Who will love Fred Phelps?

Free speech is upheld, which is a good thing. But is there anything to be done about this guy and his family ‘church’, rather than just report on everything they do and constantly remind everyone that we think they’re out of their minds?


I wrote a little bit about this awhile ago – Jesus says love your enemies, and I think most people take that to mean, “Don’t do or say mean things about your enemies.” That’s important, but it’s not exactly an active love. It’s just a refraining from further violence or confrontation. I think Jesus is challenging us to something more.


Simultaneously, I wonder if there is a way to subvert (even silence) their hateful message. Again, I’m all for free speech – but these guys have already said everything they’re going to say, and now they’re just torturing people. I imagine a group of counter protesters that (while being kept at a minimum distance by police, as usually happens) erects a giant, thick, dark curtain that envelops the entire Phelps protest, while playing classical music at a volume that would drown out their shouts. Meanwhile, another group of people offers them coffee and donuts or something. Blocking their protest like that is probably illegal, and they’d sue you. But it sounds better to me than being an ineffective, shouting-based counter protest.


Or, when the Phelps protests were announced (they always are, in order to draw maximum attention) we begged and pleaded with media outlets to NOT COVER IT. If they thrive on and desire media exposure, don’t give it to them.


I still don’t think this is enemy-love as Jesus describes. But I have to confess, I can’t even imagine what it would look like to love and serve the Phelps group. This might be a start. I can barely stand to be around people who make racist comments – I cannot imagine having the fortitude of character to be in the Phelps’ presence in the necessary, long-term, relational, generative way. Lord have mercy.




~ by Joe Paparone on March 3, 2011.

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