Worse Than an Infidel: Fred Phelps, Funerals & Family
I Timothy 5:8 (KJV)But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.I John 2:8 (KJV)He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
I count Nathan Phelps as a friend of mine and am writing this piece after having read his recent Facebook posting of his father being upon his deathbed. Nathan's father is Fred Phelps. Yes, the same Fred Phelps of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas known for their vile picketing of funerals and their "God hates fags" rhetoric.
A number of us that have stepped away from Christianity receive ostracism and black balling for their infidelity. In such cases and in light of scripture, I must ask who in reality is the real infidel?
We must not allow Biblical exegesis to escape any feigned Christian. Take I Timothy 5:8 as chapter and verse proof against the activity of the uninformed and Biblically illiterate professors of faith that are ever so cruel towards their own blood family/relatives. The word "provide" does not merely limit itself to the material necessities of their household. One must conclude that emotional support is also part of this scriptural mandate.
Scripture condemns the plight of saints that ostracize their own blood. Fred Phelps, my own family and everyone else that sever family ties and thus deny their infidel blood family emotional support have joined us in infidelity. Yes, I'm going to throw the book back at those that proclaim to follow the Bible. Dear believer, you are in dire straights for your estrangement and according to the book YOU are an INFIDEL yourself.
But wait, proper Biblical exegesis positions those claiming Christianity that shun their own household into a more severe category. Yes, it is true that there is something worse than leaving the faith. Fred Phelps, my family and all of you other rascals are worse than an infidel due to shunning! If the book is true, as you claim, then you will be cast into Hell for your infidelity of the faith.
What is worse than being an infidel? That would be betrayal of a family member. Shunning is betrayal. Whether you deny the faith yourself or shun the infidelity of a family member that departed your Christian faith it's both ironic and true that properly disseminated the Bible places you outside of the circle of trust. Said in another way, you are going to the same Hell that you think your infidel relative is headed towards. Think about that!
Sober up, repent, humble yourself and beg God for forgiveness before it is too late. Repentance means a changing of an inner attitude that exhibits itself on the exterior parts of our lives. Life is short. One doesn't know how long either party will be around to make things right. Looking back at the faith I am struck with the depth of the part where God so loved that he gave. Gave of himself to forgive others. God forgives, why can't you?
Betrayal hurts! While funerals point toward finality, the reality is that those who survive hearts' go on. While this piece isn't about me, I've had to "divorce" my own family out of necessity to cap the extent of my own cruel family's reach. Nathan is rightfully bitter because he is at this point being kept away from his father upon his deathbed. If it remains that way, he will have to live out the rest of his life with the estrangement being what it is. Fred Phelps, while outwardly a monster, is in reality a human being despite all outward perceptions we may have of him. Surely, I cannot fathom how anyone would want to depart life with such tension between his own offspring? Rejoicing at birth and loving them until death is the scriptural mandate; all of us create our own legacies and one may never know when our life may end. If you find yourself estranged, take action because tomorrow maybe too late to alter your own legacy.
The phrase "tomorrow maybe too late" is a tagline and a portion of an article my aunt had written after my own father's brush with and escape from death in an 1970's article of a local newspaper. It doesn't take ministerial training to know that none of us escape death, but I do want to dig a little deeper into this twisted betrayal estrangement saga over faith that exists in life.
I've clearly saved my father's life once at the scene of an accident and another time when no one else was able to persuade him to go to the hospital for appendicitis that he stubbornly ignored. Rigidity and stubbornness facilitated by dogma have proven themselves malignant in my family's non-existant relationship. I've tried to open the doors of the relationship every so often since the late 1990's, all to no avail.
Looking at the matter of forgiveness, there is a concept that is embedded within Christianity that is the model of how it should transpire on a personal level. How so? Contrary to the universalism concept that God ultimately accepts everyone let's look at the traditional conception that underlies Christianity. The Bible teaches that man is a sinner that has transgressed against God. The consequences of that sin are that it separates man from God. Man cannot be in a right relationship with God due to man's transgression and in order to make it right God demands repentance. No repentance means no forgiveness.
The point I want to make is that man must repent because God doesn't automatically forgive anyone (contrary to the universalists). Unless a man changes his inner attitude (which leads to an exterior change) that relationship is doomed!
It is easier to forgive whenever someone owns up to and admits to wrongdoing. But how about whenever an individual refuses to even consider the offended party's viewpoint? Should we forgive someone that doesn't ask, acknowledge wrong, or seek to be forgiven?
There is an understanding of forgiveness that pervades society that I think is just plain wrong. This view facilitates licentiousness. That model states that the offended party needs to find a way within to forgive and suffer the repercussions of the offense(s) even without the guilty's admission of wrongdoing. That's a flawed concept, it isn't Biblical (pertinent to this subject matter), and while I won't say that it has never worked; it isn't conducive towards setting that relationship back in order.
Man repents; God forgives. Man refuses, ignores or forgoes changing the attitude (repentance), God withholds forgiveness of the debt of transgression. In like manner, the model mirrors how personal relationships should flow with man determining by exercising his free will to right his wrongs or selfishly forgo, ignore or subdue his responsibility. Just as in the Biblical model man that refuses is still responsible and forgoes forgiveness. The wronged party is certainly under no obligation to forgive.
Prevailing thought in our society is that through mere willpower those that have been wronged are expected to automatically forgive. I believe in being the "bigger man" and have practiced as much with my estranged family all to no avail. There is a reason that people of reason call it dogma. Just as flimsy is the "my karma ran over your dogma" type of ideas. Nothing is automatic, forgiveness isn't mystical either... forgiveness is facilitated through one party asking to be forgiven.
My family views my departure from faith as "my problem." My family feels smugly confident that according to scripture they are within their rights to be the way they are towards me. I've just outlined how that "my problem" is also "their problem". Hell will be overcrowded with all of these saints that shun their freethinking former Christian family members.
Funerals bring out the worst in these loonies. My own family refused to tell me of my own grandmother's death in order to keep my infectious ideas away from everyone else at the funeral. They buried my grandmother in less than 48 hours after she had died. They intentionally delayed to inform me of my favorite aunt's passing (the one whom if anyone deserves to go to heaven it is she because she rightfully handled my unbelief). When these "saints" withhold info until it is too late to even attend a funeral... what kind of human being does these types of things? Answer, the same ones who believe that eternal punishment in Hell is in order for those that disbelieve.
Worley March 17,
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