The Common Good

A Prayer for Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps at his pulpit, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Fred Phelps at his pulpit, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Editor's Note: Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church — best known for anti-gay demonstrations that include picketing soldiers' funerals — is reportedly near death. The following is offered as a prayer.

Good and gracious God,
We lift up a prayer
for the misguided –
for those who hate
and belittle
and abuse
in your name.

For those
who wish to see
the hate go on,
the anger be fed,
the world continue
on its unsustainable path
of division and judgement.

In short,
we pray for ourselves —
for that moment of relief
we felt
when we first heard the news
that Fred Phelps
was dying.
For the way
we tried to justify
the feeling –
to justify allowing his hate
to grow into a reflection
in us.

Guide us toward lives
that more fully reflect
you.

May we learn to replicate
the embrace you offer
to all –
the very embrace
Fred Phelps will soon know.

Create in us a spirit
that is more willing
to risk
the radical practice
of loving our enemy.
Remind us that that is the path
to healing a broken world –
that it is your desire
for us,
for our nation,
for the world.

Remind us to be
repairers of the breach
rather than those
who broaden the divide.

Teach us
that you do not call us
to love
what Fred Phelps has done.
You only call us
to love the man.

With that in mind,
we pray for him
and for forgiveness
for his hateful
and hurtful ways.

We pray for his family,
who must also
repair a breach
as they come to terms
with the passing of
their father,
former leader,
pastor,
loved one.

Death seldom
comes easy,
even to the most
tortured of souls.
We pray for reconciliation.
Between us.
Between him.
Between them.

May his hateful actions
inspire us toward
a more loving response.
May our instinct to lash out
be subdued
by our will to create a better world.
And
may our anger and resentment
unravel and be released
as we expand our ability
to share love
more abundantly.

Amen

Mark Sandlin currently serves as the minister at Vandalia Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. He received his M. Div. from Wake Forest University's School of Divinity and has undergraduate degrees in Business Administration and English with a minor in Computer Science. He's an ordained minister in the PC(USA) and a self-described progressive.

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