I had no plans today to write about Elizabeth Edwards, the courageous - late - wife of perennial presidential candidate and serial philanderer John Edwards. But my wonderful daughter, Naomi, who has a big heart and a deep faith, is upset about the "church" that plans to picket Edwards' funeral, and she asked me to post a few words in this space.
To be honest, I didn't want to do anything that might garner any additional attention for the pathetic lemmings who populate the Kansas-based "Westboro Baptist" cult. However, and in a similar vein as my controversial comments about the fruitcake from Gainesville who planned to burn the Koran, the spotlight is already blazing, honed in on the "protest", and broadcasting to the world.
So I can't help myself (especially in an increasingly anti-Christian cultural climate); I feel compelled to tell the truth about the amazing, redemptive, generous love that The Creator of all life has for absolutely all of humankind.
"It's so sad," Naomi said, when she read that the Westboro press-release declared that God hates Elizabeth Edwards.
Okay, "Rev" Fred Phelps, I'll bite. Game on. Let's go head-to-head on this. In actuality, and despite your petty prejudices, God loves Elizabeth Edwards. Additionally, and this is one of many reasons it's a very good thing that I'm not God, God also loves Fred Phelps.
Which leads me to say the following - and I know I'll hear about this from a couple of people:
- I don't believe for one moment that the folk at Westrboro Baptist Church worship the God of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments).
- I don't believe Fred Phelps is remotely connected with Jesus Christ.
- I don't believe that anything about being a "Follower of The Way" has spilled over into the message preached by people like Fred Phelps.
- And I don't think that the Gospel is in even a word that he says.
God loves Elizabeth Edwards.
You see - and this is a critically important point - the Westboro Baptist Church have confused religion with God. They have crafted a brutally narrow rules-based religious system, fine-tuned the restrictions and exclusions to fit their own personal prejudices, and then created a more manageable god to preside over the cultish result.
What's sadder still is the fact that many, many "Christian" groups do exactly the same thing, with their own nuances and variations. And the God who put everything on the line to offer the possibility of relationship to the likes of you and me becomes lost amidst the thick entanglements of obligation, fear, manipulation etc...
Understand this: The God who loves Elizabeth Edwards, and Derek Maul, and Fred Phelps is not on the radar of people who base their religion on fear and exclusion and hate.
Naomi is right. What we're hearing on the news is very, very sad. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17)
In love - in God's kind of love - DEREK