How to handle Fred Phelps’ Death

So by now if you haven’t heard…Fred Phelps had died.

And in case you haven’t been paying attention for the past who knows how many years, he was the leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.

The Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for protesting soldiers funerals, their vehement opposition to the LGBTQ community, and most recently a Lorde concert. They have spread so much hatred that even Christians dislike them.

So, now that Fred Phelps has died…what should our response be?\

A couple responses that I found on twitter:

“That awkward moment, when you’re ecstatic someone’s dead. Burn in hell you worthless piece of trash. #FredPhelps”

“Having a no good, rotten day? Well #FredPhelps is dead. So you got that going for ya.”

I’m not going to go much further, because much to my surprise there was more loving and positive posts than I expected.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I will not in any way defend what Fred Phelps or the Westboro Baptist Church does. They have done/do some pretty terrible things. Awful, hate-filled, and despicable things.

But I will defend their humanity. They are humans, just as lost, struggling, and pain-experiencing as the rest of us. So to that end, I submit that we show them love.

Even when you were at your worst, someone has shown you love. So I submit that even when they are consistently at their worst, show them love. For love conquers all.

Advertisements

The Fault in Our Stars

The-Fault-In-Our-Stars-John-Green

First of all, my suggestion is for you to find a copy of The Fault in Our Stars and read it. I honestly was a little, skeptical (if you can say that), at first. I read reviews that said it would make you cry and make you think. And they were right. So my advice is to read it. Well, read this first, then go and read it.

I took a few deep breaths and went back to the page. “I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

-John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

This particular line, delivered by Hazel Grace Lancaster in a eulogy for Augustus Waters, from The Fault in Our Stars really took me. It caught me and, honestly, I cried.

There have been times when I’m doing something and time just stops. It seems to be suspended in a state of infinite existence. I understand those moments. It seems as if everything around just stops. No one else exists, it’s just you and those around you. Perhaps you’re even alone, it just causes you to stop and breathe.

You stop, and in that moment, everything is perfect. Time stops and the perfection is beautiful. The time within that moment is a suspension in space, a moment that contains an infinitude of infinities. It’s that moment when you lose track of time, you never even notice it.

I have had very few such moments, and I can remember one this past summer. I was with someone that I loved and really, that moment, I would have preferred to be there the entirety of my life. I mean in that moment, they were my entire world. And honestly, they didn’t consider themselves special. They were very special to me. This book just made me wish for that true love. That person whom I can just look at them and feel their love. That person with whom just their presence causes me to feel at peace.

You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.

-John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

That quote, it’s something that many people need to be told, including myself. We always assume that we have to be known by thousands of other people to be special. We all have to be the Marilyn Monroe, the Nelson Mandela, the Justin Bieber, the Barack Obama in order to be special. We have to be aware that we are each special to someone.

There is always one person in your life who will always consider you special. No matter what happens to you. No matter what you do. And to them, you mean something; you might even mean the world. Never let yourself go for too long not remembering that. And be sure to make friends and relationships with those who see your worth.

Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.

People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad, Van Houten. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do not harm.

The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things’ the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.

-Letter to Van Houten from Augustus Waters, John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Many people, nearly all of them, are obsessed with leaving their mark. But often times, as Augustus writes, all we do is cause damage. When we think we’re helping we unintentionally cause damage.

Have you ever just watched someone? (Not in a creepy way of course, that would be really disturbing.) But when you watch someone, you get to see what they enjoy to do. You get to see them at peace and happy. And if you love them, well, when you see them for who they are, you will fall in love with them more. Seeing them at their happiest and most vulnerable state, it will bring you a happiness that you can’t even explain.

