In case you do not realize, Fred Phelps Sr., founder and patriarch of the Westboro Baptist Church is most notably known for the venomous hatred spewed through their active picketing of funerals including military funerals, LGBT weddings and events and for touting signs that say things such as GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS DIE GOD LAUGHS, THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS, etc.
I was recently asked my take on his recent death and if people should picket his funeral as he and his family and followers did at so many others. My question is why?
What would it serve?
Would it be a slap in the face to his family and church goers?
What would that serve?
How is the world made a better place for doing this?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Yes this man was the author of some heinous and hate-filled activities and yes as a minister, a father of a son in the military, the brother of several veterans, an avid and active supporting member of LGBTQ rights and equality, . . . I have felt moments of anger towards them and their message of hate; often wondering what makes people feel such animosity towards another human and then it hit me… The very anger and hate they so vocally and visibly promote is no different from the anger I allow to flow through my heart and mind unless I choose to allow my anger to be used to FORGIVE!
Get fired up and then .. get UP and change the world!
The message I preach and teach and do my best to live is one of empowerment, love, compassion, and peace; so I realized that my anger had to be the fuel to speak towards what I am FOR.
“I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.” **Mother Teresa
I choose to use my fuel, my passion, and my life as a light honoring another Rev. Fred whose birthday was March 20th, the day after Fred Phelps died. Rev. Fred Rogers better known by many as Mister Rogers, was a minister and Pittsburgh native who influenced my life in some pretty amazing ways. From watching his PBS show to having met him and sat in service as he delivered a sermon; love was this man’s message! That is the legacy he left with me and that is what transforms the anger to fuel so I can forgive Fred Phelps.
It is said hurt people, hurt people and Fred Phelps' life is a testimony to that; he clearly was a hurt man who chose to hurt others rather than heal and be a light unto the world.
What is the healthiest thing for me to do?
Learn the lessons he taught and learn from the example he gave . . . and forgive!
“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” **Mahatma Gandhi
How much more powerful would it be if we send love, compassion, and forgiveness to this hurt being?
I ask this as someone who was abused and the victim of more than one hate crime in my life. . . not as someone who stands apart from or above this kind of anger and hate.
From experience, forgiving is by far more empowering and healthy for me!
What about you??
First protest following passing of Westboro pastor - This protest might surprise you!