Friday, February 24, 2006

Love and Fred Phelps

In his new book, The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back From The Religious Right, Michael Lerner argues that people take two different two approaches to both life and politics.

One approach is based on hope and love and seeks to heal the world. The other is based on fear and seeks to dominate all who disagree with the fearful. People who operate out of fear believe they have to dominate others because they believe those other people are trying to dominate them, Lerner writes.

I'm still reading Lerner's book, so I can't tell you yet, if I agree with everything he says. However, if he does nothing more then describe the politics based on hope vs. the politics based on fear, then Lerner will have made an important contribution to public debate. I suspect that Lerner's paradigm isn't new or even unique to him. However, I've never seen its political ramifications discussed as clearly and in as much detail as Lerner does.

This week we witnessed an interesting example of that paradigm at work on In This Moment.

I blogged in Yet Another Fred Phelps Commentary about the need for all of us -- myself and my political allies included -- to admit that there are times when we should let go of politics and be silent. The topic was the Phelps family's new hobby of picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. I noted that I thought that such picketing was a bad idea and should end.

A member of the Phelps family hopped over (electronically speaking) and posted a series of furious comments, designed to insult me and anyone who agreed with me. In often incoherent and increasingly lengthy lists of Bible quotes, he also appeared to be trying terrify me with thoughts that I was going to be horribly punished by a vicious God.

My crime? I am a woman who is in love with another woman. I suspect I may also be doomed to burn, in his mind, for disagreeing with him about the law and the First Amendment.

What I find most fascinating about this person's response to my blog is that he missed the point. Yes, I was arguing that his family should stop picketing funerals, but I was also arguing that everyone deserves to be treated with love and decency -- even families who work so hard to hurt others. I don’t mean this as a put down. I am not saying this in a kind of sneer, declaring that even those people deserve love. I mean this sincerely.

What I said is that all mourners should be treated with compassion. No one's funeral -- not even the funeral of Fred Phelps when his time comes -- should be picketed.

However, the Phelps family emissary missed the point. The fact that I think his family should be treated with compassion, apparently, was of no interest to him. In reading his responses, I got the feeling that he may not even have been able to see that I was offering him compassion.

"You cannot understand the love of God until you understand His hate," this fellow wrote.

I disagree.

I believe that you cannot understand God at all, or even understand the secular universe, without first understanding love. And you can't do that until you are able to see when love is being offered to you.

Peace to you all this weekend.

Mike Hendricks at the Kansas City Star had an interesting take on the Phelps family.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday limiting picketing at funerals. "We want people to be able to bury their dead in peace," Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said.


Lovin' Life Liz said...

Just found your blog and I will be back often. Thank you for meshing hope and politics!

4:07 PM
Diane Silver said...


Thanks so much for your wonderful words. As bleak as things can seem at times, I do believe there's reason for hope. Once again, thanks for your comments and becoming a regular reader!

11:28 AM


Larry said...

You know that Phelps is a self-described liberal and when he ran for office, he ran as a democrat?

He represents the logical conclussion to collectivist thought.

Diane Silver said...

Fred Phelps did run as a Democrat. In fact, I worked for one of the candidates who ran against him for governor. Phelps is NOT a liberal, however. I'd call him more of a religious facist. Not to mention that liberal, at least, as I define it doesn't have a thing to do with collectivist thought.