March 21, 2014

What I Hate Most is Hate

Fred Phelps died this week.

If by some miracle you have avoided hearing about the subject, Fred Phelps was the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, an organization whose web address is "godhatesfags".

As a gay woman, still struggling to find my place in a new world I entered upon coming out, I felt like working through my view of this event here on my blog. I certainly don't speak for the entire LGBTQ community, and every human being has an innate right to an opinion. I just need to state mine, to help myself process a swirl of uncomfortable emotions. You see, I am, by definition, one of the people this man hated. It's a strange feeling, the moment you realize that someone you'll never meet, a complete stranger, hated you in particular. I have stood on the fringes of various groups who experience prejudice every day of their lives, trying to be an ally, an advocate, but this may be the first time I've ever been squarely within the hated population.

Emblem of the
"mountain holiness Pentecostal"
denomination into which I was born
At the risk of sounding like the Apostle Paul in his famous "I was a Pharisee" soliloquy (Philippians 3), I'm in an unusual position, because I was born and raised a Pentecostal, the daughter of a rural Hoosier Pentecostal preacher. I had a "conversion experience" at the tender age of 4, because I had heard my father preach that if I died without having done so, I would go to Hell. I have loved Jesus all my life, even though I was also afraid of Him. I was not only taught that homosexuality was its own special form of evil, but also firmly believed it for 30 years, which naturally led to a fascinating form of self-loathing, as I've known since I was 3 that I was attracted to both men and women, and more often to the latter. I may not have hated gays as people, but I certainly hated the concept, and felt disgusted with myself.

Fred Phelps doesn't anger me. His legacy of hate doesn't infuriate me. The whole thing makes me horribly sad. Seeing people virulently hate him back makes me sad. Hearing people say they hope he is burning in Hell makes me sad. Hasn't there been enough of wishing people Hellfire? Isn't that the point of this travesty? Fred Phelps hated because he was terrified, of a God he never understood, of what his country would become if behaviors that frightened him became accepted. I've been Fred Phelps, or more accurately, I've been all those little kids I see in pictures of Westboro protesters, getting indoctrinated before they can possibly understand the issue in question, holding signs proclaiming that the God who called Himself love, hates people He created. I was that child. I say, enough hate, toward those who disagree with us, toward those who dislike us for who we are, towards ourselves.

This is compassion lived. And it was lived for everyone. No exceptions.

Photo by Sailko

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