

Filed under: issues, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm

In the last six months, there has been sufficient traffic generated to this blog using Fred Phelps as the keyword search for me to know the public is fascinated by this man’s portrayal of a Christian minister.   It is a mystery to me how the man who believes that the casualties of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 9/11 tragedy, etc. are God’s judgment against the United States has somehow managed to avoid having the wrath of God poured out upon himself.

It all came back to me yesterday when my son stumbled across this video where Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes interviewed Shirley Phelps Roper back in 2006.   If ever atheists wanted to make the case that Christians are all mindless idiots, Shirley provides enough ammunition for their argument.

Anyway, here’s where my thoughts were at six months ago, in case you missed the original post.

fred-phelps1

Funeral Protests

Living one country removed, until recently, I have been only superficially aware of the name Fred Phelps. This man, his Westboro Baptist Church, and his crusade just isn’t the sort of thing that makes the evening newscasts here. But when fellow Alltop blogger Jake Bouma had a link to the website I’m about to direct you to, something about it intrigued me.

For those who don’t know, Phelps is a media-grabbing activist protester who preaches a gospel of hate, but does so in the name of Christianity, the faith named after the person who preached a gospel of love.  His approximately 100-member church attracts an inordinate amount of media publicity for the picketing and protesting they do at a variety of religious and civic events.

The above-mentioned website is a paper presented by Nate Phelps, one of Fred’s sons, at — wait for it… — the American Atheists Convention. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise, should it? That being raised in the home of man who is considered an off-the-scale extremist by both Christians and non-Christians alike should cause his children to grow up anything close to ‘normal’ would be the greater surprise.

The paper takes the better part of a half hour to read, but you really should read this. It gives insight into the everyday life of one of America’s most famous religious extremists. And actually, at the end of the day, Nate does seems relatively ‘normal’ after all. At least now he does. I’m just sad that he has had to ditch everything he grew up with to get normal, but I hope he eventually finds his way to what would be — for him — the spiritual middle ground.

Here’s the direct link to Nate’s paper. Take the time to read this.

Personal to Nate: The internet being what it is, if it happens that you’re reading this, let me say on behalf of millions of Christians everywhere that I am so sorry that you had to grow up with this. I’m sorry that you missed out on a childhood and adolescence that could have been so much more beneficial.

I can’t agree with the philosophy you’re now embracing, but I can’t for one minute criticize the process that brought you there. The people you’re interacting with now and things you’re reading now must all seem like a breath of fresh air. I encourage you to continue reading and studying literature from a variety of faith perspectives. It’s too soon to say you’ve now got it all sorted.

Down the road, I hope you’ll admit that your Dad’s take on the Bible and Christ’s teachings wasn’t that different than the way the Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ day often completely missed the point and misinterpreted the Law and Prophets. They were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong. And as a family, you paid a price for that error.

Despite that, as Christ followers we are compelled to love Fred; even if he himself has been less than charitable towards anyone else. And if we love Fred, we certainly love you. You have been hurt, wounded, broken; a true casualty of “religion.” But it is into our hurt, wounds and brokenness that I believe Christ longs to enter, to bring wholeness and healing.

November 2009 update:   Here’s one that may be more difficult for you to wrap your brain around.   What if, at the end of one of the Westboro Baptist protests at a gay/lesbian rally,  a gay person went up to the Westboro people to try to better understand their whole perspective, and that person just happened to be better versed on the big picture of scripture than the Westboro people were?    Well…that’s what you’ll find here at the blog Sinnerview, when you read A Conversation With The Lost.   [HT: Comment left at Girl in A Glass House blog.]

canadian fallsAdditional Update:  I no sooner had this posted than we got into a discussion about it over dinner.  It was then that I observed a fundamental difference between Canada, where the Phelps phenomonon would never happen, and the U.S.:

In the United States laws protecting freedom of religion trump any prohibitions against hate speech.  In Canada laws forbidding hate speech trump any protection of freedom of religion.


May 2, 2009

Fred Phelps: Driving the Hearts of People Away from God

fred-phelps1

Funeral Protests

Living one country removed, I am only superficially aware of the name Fred Phelps.  This man, his Westboro Baptist Church, and his crusade just isn’t the sort of thing that makes the evening newscasts here.    But when fellow Alltop blogger Jake Bouma had a link to the website I’m about to direct you to,  something about it intrigued me.

For those who don’t know, Phelps is a media-grabbing activist protester who preaches a gospel of hate, but does so in the name of Christianity, the faith named after the person who preached a gospel of love.

The above-mentioned website is a paper presented by Nate Phelps, one of Fred’s sons, at — wait for it… — the American Atheists Convention.   That shouldn’t come as a big surprise, should it?   That being raised in the home of man who is considered an off-the-scale extremist by both Christians and non-Christians alike should cause his children to grow up anything close to ‘normal’ would be the greater surprise.

The paper takes the better part of a half hour to read, but you really should read this.   It gives insight into the everyday life of one of America’s most famous religious extremists.    And actually, at the end of the day, Nate does seems relatively ‘normal’ after all.   At least now he does.   I’m just sad that he has had to ditch everything he grew up with to get normal, but I hope he eventually finds his way to what would be — for him — the spiritual middle ground.

Here’s the direct link to Nate’s paper.   Take the time to read this.

Personal to Nate:   The internet being what it is, if it happens that you’re reading this, let me say on behalf of millions of Christians everywhere that I am so sorry that you had to grow up with this.   I’m sorry that you missed out on a childhood and adolescence that could have been so much more beneficial.

I can’t agree with the philosophy you’re now embracing, but I can’t for one minute criticize the process that brought you there.   The people you’re interacting with now and things you’re reading now must all seem like a breath of fresh air.   I encourage you to continue reading and studying literature from a variety of faith perspectives.  It’s too soon to say you’ve now got it all sorted.

Down the road, I hope you’ll admit that your Dad’s take on the Bible and Christ’s teachings wasn’t that different than the way the Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ day often completely missed the point and misinterpreted the Law and Prophets.    They were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong.   And as a family, you paid a price for that error.

Despite that, as Christ followers we are compelled to love Fred; even if he himself has been less than charitable towards anyone else.   And if we love Fred, we certainly love you.   You have been hurt, wounded, broken; a true casualty of “religion.”    But it is into our hurt, wounds and brokenness that I believe Christ longs to enter, to bring wholeness and healing.


Related Post – Albert Mohler’s blog – New Atheists Ready to Go Public

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