Fred Phelps, the fire-and-brimstone-breathing pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., will be remembered for shamelessly encouraging members of his tiny congregation to carry “God Hates Fags” protest signs. Phelps died last week at age 84, but thousands of gay people will continue to assume all Christians share his hateful views.
Actually, no. Phelps did not speak for me. Nor did he speak for any other Baptist or for any true Christian from any other denomination. He was a spiritual Lone Ranger, an isolated extremist and a pitiful example of a minister of Jesus.
His tiny, independent “church” was a cult of hate. He was a deeply disturbed man who was full of bitterness. He had been estranged from his parents for decades (he reportedly never answered their letters), he didn’t speak to some of his own children (they accused him of abuse), and he was so judgmental that he once said Billy Graham was the greatest false prophet since Balaam.
A hyper-Calvinist, Phelps taught that all of the natural disasters affecting the United States in recent years and all deaths of military servicemen were acts of God’s judgment because of the rise of homosexuality in our country. His church members showed up at military funerals and rock concerts with their cringe-inducing placards. And when other churches begged Phelps to stop acting so obnoxious, he announced that Christians were headed straight to hell if they refused to condemn gay people like he did.
Phelps’ death is the appropriate time to issue a reminder that God has called us to use kindness when we interact with the gay community. If Phelps were still alive, he’d condemn me to hell for saying this. But I hope all of us can agree on these points:
1. There’s no excuse for anti-gay name-calling. If you ever use the words queer, faggot, fairy, dyke, butch, lesbo or other demeaning terms for a gay person, you have just short-circuited any chance for Christ’s love to flow through you. Would Jesus use those words? Of course not, because He offers every sinner a chance to discover forgiveness.
2. We shouldn’t label homosexuality a “worse” sin. Many gay people see hypocrisy in the church because we blast homosexuality on one hand and then look the other way when heterosexual people commit adultery or when singles sleep around. The Bible lumps all sexual sin into the category of immorality, and we misrepresent God when we pretend that “straight” sin is more acceptable than “gay” sin. Sin is sin. We should lovingly warn people to avoid every form of immoral behavior.
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SOURCE: Charisma News
J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies Men Believe and other books.