Recently, Fred Phelps, minister of the Westwood Baptist Church, passed away. Feelings have been mixed. Many are celebrating his death saying it’s good that he died. Yet others are taking the high road and are sending love and condolences towards the family.
For those of you who have not heard of the Westwood Baptist Church, they are a church consisting of about 40 members, mostly family, and are considered a hate group. They are the ones who have been picketing the funerals of gays, military personnel, celebrities, children killed in the school shootings, and others. Every time there is a tragedy, they thank God that the people died. They also speak against other religions such as Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Protestantism, and many more.
There was a BBC documentary titled “The Most Hated Family in America.” Canada and the UK banned them from entering their countries when they had planned to protest there. These people really believe they are doing the work of God and are speaking for God. It’s hard for me to imagine how a group of people could be so hateful to so many. Who taught these people to hate? And why?
If you’ve seen the news about their picketing, it can leave a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Unless of course, you agree that the person or group of people they are picketing should be condemned. If you take away the picketing and just listen to the hateful and bigoted remarks they make, as well as the comments of how they celebrate the deaths, then you will realize just how much more common these comments are. They’re being made by religious leaders, politicians, and others who also claim to be Christians. How many times have you heard a Christian minister say that God caused a tragedy where countless lives were lost and they blamed a belief system or group of people for those deaths?
Hate is taught and people can be brainwashed to hate. Just take a look at what Hitler did to an entire country. He brainwashed his fellow countrymen (not all) to hate Jews and others so much that they slaughtered them in one of the worst genocides in our history. What most people don’t know is that Hitler claimed to be a Christian and was doing the work of God. There have been many other acts of genocide throughout history based mostly on the differences of skin color, cultures, and/or beliefs, and it’s still occurring to this day in other countries.
Even in our country we have news programs and talk shows (from all “sides”) that propagate hate and bigotry and are brainwashing the people who watch them into agreeing with them. And many are using Christianity and the Bible to do so! I don’t think this is what Jesus and other great Spiritual Masters had in mind when they were teaching people to love others unconditionally.
Religion is a very strong force, regardless of the religion, and people can be convinced that they shouldn’t think for themselves because others know better. They use fear and guilt to control people into believing what they believe. And people blindly follow.
But there’s good news! There are people from all religions who are awakening to the fact that love is why we are here. They use their Bibles for good instead of as weapons of mass destruction. They know it’s okay to think for themselves and to ask questions. They are bringing people together and focusing on what we have in common. Instead of fighting hate with hate, they are taking the holy high road and are using unconditional love to melt the hardened hearts of so many.
When the WBC recently picketed singer Lorde’s concert, something amazing happened. There were signs directed towards the church that said “Sorry For Your Loss” and “Live Your Life and Be Awesome!” I’ve often wondered what could happen if the WBC picketers were surrounded with love instead of countering with the same hatred they espouse. We also have to realize that the WBC’s actions also resulted in good in that hundreds and thousands turned out to support the family and friends at the funerals of those who died. Would they have otherwise if it weren’t for the WBC? We need to remember that God works in mysterious ways. The WBC’s actions actually brought more people together from all over the world in love, kindness, and compassion.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Hate is a powerful force, but love is backed by the power of God and the Universe! We’re getting there!
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 4, 2014.