I've been thinking about this a lot and would like to share what I came up with this morning:
Here's to Fred Phelps!
Why? Because, he may be a monster, but he's an honest one and publicly stands by his convictions...to the point that he horrifies even his close neighbors on the political spectrum. These are the people I'd like to write about today.
They may be regulars at church and proudly display a cross on their chests, but were Christ Jesus alive today he would rightly call them Pharisees. For the uninitiated, a "Pharisee" was someone who strictly followed the religious rites and laws of the day without interpretation or an understanding of any deeper meaning. Jesus called them self-righteous and hypocrites. These people wore their ossified and insular faith on the sleeve and did not take kindly to being lectured by some hippie preaching about loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemy. Theirs was an Old Testament crowd; they saw no Love in Leviticus.
Today's version doesn't worry so much about dining with prostitutes (David Vitter notwithstanding), they like to "focus on the family" which sounds friendly enough until you realize that one of the focuses is stamping out homosexuality. This is easy enough if you happen not to be gay, still doable if you are but are willing to tow the line, but torture if you're some trapped teenager. Even with all the various media out there, a kid's world is very small; and knowing that who you are would be condemned by those around you -- even your parents -- is horribly crippling. The other kids get to flirt, have crushes, gossip, even fall in love (in fact, it's encouraged...up to a point), but not you. And you rail at God for making you this way. Every gay kid's middle name should be Job.
You don't have to be a Fred Phelps to create this environment. In fact, it's better that you're not. Openly-rude or hateful homophobia is unpleasant, easily-spotted and countered, and frankly too much work. It's much more efficient to have a gay person come to hate themselves rather than constantly running around to remind them that God hates them. Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving; all one has to do is plant the seed. And encourage it...
...up to a point.
I think even some of the most hardened hearts would recognize that a kid killing himself is a plan gone a step too far. And all the attempts to mitigate the blame are like wrestling with a tar baby; you just get dirtier. All the messages continually sent out -- gays can't marry, gays can't serve in the armed forces, gays shouldn't teach in schools, gays recruit, etc., etc. -- are just a slightly-less virulent way of saying "God hates fags". "Nice" people can turn their noses up at Fred Phelps, but, ultimately, they are Fred Phelps and their "nicer" message is equally culpable when a kid comes to the natural conclusion that his life is worthless and the world is better off without him.
Think for a moment about that cross you see so many people wearing...have you ever noticed how few of them have a crucified or even resurrected Christ depicted? It's not surprising, really, when you consider being a "Christian" is so much easier when you don't have to be reminded of Christ and what He might say about how you live your life and how you treat others.
(You can check out the original post in its natural habitat here