I hopped on Facebook to leave a link to my blog post about my personal faith statement. That's when I saw the news that Pastor Fred Phelps, Sr. of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church is on his deathbed.
In the personal faith statement I was getting ready to post I say that this is one of my favorite biblical quotes:
"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." --Matthew 5:44 NRSV
I immediately thought of this quote when I read that Fred Phelps is going to die.
How can I love Fred Phelps and pray for him? He and his family and fellow church members have spent more than twenty years picketing funerals to protest our society's acceptance of homosexuality. They're the "God Hates Fags" folks. Seriously hateful, sick, and scary.
I assume if the death beds were turned and Fred Phelps found out I was dying, he'd come stand outside my house with his "God Hates Fags" protest signs. I can't know what's going on inside Fred Phelps' mind, but his actions tell me he would not be standing outside praying for me.
The other day I watched a documentary about Ruby Bridges with my seven year old daughter Katie. This amazing little girl was the first black person in the south to integrate the public school system. Federal marshals had to escort this little first grader to and from school each day to protect her from the angry mob of white parents and other white community members standing in line shouting death threats at her.
One day Ruby is hesitating to come inside the school building. One of the federal marshals asks her what's taking so long. She says, "I usually pray for them when we're in the car, but I forgot to today, so I was praying for them now."
"Praying for who?" the marshal asks.
"The people out there. Like Jesus said to do."
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
If Ruby Bridges can pray for her enemies, I can too.
Dear God, please forgive Fred Phelps, bless him, and help him find peace. Amen.