When I heard the news about your death today, I was torn.
I, like so many, wanted to write a post today saying, “I despise what Fred Phelps stood for, but have to love him regardless.” I wanted to talk about how my brand of theology was superior, but how we should care for the members of the church you started all the same. I wanted to talk about how God calls us to love, not to picket and scream.
But Fred, I’ve experienced first-hand the results of the selfsame theology I was trying to apply to you: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Oh, how many times those words have echoed through the halls of my church, the halls of my Christian college, the halls of my mind.
And for good reason: it’s an easy way out. It lets me say, “I despise you, but I’m going to cover it up in a layer of Jesus’ love.” But it doesn’t work. Malice shrouded by love is still malice. That’s not the love I’m called to.
The love I’m called to is unequaled and irrational. The love I’m called to is outrageous and never-ending. The love I’m called to is unconditional and powerful. The love I’m called to is incredible and unexplainable. The love I’m called to is astounding and boundless.
So today, Fred, I extend a love to you that every fiber of my flesh so resists giving, a love that I can only give in the power of Christ. A love so many have been denied by the church–not just your church, but the entire church–in our time. A love that doesn’t care where you’ve come from or where you are.
To you, and your family in their time of loss, I extend this love. The love of God.
I love you, Fred.