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Apr 6, 2014

Reactions From Around The Web To The Death Of Fred Phelps

How did you react to hearing of Fred Phelps' death? Here's how some reacted.

In case you missed it, Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro family religious group that protests soldiers' funerals proclaiming God's hate and wrath, has died. I posted a blog yesterday calling for Christians to love others amidst the death of a hateful man, not celebrate his death by hating on him like he hated on others.

However I thought it was interesting to see there reaction of many others to the death of Fred Phelps Others had plenty to say as well. Others had plenty to say as well. Most of it was simply sadness and pity, not for his death, but also for his life. This morning, I thought I'd share a number of articles/blogs from around the Internet.

First, Amy Tracy's article is moving because of her own journey. This article ran in the Washington Post and elsewhere.

A "fringe hatemonger" — that's what I called Fred Phelps in a letter to the editor of The Washington Times in 1999. In response he announced in a news release that he was coming to Colorado Springs to protest the "... false prophet James Dobson and his fag-infested Focus on the Family scam."

It felt almost "out of body" to pull into the Focus campus one morning and see people holding explicit neon signs telling me I was going to hell. I was a fairly new believer at the time, and managing media relations for Focus on the Family. With my salvation came the holy conviction to begin the difficult journey to battle against my own same-sex attractions. The chants, the signs, the venom — it all felt uncomfortably familiar. Christians were once again protesting me. I couldn't get away from it.

Fred Phelps Sr., the fiery founder of a small Kansas church known for its anti-gay picketing at military funerals, has died.

It also challenged my immature understanding of theology. "What if Phelps is right?" I worried. I buried these thoughts for years — though truth be told, they'd surface at nearly every mention of his name.

I know better now, but words spoken, for good or for evil, during the most vulnerable moments in life make an indelible impression. I have harbored a bitter root of ill will toward Fred Phelps. His hate lodged into my heart during a tender time of spiritual growth.

News that he was admitted to hospice and near death brought about mixed feelings this past weekend. I volunteer for hospice twice a week in a faith-based role. I care for and love people without a clue as to who they are or what harm they've committed in their lives. However, there are glimpses of the past.

An elderly mother jolts herself back from the brink of death for days because she's waiting to say goodbye to her son. She calls out his name over and over. In the end, her body gives out. He doesn't visit.

Cathy Grossman is right. Fred Phelps moved public opinion—away from his own views.

WASHINGTON (RNS) Fred Phelps, the 84-year-old founder of Westboro Baptist Church and media-master of hate speech campaigns, died Thursday (March 20) after devoting decades to damning Americans for tolerating homosexuality.

"God Hates Fags" was the Westboro philosophy, detailed in vile slogans on signs that a tiny band of relatives toted to 40 sites a week around the country. All told, the church in Topeka, Kan., claims to have staged some 53,000 protests.

Whenever there was a newsworthy death — be it Matthew Shepard, the gay teen murdered in 1998, or a soldier killed in action, a movie star, or an innocent child victim in a mass murder — Westboro would add it to the church's picketing calendar.

But by the time of his death, Phelps had lived long enough to see American public opinion soar in exactly the opposite direction — in favor of gay rights, including marriage.

The message he spread across the country never took root, and in fact helped galvanize the gay rights movement and put other Christians on the defensive. The image of Christianity he painted was a hateful, judgmental collection of rabble-rousers — an image that, paradoxically, did more to help his targets than it advanced his message.

Experts say Phelps' ultimate legal and social impact on the American religious landscape will be a footnote. Religious leaders lament the damage they say he did to Christians who preach God's love and mercy.

Free speech icon

Born on Nov. 13, 1929, in Meridian, Miss.,Phelps reportedly quit West Point to study at Bob Jones University and became an ordained Southern Baptist minister in 1947. But he left the SBC for a more fundamentalist theology and launched the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka in 1955. While once considered a champion of civil rights, Phelps turned to focus lifelong enmity toward gay rights and began his notorious picketing campaign in 1991.

My colleague Aaron Earls speaks of the need for grace. And he's right.

As news broke yesterday that Fred Phelps, pastor and founder of the familial cult known as Westboro Baptist Church, the giddy tweets began to pour out.

People seemed delighted that a man who was known for rejoicing over death would soon face that which he seemed to relish for others.

With his history as an NAACP award winning civil rights lawyer, Phelps is more complicated than a caricature. But in recent years, all he has shown to anyone outside of his family cult has been hatred.

He knows hate and wrath. He has no concept of love and grace. The god he has fashioned in his own image is incapable of forgiveness.

So that's what he's been getting in return. "God hates Phelps! Picket his funeral. Show Phelps exactly what he's shown everyone else."

