Another One Bites the Dust
Yet another credentialed Evangelical Christian has left the fold. As usual, he has started a blog ranting against his former faith. This particular entry seems to have the attention of the atheist blogosphere, and with good reason. Our former Christian brother (or sister) has hit many of the hot buttons that atheists just love to hear! The references to Fred Phelps are particularly juicy for the atheists out there–they take every opportunity to compare mainstream Christianity to Fred Phelps.
Here’s the crux of the entry:
As a child I grew up in Christian home, (my father was a pastor, if you must know) and it always pained me to compare myself (and our church) to the incorrigible Phelps’. We claimed to hold the Bible to be the infallible word of god, they did too. We thought that homosexuality was a sinful abomination, they did too. We believed that those who disagreed with us were headed to eternal torment in hell, they did too. We were certain that all who repented of their egregious offenses against god could be saved and offered eternal life, they did too. Though it seemed that we believed the exact same things, I knew I wasn’t like them, that I couldn’t hate and prejudge as they did; yet when I looked at the doctrine I subscribed to, I was simply less vocal.
Though they may not be as outspoken, all people that believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of god are the Phelps’ of this world. Keeping your mouth shut while believing the same things doesn’t make you better, only a coward unwilling to declare a side in the debate over human decency.
But, is there a way to differentiate the average believer from Fred Phelps? Is it actually true that all believers are simply a more timid version of Fred Phelps, believing everything that he does but just afraid to say it?
As it happens, there is a difference between the average believer and Fred Phelps. The difference can be found in the words of Jesus:
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Mt 12:33-37)
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Mt 15:18-20)
The apostle Paul expounds:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10)
What is this fruit that Jesus talks of? The fruit of the Spirit (see Gal 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Be honest: Do you see any of that coming from Fred Phelps’s direction?
What about the marks of a true Christian, listed by the apostle Paul?
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:9-18, 21)
Again, I ask: Are we seeing any of that from Fred Phelps?