Category Archives: Kingdom of God

Fred Phelps, 1929-2014

Fred Phelps, an infamous hatemonger under the cover of a pastor’s call, died today. I won’t weep for him, or pretend to. I won’t yell or call for pickets in retribution. I endorse the “stay cool” platform floated on the web, if not the “ignore him” plank.

We can’t afford to ignore what he and his clan did, not least of which is the harm inflicted on other generations of the Phelps family. But even as the hurt lingers, and there are many who have been hurt deeply and personally by his actions, let’s remember that his life — and his ability to cause further harm — is over.

Let’s also remember and praise the creative responses that many people — some strangers to his targets — developed, and acknowledge (if not be grateful) that his indecent targeting demonstrated that many more of us were “decent” and worthy of care than if a respectable and cool-headed judge decided to separate the sheep and goats. His outrageousness was his own undoing, and a warning about simmering and violent hatred that has a better public face and smoother voice.

And let’s not make him better in death than he was in life, nor overstate his shadowy, late-in-life apotheosis suggested in news accounts. He set himself up consciously to be my enemy, and perhaps yours. But Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. This reminds us, and is our testimony before God, that we regard Fred Phelps as human and not a monster. Redeemable, if not in this world then the next. And if he could not change, others still might. He, too, is more like the rest of us than not, and if we regard him as monster only, we will be unable to minister to those who have been hurt by his cruel hate, or those trying to flee it.

I have no answer why he hated with such a perfect hate, but the reason is less important than making clear to the living that we need not live like that, that we need not be silent before it or that he did not represent what faithful people are.

If you’re thinking about giving money for Philippines storm relief

If you’re thinking about giving money for Philippines storm relief, please seriously consider giving money to the World Food Program USA. Perhaps you’ve heard about rations — “high energy biscuits” — being flown in. The WFP provides these, and that’s the kind of practical we-need-that-now help needed now. More info about the high energy biscuits here, and what they contain.

And a video about a similar relief effort in 2009. But this last cyclone was much bigger.


Give here.

Occupy: D.C., New York, Davis or where-have-you

I’d hate for my readers to think that my few comments about the Occupy movement suggests I’m uninterested. Far from it. Indeed, I’m very mad and deeply concerned about yesterday’s pepper-spraying of student demonstrators at University of California Davis. Google for it, if you’ve not seen this now-iconic photograph.

But I comment mostly by Twitter, Identi.ca, Google+ and Facebook.  And if you have the means to support your closest Occupy encampment, I encourage you to do so.

Preparing for “Buy Nothing Day”

Is a lingering sense of disgust that makes “Buy Nothing Day” so especially appealing this year? That is, the deliberate decision to not shop on the Friday (or whole weekend) following Thanksgiving, in preparation for a trimmed-down or even shopping-free Christmas holiday. Certainly the campaign, long supported by Adbusters magazine, has special resonance because this is the same source of the poster that inspired the Occupy Wall Street encampment and movement. (They also do an anti-branding and “digital detox” campaign that I’ve seen many allusions to.)

And I won’t fight the “but don’t you need food” canard. Peeling back impulse shopping, therapeutic shopping, class-positioning shopping and stress shopping is the key. I’d buy oatmeal at any time, but am training myself to avoid so-called status goods always.

First step: get off of catalog lists. Even in these web-web-web days, I get many catalogs and I don’t think I asked for any of them. Fortunately, most catalog merchants seem to know that bearing the cost of the printing and postage for no return is useless and so give you an easy out. I used to recommend calling the catalog centers, but increasingly you can opt-out by the same web. Plus, it’s such a waste of paper.

Overwhelmed by them? You can start by going to Catalog Choice and opting out. I did, and suspect it has helped. (It can also help clear out the catalogs you get.)

Welcome baby â„– 7,000,000,000

So, the seventh billion human being alive was born today — more or less — the U.S. Census estimates the world will reach seven billion next March. Not much of a difference to me.

There were just over half that many when I was born, and in four decades time there could easily be more than nine billion.

Even if one is skeptical about human-generated climate change, peak oil or environmental degradation, just the amazing heft of that many people demanding the current level of resources seems an improbable effort with that many more people. And shouldn’t the poorest and most vulnerable reasonably demand easier and more reliable access to food and water? energy and communication? housing and just government? education and health care? And just plain old peace?

Orienting resources and talent to this problem seem like key questions — and questions that persons of faith should take seriously. An aesthetic or esoteric faith fails morally when it treats the welfare of billions as an added optional extra.

The new national weight loss plan

Over the years, I’ve tried to lose weight and am fully aware of what works for me (eating high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian food; counting and recording calories) and what doesn’t (everything else).

My reasons for trying to lose weight, however, have changed. The vain reasons of youth have become the health-preservation demands of middle age. Why, to you the reader, might this matter?

Because it meshes well with one of two ideas I have about the Occupy movements. On the one hand, by pushing the political expectations of the country (I can’t speak to how it plays out overseas) to the left, and by encouraging activists, I think there is more possibility for an equitable political solution. (The main line of the Democratic party isn’t going to do it.) What does that have to do with weight loss? Nothing.

The other hand suggests that the fight is going to be generations-long and that the reliable help that comes will be softer, smaller-scale and sometimes insufficient. Encouragement over aid. Solidarity over programs. Pig-headedness, perhaps, over leadership. It means we’re going to have to take care of our own health, finances, social affairs and even religious needs even while others profit unfairly from our labor and government remains unresponsive to citizen demands. It means preparing ourselves bravely and creatively to have less. Sounds very tiring, but this situation has been decades in the making.

So I’m trying to lose weight to stave off diabetes and coronary disease, and rely on the support of a few good friends to make it happen. It may not be enough, but If that’s as much health care as some people have. Time, I think, to consider self-care — not in that sickly-sweet way ministers once talked about among themselves — and solidarity action. And if that works, then why not housing, food, tools, education and religion? I would rather starve the forces that try to control us than surrender.

Let’s start with the “too big to not be bailed out” banks. Then move to abusive multinationals and the producers of goods who finance the corrupt system we see. That I’m hungry for.