Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is Love Really More Powerful Than Hate? (Dialogue Column 2.10.09)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.
You might say that I’ve staked my life—or at least my livelihood—on the idea that love is stronger than hate. I’ve chosen to be a Christian minister which means I declare that the love of God is the most powerful thing there is. The story of the resurrection declares that no matter what evil may accomplish in the short run, love has the final say. Yet, it’s certainly the case that some days believing in the power of good is no easy thing. I’ve been thinking about love and hate a lot as I’ve been reading about the funeral of Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Kelley that took place in Cameron over the weekend.

I don’t know the deceased soldier or his family, but by all accounts he was an honorable man who loved his family and his country. Given the quality of his life and the tragic circumstances of his death in Iraq, it seems all the more cruel that a group of people calling themselves Christians would show up in Cameron on Saturday to protest at his funeral. Once again, members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka showed up at a soldier’s funeral to declare their twisted declaration that God is killing U.S. soldiers in order to punish our nation for its tolerance of homosexuality. I believe in free speech—even for people with whom I disagree—but protesting at a funeral—anyone’s funeral—seems beyond the pale to me.

Based on the media reports, the Westboro members were lost in the crowd of well-wishers and flag-wavers who lined the streets of Cameron to support the Kelley family and to pay tribute to a fallen soldier. First Christian members who were at the service report not even knowing the protesters were around. I was very glad to learn that the few voices of hate were drowned out by the declarations of love—love of country, love of the Kelley family and love offered by Christians who believe our religion is one opposed to judgmental discrimination.

As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday, I believe that we should not only reject a theology that would motivate people to protest a soldier’s funeral but also a belief system that demonizes a minority, in this case gay and lesbian people. KCUR ran a story last week about what happened when the Westboro folks went to Shawnee Mission East High School to protest the school having an openly gay student in its student government. In response to the hatred of the so-called Christians, the students gathered pledges based on how long the protesters stayed at the school. For every minute the protesters were present, people pledged a certain amount of money that was given to a charity that fights AIDS. The protesters stayed 48 minutes and the students raised almost “$10,000.

On the streets of Cameron and at Shawnee Mission East High School love proved itself more powerful than hate.

Grace and Peace,


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