Where is Fred Phelps Now?

This last week Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church–known for its protests and picketing of funerals, public appearances, etc.–died at 84 years of age. Phelps and his church were outspoken critics of homosexuals. They displayed a disdain and hate that was so abhorrent to the public that it likely tipped the debate over same-sex unions in favor of them.

Still, some agree with Phelps' position on gay marriage. But a great majority do not. Does one's firm beliefs allow them to spew hatred? I don't think so.

On the day Phelps passed, actor and LGBT activist George Takei wrote on his Facebook page: "Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one. Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life."

Takei's words beg the question, Where is Phelps now? Certainly, some are hoping hell. Others assume that his beliefs will find him in heaven. I have to say that my views on the afterlife have been deeply impacted by C. S. Lewis' novel, The Great Divorce. (If you haven't read it, you should.) As I reflect on Phelps' passing I find myself thinking about Lewis' imagery. I think Phelps is in God's presence. But I also think we spend our lives preparing ourselves for eternity, being in God's presence–in one way or another. And I wonder if this means that for some, being in God's presence is hell.

Gun Violence: What Would Jesus (Have Us) Do?

In Isaiah 2 the prophet describes taking weapons and fashioning them into farming tools–tools that will care for the land and bring food to the people. What an image! It’s redemptive. It’s creative.

It’s redemptive because it repurposes the brutal instrument rather than destroy or demonize it. A cycle is broken, even down to the devices used to perpetrate violence.

Not only is the redemptive potential of these tools found, their creative purpose is as well. Their redemption finds them tilling land, creating food–sustenance to those that use the tools and their families.

It takes a lot of imagination to come up with ways to shape destruction into creation, hate into love, enemies into friends. But this is what we find described in this biblical passage. It’s also what we see Jesus embody, announce and instigate in the Gospels. He loves the hated. He turns death into life. He wins by losing.

He ends up being everything his mother imagined in her prenatal song.

The debate around gun violence lacks imagination. It lacks gospel.

The fact that so many young people are shot and killed across the U.S. terrifies each of us. Yet, most have come to the conclusion that the final decision on how Americans will address gun violence will be resolved by legislation. Our position on this issue will come down to how, and for whom, we vote. Really? That’s it?

It’s not enough.

These guys!

@greysrock killed it!

Some Updates...

There's lots going on that I should've mentioned sooner, but here's the run down:

Today, I'm hosting another EDOW Roundtable. This month we're talking about gun violence and the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath that happened this last weekend. You can watch online here.

Tomorrow night, you can join me and the folks from St. Paul's and St. John's at The Bier Baron for another Theology on Tap conversation on cyber security, privacy and faith with Clark Ervin.

Here's my latest from our series on the The Story:
"The more familiar we become with Jesus’ context, the clearer we begin to see why the religious and political forces of his day found his words and actions troubling. He questioned their authority by employing a completely different kind of authority. He provoked the status quo by embodying and inviting others into a completely different way of thinking about poverty, sustenance, leadership and power. Jesus was not about to let the misdirected individuals and institutions of his day obstruct him from his mission." Read the rest...

I'm back with the Easter People gang on episode 11 where we talk about Ashes-To-Go, the first issue of Ms. Marvel and this photo of my boss.

St. Patrick Redefined Evangelism

He was enslaved by the Irish Celtics. After escaping and fleeing the country, he returned to live amidst and evangelize his captors. Rome considered his methods unorthodox, if not heretical. Why? Because Patrick did not believe that "civilizing" a culture and "evangelizing" a culture were synonymous. He believed that the good news of the Gospel could be discovered within the indigenous culture–the Celts didn't need to become "Roman" in order to follow Jesus.

We could learn a lot from St. Patrick.

For more of this perspective on St. Patrick, read George G. Hunter III's, The Celtic Way of Evangelism.