It is so much greater to be loved deeply, rather than widely. That is not to say that it is wrong to be loved widely. But being loved deeply is much greater. For being loved is one of the most precious things you can experience; to know that someone else cares for you even more than they do themselves. If there is one way to leave a lesser scar and greater legacy, it is through loving.

fault-in-stars-quote4

Use your eyes a little less

It’s no secret that looks can be deceiving. (And if you thought that they couldn’t be, surprise!) We oft depend on our eyes too much. Yes, I will admit that they are absolutely wonderful things and there are a thousand other colors that we can’t see. But the fact that we can see colors at all is amazing. The biology of the eye is really quite astonishing, but I won’t spend any time trying to convince you of that. I want to talk about using our eyes a little bit less though.

I recently reread the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. When I was a student in Upward Bound seven or eight years ago (dear god how time flies) I can remember going to see the play. At the time I had no idea that it was based off of a book. Then at some point I discovered it and got the book and thus far I’ve read it two or three times, a rarity for me. I usually don’t reread books despite the fact that I have a small collection that I have purchased to keep forever. But the books that I do reread, there’s usually a reason.

I’ve reread the Harry Potter series (because they’re awesome), the Lord of the Rings trilogy (an epic that I aspire to write something like), and Tuesdays with Morrie. There might be a few others, but they’re so few that I really don’t remember them. That should speak volumes for what I think of the books I do reread. But enough about my reading habits. On to the real material!

One of the quotes from Tuesdays with Morrie that I wanted to share comes from a small in-between chapter. Mitch Albom talks about how the college class he was in is practicing trust falls. Everyone seems to be uncomfortable with it until one girl closes her eyes and falls. Her partner catches her, a relief because I’m sure it would have been awful to hit the floor. The best part though is what Morrie says about it (this is him speaking in the quote below), and of course that’s what Albom is pointing out with the entire story.

‘You see,’ he says to the girl, ‘you closed your eyes. That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too–even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re falling.’

Appearances carry too much weight in this world. Far too much.

I can be honest when I say this to you. I have found, in some cases, much more trust in those whom I thought I could trust the least. Those that I trusted the most in the beginning showed me in the end that it was not necessarily true. I would let my sight of them determine what I felt and how much I trusted them. What I found was that as I came to know them, my expectations became entirely different.

Along with what Morrie says, I found another quote someplace, I don’t remember the first place I saw it unfortunately. But a quick search yielded a great photo for it. 88a0a688a6927efca42404d344dac78b_large

Those things that are most beautiful in this life, are never seen by the eyes. They are always felt.

I wish that I could articulate the feelings I have for one individual, and I have tried. But I can not, for the life of me, properly articulate the feelings I truly feel and have because I’m not supposed to. In a way, they are far to precious and beautiful for me to share and so I’m prevented from doing so. I cannot properly express the overwhelming feelings of gratitude, love, and acceptance that I have for them. But I can feel them.

When I close my eyes to listen to a song, it’s almost as if I’m in another world.

When I cry, I enter into a place of solitude where no one can follow.

When I write, I enter into a world that I call my own in every possible way.

When I dream, I rarely share them. I shared my dreams with someone once, a very close and dear friend of mine. I shared with him a piece of my dream and he was surprised at what they were. It was a side of me that he had never seen before, and rightly so because the most beautiful things are never seen by the eyes.

So all of this to say, use your eyes a little less. Never close them, no, don’t do that. You could miss seeing the beauty of the universe. But those things worth seeing the most, those things that are the real heart and soul of people, those things, you can never see with your eyes.

Why I gave up on Christianity

So Christians oppress others. And Muslims oppress others. And Mormons. And Buddhists. And Hindus. And pretty much every single religion oppresses someone. I cannot speak for every other religion out there, but I can definitely speak for Christianity, and my own experiences.

Now there are a lot of Christians out there who do not oppress others, or try and force them to believe in their beliefs. There are also a lot of Christians to do tell people who believe in other religions that they’re wrong. That their beliefs are imaginary. That they’re just going to burn in hell because they don’t believe.

