Slack lines have really taken off in the last few years. For years it was rarely practice anywhere outside of the rock climbing community. Ever tried it? It’s a good test of your core strength but the real test is: balance. I’m recognizing more and more how difficult balance is to find. Not just with my legs. With all of life. I see how I and others are prone to extremes. Fred Phelps’ death is a good chance for all of us to reflect not just on his prone to extremes but ours as well.
Pastor Fred Phelps (I use the term “Pastor” very lightly here) of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (again I use the term “Church” lightly too). Best known for their “God Hates Fags” billboards and tee-shirts and their protest at the funerals of returning soldiers. Although they use the name “Baptist” they are not affiliated with (nor do I suppose many want to be associate with them) with any denomination.
Most in the Christian community have one of two ways of viewing Phelps and Westboro. 1) At best, he’s seen as a crazy uncle in the family that we’d just assume not hangout with because every time we see or hear of him we’re ashamed at his total lack of social skills and every where he goes he can’t help but stirs up dissension. 2) Many would say that although they may call themselves “Christians”, there is nothing Christ-like in their attitude and actions.
Here’s what is worth considering though before you say good riddance to him. He represents a view that is to often disregarded in our society that values (worships?) pluralism and to tolerance. His message is really very simple: God takes sin seriously. You don’t have to read many pages into the Bible to find out that he’s correct. Their are consequences in life to disregarding God’s order. Just as there are physical consequences for defining physical laws that govern the world, we ought to be smart enough to recognize that there are spiritual laws too. To disregard them has consequences as well. Phelps is right in this regard, what he is guilty of is lack of balance. In his zeal to promote God’s justice, he has neglected to promote God’s grace and mercy.
Secondly Phelps reminds us that uncontrolled zeal can lead us to distort the very thing that we are passionate about. Whether it’s sex and sexuality, the environment or tolerance. It’s easy to end up overplaying a good hand. Zeal can act as a blinder.
And that’s where it’s dangerous for us to dismiss him and what he represents. Chances are you’re out of balance in key areas of your life too. We all recognize the danger of extremism. In order to avoid them in our own lives we have to be savvy about where our culture is prone to them and where as an individual you are prone to them too.
As an example I would point to… Jesus (what a surprise). He rejected the extremes of the religious groups of his time. In his own life, relationships and teaching he didn’t downplay God’s order of life (laws) nor did he neglect to reflect God’s patience, mercy and forgiveness.
As you can imagine there were a ton people writing on the life and death of Fred Phelps. Here is the best one I read. It’s from Al Mohler.
Questions to consider:
1. In what ways is your: town, city, state or America out of balance? What are you doing to counter act these extremes?
2. How about your own life, where could you use some balance that would make life more the holistic experience that God intended it to be?