Come and See: Hospitality as Spirituality
Texts Genesis 18:1-18; Acts 16:13-15
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
March 16, 2014
Fred Phelps is near death. In case you never heard of Fred Phelps, he’s the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church. The church is located in Topeka, Kansas and is an independent Baptist Church that sees itself as part of the primitive Baptist tradition. Most people who are Baptist separate themselves greatly from the activities of Westboro even if there are elements they agree with. The website of the church says it all: www.godhatesfags.com.
Westboro has become famous, or, perhaps better said, infamous, for picketing funerals of high profile people and picketing the funerals of soldiers who died in combat. They see these deaths as proof that God has come to hate the United States. They are anti-gay, anti-Jewish, etc. Whereas many churches, or hopefully most churches peak about God’s love, they are the only church website I’ve ever encountered that has a list called: Bible Verses About The Hatred Of God.
Mr. Phelps is now near death.
My one thought on this subject is this. Let’s be charitable. Mr. Phelps was not a man of great charity. I do not say that to be judgmental, it’s merely stating a pretty obvious fact. The name of his church’s website does not speak of charity. The ‘hatred’ list does not speak of charity. His sermons did not speak of charity. The picketing of funerals did not speak of charity. Frankly, the word ‘hate,’ over and over again did not speak of charity. I suspect that Fred Phelps would not welcome people speaking his name and using ‘charity’ in the same sentence. It was not who he was or what he was about.
He, in so many ways, mortified those of us who attempt to live in the way of Christ. When we speak of a God of love, what Mr. Phelps said about God, seemed to contradict that. So many people were hurt and personally devastated by how he chose to go about life and how the mission of Westboro Baptist Church was lived out.
It is not a time for mocking or even pious platitudes. I have one prayer for Fred Phelps. My prayer is a simple one. I want him to be in God’s presence and I want Mr. Phelps to be loved by God and to see, learn, and understand that God loves all of us, no matter what. To me, love always wins out and my prayer for Mr. Phelps is that, in death and in God’s presence, he sees, feels, embraces, and delights in God’s love. One day, I hope we all do.