Monday, September 12, 2011

God Hates Fred

I'm a fan of the Never Beyond campaign over at People of the Second Chance. I love the way they encourage folks to pour out grace to those who most would write off as being outside of its reach.

What a beautiful, heroic idea!

I started thinking about it. Who do I look at and think, "You know, if there's a hell, that guy is there for sure." And I realized there was one person that I hate an awful lot. One person that I am pretty sure has used up every single one of his seventy times seven chances. One person who is not is not just preaching a back-handed message of hate, but has a whole site devoted to hate. Not just devoted to hate, but with hate in the domain name.

Fred. Phelps.

Really, I can't think of anyone that I like less than this pastor. He gained mainstream notoriety when he started protesting the funerals of soldiers in 2006, but he and his family/church had been protesting funerals for years, most notably the funeral of Matthew Shepard in 1998. He has, time and again, befouled the Christian moniker. I read through his biography on Wikipedia, watch documentaries about him, and truly, I can't find anything about him that I can admire. And I can usually find some redeeming quality about most people, even folks I don't care for very much.

In my mind, he is pretty much the embodiment of one who is not worthy of any more chances. He scoffs at any hint of gentleness or compassion. He teaches children, those who are the most accepting among us, that hatred is a virtue and that love is weakness. At every turn, his rights are protected while those he speaks about with such vitriol are struck down time and again.

How do I find grace for this person? Because honestly, I'm not interested in extending grace. I see him or a family member being interviewed on a news show or in a podcast and all I can think is, "Why are you trying to reason with these people? Why are you giving them a platform? They are just media whores. They will never change."

And in my heart, up goes the big banner declaring "God Hates Fred."

Suddenly I'm stopped cold.

Because I know that God doesn't hate Fred any more than he hates any of the people that Fred claims that God hates. God looks at Fred Phelps and sees a broken, hurting, messy guy who puts conditions on God's love, just like me. God looks at Fred Phelps and sees a person who is more interested in being the center of attention and uses God as a prop to make that happen, just like me. God looks at Fred Phelps and sees someone who needs to know that he is loved, just like me.

And if God's love is big enough for Fred Phelps, then it's big enough for me.

It's big enough for all of us.


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