Thinking Out Loud

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.”

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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.

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