For some reason, the past several years has seen us through the deaths of many celebrities. We’ve lost people like Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, Paul Walker, James Brown, and Amy Winehouse, – just to name a few. We’ve also lost a few less popular “celebrities” (in the sense that they are well-known), like Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi.
In general, people mourn the deaths of the celebrities that were well-liked, and rejoice over the deaths of those public figures that were disliked or even hated. This past week, we lost another unpopular celebrity – Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. He and his church members are infamous for their messages of hatred, their picketing of funerals, and their general disrespect for the human experience.
Although I have never agreed with nor liked the stance of the Westboro Baptist Church, I have to admit that I felt a heaviness about the death of Mr. Phelps and a deep sadness about some of the disparaging comments made about him that I’ve read online.
As a believer in Christ, I am called to love others no matter what I think their shortcomings are. In fact, Jesus tells us that it is easy to love those who are good to us and who love us back, but the real challenge is loving those we dislike. Although Mr. Phelps and I are vastly different in our ideas of God and of spirituality, I know that I am still called to love him and the members of his church.
He is still someone’s father, someone’s friend, someone’s husband, someone’s son, someone’s grandfather – his life is still God-given and miraculous. How dare we cheapen it by rejoicing over his death?
Many people want to see change in this world, and think that by losing the less favorable members of society our world will become a better place. But that’s not true.
Our world becomes a better place when we practice love, in spite of whatever others practice.
“And now these three things remain; faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13