That's just it though. All he knows hate. The false god he worships knows hate. Why would hate be the way to respond to him?

Before he dies, I pray Fred Phelps discovers the grace he refused to display from the true God he never knew existed.

There is no denying that Phelps has harmed the reputation of the Church in the eyes of the world. But so have you and I.

Obviously not to the extent that Phelps has, but I've messed up. I haven't shown grace where it was needed. You have not been the ambassador for Christ that you should have been at every moment of your life.

I don't want to minimize how graceless Phelps has been, just the opposite. But I think the best way to show how mistaken Phelps has been is to extend him what he refused to extend others. –Christianity Today

Nephilim: TRUE STORY of Satan, Fallen Angels, Giants, Aliens

Egyptian Wants To Sue Israel Over Biblical Plagues

'Our ancient forefathers … did not deserve to pay for Pharoah's mistake'
A writer in Egypt is demanding that his nation sue Israel over the 10 biblical plagues.

“We want compensation for the plagues that were inflicted upon [us] as a result of the curses that the Jews’ ancient forefathers [cast] upon our ancient forefathers, who did not deserve to pay for the mistake that Egypt’s ruler at the time, Pharaoh, committed,” said columnist Ahmad al-Gamal, in a column in the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi.

The column was spotted and cited by officials with the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors and comments on media in the Middle East.

The commentator also advocated suing Israel for the “precious materials” used by the Israelites to build their desert tabernacle, Turkey for damages for invading Egypt during the Ottoman empire and France for Napoleon’s invasion.

And he wants Britain to pay for 72 years of occupation.

After the 10 plagues resulted in their freedom from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites soon beheld Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea. Now you can watch the acclaimed “Red Sea Crossing” video documentary, in which robotic submarine cameras reveal Egyptian chariots strewn across the sea floor. Save $15 – just $4.95 today only!

“For what is written in the Torah proves that it was Pharaoh who oppressed the children of Israel, rather than the Egyptian people. [But] they inflicted upon us the plague of locusts that didn’t leave anything behind them; the plague that transformed the Nile’s waters into blood, so nobody could drink of them for a long time; the plague of darkness that kept the world dark day and night; the plague of frogs; and the plague of the killing of the firstborn, namely every first offspring born to woman or beast, and so on,” he wrote.

“We want compensation for the gold, silver, copper, precious stones, fabrics, hides and lumber, and for [all] animal meat, hair, hides and wool, and for other materials that I will mention [below], when quoting the language of the Torah. All these are materials that the Jews used in their rituals. These are resources that cannot be found among desert wanderers unless they took them before their departure…” he continued.

The MEMRI report noted al-Gamal calls for using “all measures of the law” to collect compensation.”

He quotes the Bible’s description of the Exodus.

“The stories of the Holy Scriptures state that the Israelites set off from the [Nile] valley at night and went to the Sinai Peninsula. This is known to be a desert, were there is no use for large quantities of gold, silver, precious stones, meats, oils, fabrics and the like. Therefore it is clear that the Israelites took all these things from Egypt before they left. Chapter 25 of Exodus, on the [Israelites'] departure [from Egypt], states: ‘The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering… These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.”

He also notes the construction of the portable tabernacle assembled by the Israelites used acacia wood and gold, as well as linens.

He even cites the mental injury from Egypt’s long history.

“We want compensation from the Turks for damaging the Egyptian psyche through their racism and haughtiness, their contempt for Egypt and the Egyptians, and their disgraceful treatment of the peasant as someone who [merely] plows, sows and reaps – although the harvest from the sweat of his brow filled the stomachs of the indolent Ottomans,” he said.

The plagues included turning the Nile’s water into blood, frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, thunder and hail, locusts, darkness, and the deaths of the firstborn.

A stunning DVD called “Navigating History: Egypt” is now available. It explores the nation’s history from Pharaonic mythology to modern-day Islam.” -WND

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Americans View Gay People More Favorably Than Evangelical Christians: Poll

A new poll released finds that Americans now view gay people more favorably than they view Evangelical Christians. The poll, commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign of 1000 likely 2016 voters, found 53 percent of Americans view gay people favorably, while only 42 percent of Americans view Evangelical Christians favorably. Just 18 percent of Americans, according to the poll, view gays unfavorably, while 28 percent view Evangelical Christians unfavorably.

Of note, also, is the poll finds the arguments being made by the anti-gay right and so-called pro-family groups aren’t working.

The poll finds Americans do not believe “legal recognition for gay marriages amounts to a social revolution within our culture and a decline in how we define families.” Only 36 percent agreed with that statement, while 60 percent believe “our society has become gradually more accepting of non- traditional families. Legally recognizing gay marriages is simply a sign of this gradual change.”