I’ve walked the path where I’ve told others that they’re just blatantly wrong. I’ve told them that they’re going to hell. I’ve studied and learned the scriptures from the Bible to refute homosexuality. I’ve memorized the Roman’s Road (a set of verses chosen from the book of Romans that is used to convince people that they need salvation). I’ve learned how to refute most arguments. I’ve learned that sex before marriage is bad. I’ve learned that pornography is bad. I’ve learned that you need to read the scriptures everyday. I’ve learned that you need to have constant community with other believers. I’ve believed in the end times talked of in Revelation. I’ve done book studies. I’ve done a lot of the things you’re supposed to do (I wouldn’t dare to say that I’ve done it all).

And I’ve told others to do it. And I’ve been offended when people said I was wrong. I’ve been upset and wanted to just scream and tell them that they were wrong. This image I found, it explains it pretty damn well.

2013-04-17

 

Let’s be honest. This is exactly how everyone reacts. Insult their beliefs and they’re gonna call the cops. But it’s no big deal! Until they insult your beliefs. Well then they’re just complete idiots and buffoons and some more choice and selective names AND you call the cops to complain that your beliefs are being infringed upon.

Let’s just step back a bit.

Can you remember how you felt when they didn’t believe what you believed?

Yeah?

Well guess what.

They felt EXACTLY the same when you didn’t believe what they did.

Let that sink in a moment.

EXACTLY the same.

Now I’m still a believer. I still believe that God is the ruler of the universe and everything in it. But I don’t walk around and impugn on others religions or beliefs.

Do you want the honest truth?

I don’t read the scriptures everyday. I don’t even really attend services much anymore. For me, most preachers focus too much on the human side of things. What do humans get from this whole religion thing. What can I do to get to heaven. What can I do to have a restful eternity. What can I do?

For me, I see God everywhere. I see him in the sky, creating the clouds and the snow that drifts silently. I see him painting the sunrise and spreading the moonlight across the earth. I see him in the eyes of my friends when they’re doing what they love. I see him in the colors that I’m privileged to witness. I hear him in the strains of music that I can listen to. I see him in the trees as they stand against the forces of nature, the rain and snow and wind.

I cannot speak for everyone else, but I can speak for myself. There is always a bit of truth in everything. For me, I believe that there is a bit of truth in every religion. I believe that there are pieces of every religion that are true and should be observed. But that’s me. Who am I to say that someone else is completely wrong? For all I know, I could be the one who is totally wrong.

The only thing I can say is that I gave up being a Christian. I gave up being a Christian because of all the things that went along with it. I consider myself a Christ follower, in my mind two completely different things. As a Christ follower, my path and ultimate belief is in love. There is power in love and acceptance that can overcome any other thing, any problem, concern, or struggle can, in some way, be overcome by love.

That is what I respect. If you can love and respect others, then we’ll get along just fine.

A Thousand Years

A long time ago I had a series that I wrote, called songs that mean something. Well, here’s another installment!

This time, “A Thousand Years.” The original is by Christina Perri, but I’ve heard at least three covers (all of which I confess are in my YouTube playlist) that I enjoy very much. I’ll post the cover by Kurt Hugo Schneider at the end of the post. Or maybe you’ll get a two-fer and I’ll share the one by Peter Hollens as well.

So…A Thousand Years. Originally it was written for Edward and Bella from the Twilight series (I can hear the groaning already) and I actually enjoyed reading them and watching the movies.

Honestly, I can so very easily see this as a direct comparison between the believers love for Christ, and in my own life as a song for the person I fell in love with.

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave
How can I love when I’m afraid
To fall
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt
Suddenly goes away somehow

Is there any doubt that when we first fall for Christ, we have no idea what it will be like? I know that the first time I met God, I was terrified. 

But I think that my favorite part of the song is definitely the chorus.

I have died every day
waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I’ll love you for a
Thousand more

I feel that Christ sings this over us quite often. But for me personally, I find myself singing it over the one I love. I could never pretend to dismiss the feelings I have, because they are real and true. That person, I have loved them from the moment we met as a good friend, and it grew from there. I have loved them ever since, and it is like never to change. I guess that there is a part of me that can’t really explain how I truly feel, but I’ll let the song speak for me.