Loving Your Enemies: Finding Mercy for Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps Sr. image courtesy Wikimedia user Nicke L.

Fred Phelps Sr. image courtesy Wikimedia user Nicke L.

Most of us are by now aware that Fred Phelps, Sr. has died. In his role as pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church Mr. Phelps has been widely vilified, and his death even eagerly anticipated. Over at TJP’s main site, and in light of Mr. Phelps death, Jason Welle asks how deep our call to love our enemies runs.

Many people would like to see Fred Phelps, Sr. dead.

More, they’d like him to suffer while he dies. He, along with Westboro Baptist Church that he founded, has caused real hurt and pain to many, many people – to LGBT people, to their families, to Catholics and Jews and people of color, to the families of soldiers who’ve died in war. But I take no joy in the fact that he’s dying. He’s tried to crucify LGBT people and those who love them, yet I wish him no pain, no suffering. I take no comfort in angry sentiments expressed at the news of his possible death.

This is no easy task, and Jason does not pretend otherwise. “I wonder,” he asks,

[H]ow do you deal with a group that shows up all over the place and who causes so much unified anger and resistance? They’re practically a caricature of themselves, and they’d be laughable if I didn’t know the real hate and harm they cause. As such, their actions are infuriating. They provoke emotions the likes of which few of us experience – the level of rage against them that they have against LGBT people. And if you express that rage, however justified, they eat it up – just a sign that they’re doing the Lord’s work. They won’t listen to reason; they are convinced of their mission and God’s approbation.

His effort to engage with – to pray through – this quandary is worth reading over at TJP’s main site.

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About Paddy Gilger, SJ

Paddy Gilger is a pastor and teacher of sociology and philosophy at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He's happy to talk at anytime except when the NBA is on. He lives in hope of the Milwaukee Brewers being known for something other than the sausage races.