The estranged son of Westboro Baptist pastor Fred Phelps is speaking out. In a recent interview on Cnn.com, CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE, Nathan Phelps tells about being raised in the family most known for their "God Hates Fags" signs as they protest soldier funerals around the nation.
In the article, Nate describes how father Fred comes to some of the conclusions about Homosexuals burning in hell, and how anyone who approves or associates with a homosexual lifestyle is in danger of burning as well.
He tells of growing up in an abusive home, and how the church continues on the rant to make sure their voice is heard.
As I read the article, I started thinking about the impact people like the Westboro church might have in a larger cultural context. Sure, most of us see the Westboro tricks absolutely insane, but the issue of gay rights, homosexual marriage, and the leadership of the larger church are essentially being called into question.
It wasn't long ago Rev. Albert Mohler was quoted referring to the church's position on gay marriage right approvals, "If so, it will expose a great divide over the authority of the Bible among many Christian churches and denominations — perhaps in a way exceeding any other issue."Click Here for Full Article.
And I think Rev. Mohler is right.
The issue concerning homosexuality in the church is certainly sure to divide denominations who hold to a strict reading of the Bible, while more pop culture friendly churches try and incorporate all segments of society.
What is also concerning is how teenagers view the issue.
If you take a long stroll through the hallways of today's high school, and ask students what they think about gay marriage or the gay rights issue you'll hear comments like…
You can't tell someone who to love.
I mean if two people care about each other, why not?
Why is there so much hate from the Christian Community concerning homosexuals?
Would Jesus hold up a sign that says, God Hates Fags?
I think the indicators of a generational movement in the church are clear. Gay Rights could be THE issue for the leadership of the church going forward, and I think it's time we had a clear conversation, open to all opinions.
Of course, if someone chooses not to believe in the Bible or they choose to relegate God to a myth, this conversation would have little to no meaning. Therefore, going forward, let's just start at the place where the church needs to address the issue. (if you're not a part of a church body, then this isn't for you.)
Obviously there are those that sit on the right who damn everyone to hell.
And surely there are those on the left that try and open the gates of heaven to all.
As we try to re-imagine the Christian Worldview, we must be careful not to alienate the core message of the Christian Faith. For, it is by the Bible that we develop a clear compass of moral understanding here on earth, so we mustn't be flippant about any issue of morality if God is indeed the author of such behavior.
So, what does the Bible say?
"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." Romans 1:26-27
It's almost as if Paul is writing and saying that when God left the Romans, the natural sinfulness of man was allowed to reign. This passage seems to put homosexuality in a tough position against what God would teach as right.
But let's not be too quick to judge….
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
Remember the issues in the Bible that keep one from inheriting the Kingdom of God' are many. To make a quick claim that homosexuality is the end all be all issue of the Christian faith is to ignore the many other issues we have to live within as a society. We must take care to work out the problems in the church of those that covet, revile, extort, or steal with the same fervor.
Paul goes on to write to Timothy…
"Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,"
1 Timothy 1:9-10
Therefore, for sound doctrine to exist inside the Christian tradition, we've got to take these verses serious.
Of course there are none righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10) Paul says in Romans "For all Have Sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) But the beauty of the gospel message is that "The wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus." (Romans 6:23)
So as we continue to the national discussion on the homosexual agenda there are a couple of different ways we need to look at it.
- We need to make sure those at the table of discussion are interested in preserving the doctrine of the church, no matter what pop-culture wind might be blowing.
- We need not be ashamed to call sin, well…sin. We've got to be big enough to know if we want to choose to live a lifestyle apart from the sound doctrine of the church, there would be consequences, no matter what category it falls in. So if you struggle with coveting, be careful not to point your finger at the homosexual without extending the same hand of grace God affords you. (Matthew 7:1)
- Jesus' approach to sin in the world was always to give to the needs of those who needed. He didn't alienate himself from the social issues, he engaged. He fed sinners. He healed sinners. He ate with sinners. He revealed Himself to sinners. His message was central to helping the physical needs of all sinners in hopes that the Kingdom of Earth was on a continuum to be reconciled with the Kingdom of God.
- There is no room for self righteousness in this conversation. If you find yourself saying, "Well, at least I'm not like that guy/girl" you've entered a Pharisaical arena, and Jesus was most outspoken against those who thought they knew God's law and alienated people from the ability to come to His table of Freedom.
- LOVE! Love is the central theme of the Gospel. God's love is what allows for sin to be wiped clean. The fact that "While we were yet sinners, Christ Died for Us." (Romans 5:8) is a beautiful picture of God's coming to live life with us here on earth. He didn't allow for the sin of any man to trump His ultimate plan of reconciliation.
So when you encounter someone advocating for gay rights, it's not the Christian tradition to go and belittle, degrade, or alienate. It's Jesus' position to find the needs of people and to meet those needs. And then…and only then…have any of us a platform for where we can explain the meaning of God's Kingdom.
I have many friends living an 'alternative' lifestlye, and we can have conversations like this without compromising the central need to preserve a friendship. We don't call each other names. We don't try and recruit each other into one idea or the other. We can open up and simply discuss the differences, and then move to choose from there.
Chances are, if you begin this conversation emotions will run high. But we've got to be big enough to talk to each other. I mean, come on…it's 2011. Can't we have a heated discussion without starting a war?
In the end it will be God's job to decide where the issues should have been set right or wrong; but in the meantime, there is a well intentioned reason to hold tight to the moral directive we've been given. The preservation of Christian doctrine set over the ages is something to take note of, but it's also good to re-evaluate from time to time to make sure we're not missing anything.
We don't need any more signs or angry protests. What we need is a place where we can talk like adults holding true to God's intentions.