58 percent of Americans believe “children raised by same-sex couples do as well in terms of education, emotional stability and long term outcomes as children raised by a mother and a father.” Only 27 percent of those polled do not.

52 percent of Americans believe “allowing gay marriage helps children by giving the children of same-sex couples the same legal rights and sense of family as other families in their community,” while 41 percent believe that “allowing gay marriage hurts children by encouraging same-sex couples to have children; boys need fathers and girls need mothers.”

And regardless of their position on same-sex marriage, almost eight out of 10 Americans believe that if in the next ten years same-sex marriage becomes legal in all 50 states, there will be less prejudice against gay people. Three-fourths of Americans believe it will be easier to grow up gay.

Overall, 62 percent of Americans believe it “is inevitable that gay marriages will be legally recognized by the Supreme Court.”

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. A presentation of the poll, though not the actual data, is available on the GQR site. –The New Civil Rights Movement

Anita Renfroe - Your Momma Raised You Right!

Evangelicals Still Don’t Know What to Do With the Big Bang

When a major discovery confirmed the Big Bang this week, some evangelicals ignored it, while others claimed it’s already in the Bible. But the theory’s Catholic history suggests there’s a better way to look at it.

The “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the universe got a big boost this week when scientists reported the discovery of 14-billion-year-old echoes of the universe’s first moments—the first proof of an expanding universe, and the last piece of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Creationists and other conservative religious believers have a curiously ambivalent relationship with the Big Bang—unlike evolution, which is universally condemned. Young-earth creationists mock the Big Bang as a wild guess, an anti-biblical fantasy that only atheists determined to ignore evidence of God’s creation could have invented. In contrast, creationists who accept that the earth is old—by making the “days” of creation in Genesis into long epochs—actually claim that the Big Bang is in the Bible. Some of them are rejoicing in the recent discovery.

The leading evangelical anti-science organization is Answers in Genesis (AIG), headed by Ken Ham, the guy who recentlydebated Bill Nye. AIG’s dismissive response to the discovery is breathtaking in its hubris and lack of insight into how science works. They call for Christians to reject the discovery because the “announcement may be improperly understood and reported.” This all-purpose response would also allow one to deny that there is a missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777.

Secondly, Answers in Genesis complains that the predictions being confirmed in the discovery are “model-dependent.” They fail to note that every scientific prediction ever confirmed, from the discovery of Neptune, to DNA, to the Ambulecetus transitional fossil is “model-dependent.” The whole point of deriving predictions in science is to test models, hypotheses, theories. Finally, AIG suggests that “other mechanisms could mimic the signal,” implying that, although the startling prediction was derived from Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the inflationary model of the Big Bang, it could have come from “some other physical mechanism.” No alternative mechanism is suggested.

The AIG response declares instead that “Biblical creationists know from Scripture that the universe did not begin in a big bang … we know from Genesis 1 that God made the earth before He made the stars, but the big bang requires that many stars existed for billions of years before the earth did.”

Not all biblical literalists take such a hard-line stance. Like Ham, the popular Christian apologist Hugh Ross is a biblical literalist who rejects all forms of evolution: Ross believes that the “days” of creation in Genesis are vast epochs and thus the universe can be billions of years old. Ross heads the organization Reasons to Believe, which is often attacked by AIG and other young earth creationist groups for having a “liberal” view of the Bible.

Ross, an astronomer by training, was delighted by the discovery of the gravitational waves and told the Christian Post that “The Bible was the first to predict big bang cosmology.” Ross, in fact, is convinced that many ideas in modern science—including the inflationary model for the Big Bang confirmed by the recent discovery—were actually predicted by the Bible. He argues—to the dismay of Hebrew scholars—that the word “bara,” translated “create” in Genesis 1:1, means “to bring into existence that which did not exist before.” Ross has ingeniously located much of modern physics in the Bible, including the laws of thermodynamics and the Big Bang.

The initial response from the Discovery Institute, the headquarters of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, maligned the motivations of the cosmologists searching for the gravity wave, claiming they found more theologically friendly models of the Big Bang “disturbing,” and wanted to refute them. The recent discovery of the gravity waves—after years of searching—is being trumpeted by the scientific community because it “saves the jobs of a thousand people at two national labs who are having to justify their expensive failure.

