I do not revel in the death of any human being. I know that even those that we may “hate” or “dislike” have loved ones that would miss them if they were no longer around. That having been said, I was reflecting today on the death of Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, known primarily for protesting at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. At the risk of going against what I just said, I am glad that Mr. Phelps will no longer be around to be a major distraction with his homophobic, disrespectful, and outrageous comments and actions that he did “in the name of God.”
The damage this man has done is almost irreparable, not only because of the hurt he inflicted on so many people, but because of the stereotype that he perpetuates to others about the lives and beliefs of Christians. There are way too many people who look at this man, who perverted the central message of Christianity for his own vain purposes, and assume that all Christians have the same tenets and beliefs. He is no more a typical Christian than the sadistic terrorists of 9/11 are typical Muslims.
It pains me to see people paint with broad strokes based on what they may see one or two people doing. Some people that know that I am heavily involved in the Boy Scouting program automatically assume that I am homophobic, when nothing can be farther from the truth. People see my lovely daughter Erica and my son in law Shaun and assume that because they have tattoos and piercings that they certainly must be drug users.
I would be lying if I said that I have never jumped to these types of conclusions. I may never had said this out loud, but the first time I saw Shaun with his Mohawk, and found out he played in a metal band, I instinctively said to myself – “Not with my daughter, you don’t.” But I allowed myself the chance to know him, and he has been an absolute gem of a husband to my daughter. I would not trade him for anyone else in the world. I love that kid.
People who make snap judgments based on limited data don’t understand. This is not what it is all about. We all have different beliefs, values and tenets that guide our actions on a day to day basis. You can disagree with my beliefs, but don’t categorize me as a hater because we don’t feel the same about politics, religion, music, sports, etc. I value you for who you are, not for what you believe. Admittedly sometimes as Christians we get a bit judgmental. By the same token those who are not believers are just as guilty of being judgmental of those who profess a religious belief, thinking we are all looking down our noses at them.
So the death of this man takes away one target. Unfortunately, many other are in line to take his place. And this happens on both sides of the political and religious spectrum as well. Some conservatives would freak out to know that I don’t believe that all liberals are like Bill Maher. (by the way, I think he is the flip side of the coin to Phelps). If he were to lose his audience, someone else would jump in his place and start making snap judgments and overly broad characterizations.
So what’s my point? I was reading something important in Matthew in the New Testament the other day. Whether or not you accept it as scripture, the lessons in Chapter 7 bear repeating.
. . . .
. . . .
and finally, when you get right down to it, this is what my point is:
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Actions speak louder than words)
If we are going to talk the talk, then we need to walk the walk. I hope that I can live my life by that adage. In the end, I want to be known not for my worldly accomplishments, but as a good son, a caring brother, a faithful and loyal husband, a loyal friend, and a loving father and grandfather. Can’t we all try to do this?