How should Fred Phelps Be Remembered?
On Thursday, Reverend Fred Phelps passed away at the age of 84. Mr. Phelps was the founder and Pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Prior to that, he was an attorney (disbarred in 1979). It is the former description for which Phelps is infamous. His church, claiming to be the only “true church” has picketed the funerals of many U.S. service veterans proclaiming that “God Hates Fags” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” and other messages viewed as being “homophobic” and “evil.”
Let’s make one thing clear, the Bible does state in Leviticus 18:22 that “you are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable (HCSB)”. It is sinful and it can’t be overlooked just to make some people happy. However, John 3:17 tells us that “Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.” When Christians, those who claim it and those who live it, start condemning the world, it completely detracts from Christ’s mission, and creates skepticism among non-believers and believers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there should be compromise to the Law. You can’t have the Law (Old Testament) without Christ’s fulfillment of the Law. Having one without the other just doesn’t work. Romans 12:9-21 says several things about how we are to love and live within this world;
“…detest evil; cling to what is good (9)…”
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (14)”
“…do not be wise in your own estimation.” (16)
“Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. (17). If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. (19)”
Everything that Westboro Baptist Church has shown publicly goes against these teachings. Yes, they are speaking out against sin, but where is their peaceful living? Does that come from picketing the funeral of a fallen soldier? Is that honorable? Are they living at peace when they picket a Lady Gaga concert?
While I will never be the one to celebrate and applaud someone’s death, I can only say that Christian’s like Rev. Phelps make spreading the Gospel more difficult for other believers. Before we can even spread the Word, people have a pre-conceived notion about where we stand and what we believe. I’ll remember him as a person who was dedicated to what he believed to be true, and completely unrelenting in that belief.
I hope that Westboro will examine the way they treat others going forward. I hope that the picketing of funerals will stop. Something tells me it won’t, but I’m hoping that they realize that if Jesus didn’t come to condemn, neither should we.
Until next time.