Despite his organization’s snarky cynicism, the Discovery Institute’s director, bestselling ID author Stephen Meyer, was in the this-new-discovery-proves-the-Bible camp. Meyer went on the John Ankerberg show to extol the theological virtues of the Big Bang. Using the same arguments as Hugh Ross, Meyer finds both the Big Bang and even the inflation model in the Bible: “We find repeated in the Old Testament, both in the prophets and the Psalms,” he told the Christian Post, “that God is stretching or has stretched out the heavens.” Meyer says this “stretching” means that “Space expanded very rapidly,” and the recent discovery provided “additional evidence supporting that inflation.”

Meyer and Ross are right that English translations of the Bible do speak of the heavens being “stretched out.” But to suggest that this is what has been confirmed by the recent discovery is simply not possible. A typical biblical passage supporting this claim is found in Isaiah 40:22 where we read that God “stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” Does this really sound like an event at the beginning of time when the universe experienced a momentary burst of expansion? And what do we make of the apocalyptic vision described in Revelation 6:14 that, at the end of time, “the sky rolled back like a scroll”?

The biblical authors—and most ancients—understood the sky over their heads to be a solid dome—an inverted bowl resting on a flat earth for the authors of Genesis, a crystalline sphere surrounding a round earth for Aristotle and most Christians until the scientific revolution. The Hebrew word used in Genesis for the sky is “raqia” which means “bowl” or “dome.” It does not mean “space-time continuum” and it is not something that could be “inflated.” It could, however, be “stretched out like a tent” or “rolled back like a scroll.”

These divergent responses are full of hubris in both directions, making extravagant claims for or against scientific discovery, embracing or rejecting science on the basis of existing religious commitments. But these extremes aren’t the only ways for religious believers to respond to major scientific breakthroughs. Not every scientific idea has to have a theological interpretation, although the tendency to fit new science into ancient religious frameworks is often irresistible. And the Big Bang is certainly no exception.

The Big Bang theory, in fact, was developed in the 1920s by a Catholic priest who was also an acclaimed physicist, the Monsignor Georges Lemaître. It was ridiculed and rejected by Lemaître’s atheist colleague, Fred Hoyle. Hoyle applied the derisive term “Big Bang” to Lemaître’s theory in a 1949 BBC interview—a nasty label that stuck.

Hoyle, who labored heroically to produce an alternative theory, didn’t like the theological implications of the universe beginning suddenly in a moment of “creation.” It sounded too much like the first verse in the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” And, as Hoyle and others noted, Lemaître was a priest who might reasonably be suspected of trying to smuggle Catholic theology into science.

Hoyle’s concern was amply illustrated in 1951 when Pope Pius XII declared that, in discovering the Big Bang, science had indeed established the Christian doctrine of the “contingency of the universe” and identified the “epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator.” “Creation took place,” the pope said. “Therefore, there is a creator. Therefore, God exists!”

Both Lemaître and the Vatican’s science advisor were horrified by the Pope’s confident assertion that physics had proven God. They warned him privately that he was shaky ground: the Big Bang was not a theory about the ultimate origin of the universe and should not be enlisted in support of the Christian belief in a Creator. The pope never mentioned it again.

Ironically, in this dispute, the atheist Hoyle was on the side of the pope in seeing a linkage between the Big Bang and God. It was Lemaître and the pope’s science advisors who saw clearly that scientific theories, no matter how well-established, should not be enlisted in support of theological notions. And, as the Catholic Church learned in the Galileo affair, scientific theories should not be opposed on theological or biblical grounds.

These lessons have been learned by Catholics, for the most part, as evidenced by the relative scarcity of prominent Catholic science-deniers. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same things for many evangelical Protestants, many of whom belong to truncated religious traditions that began after Galileo, or even after John F. Kennedy. They lack the accumulated wisdom that restrains the pope from inspecting every new scientific discovery and either rejecting it because it counters a particular interpretation of Genesis or enthusiastically endorsing it because it confirms this or that doctrine. And when the pope strays, his advisors quickly get him back on track. Catholic thinking on science is informed by the pontifical academy of science, an advisory group with no counterpart in Protestantism.

Ken Ham and his colleagues at Answers in Genesis, Hugh Ross and his colleagues at Reasons to Believe, and Stephen Meyer and his colleagues at the Discovery Institute are too quick to embrace, reject, or gloss with theological meaning the latest scientific discoveries. Rather than rushing to the Bible to see whether its ancient pages can accommodate the latest science, they would do well to heed this caution from Lemaître, as he spoke of the theory that he discovered:

“We may speak of this event as of a beginning. I do not say a creation … Any preexistence of the universe has a metaphysical character. Physically, everything happens as if the theoretical zero was really a beginning. The question if it was really a beginning or rather a creation, something started from nothing, is a philosophical question which cannot be settled by physical or astronomical considerations.” -The Daily Beast