This was a hard one…hearing the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of funeral protesters. The Phelps clan has been around for a long time marching with signs that declare with certainty what God thinks and who God hates. Everything in my being is repulsed by what I read on those signs…and I only see them on the news. They’ve never been directed at me; their words never have assured me that God hates me or that people are dying because of me. (But then, maybe they don’t know that I’m a woman pastor…who knows?) Evenso, reading the unbelievably violent things written on those signs… how much psychological damage are those signs doing? How much psychological damage has been done to people that they think it okay to inflict such violence on others?
Yes, yes, yes. Free speech is vital to a democracy, vital. I want the same freedom to preach my theology that others have. But wasn’t some line crossed in this case? “Thank God for dead soldiers” at a military funeral? I can’t imagine the psychological damage that has been done to the Snyder family.
I don’t know this…I haven’t been to law school; I’m not exactly on the Supreme Court justice trajectory…But the decision feels right. The Court’s job in this case was to affirm the right of citizens to free speech…
But as a person of faith–and as a pastor–in addition to my concern for free speech, I’m equally concerned about freeing speech. “No one condemns you,” Jesus said. “Go and sin no more.” “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
In the Gospels, over and over again, Jesus seems always and only to speak freeing words to people, words that accept them for who they are, words that assure them of God’s love for them, words that move them into a closer embrace with God. In fact, now that I think about it, the people with whom Jesus is less-than-gracious are the religious leaders, the ones who seem so certain of what God thinks and whom God hates.
As people of faith, we have such an opportunity to share God’s love–God’s LOVE–with people who are hurting. How can any Christian in his or her right mind knowingly hurt those who are hurting? How can any Christian be so sadistic? How can any adherent to the faith of “God is love” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” do such violence to thier neighbors?
As a citizen, I affirm the Phelps’ right to free speech. As a person of Christian faith, I wish to God they would exercise their freedom to say the right things.