Revelations: Hate doesn't drive out hate
A friend of mine once told me, "It's the strangest thing. You have an infinite amount of patience - until you don't anymore."
That particular day, I had lost my patience.
He was describing how impressed he was with my always-smiling, always-positive, always-forgiving, always-seeking-good-in-others attitude and how shocking and unsettling it was for him to see me turn to the dark side.
And I won't lie, I do have a dark side.
I mean, really, a girl can't smile all the time, right? Even the most pleasant individuals have a "Mr. Hyde" moody jerk in them somewhere.
And it seems recently, I've had less patience than usual.
I realized this week my "Mr. Hyde" was surfacing more than usual after reading over a few articles about the Rev. Fred Phelps, of Kansas' most controversial Baptist organization, Westboro Church.
If you're not familiar, the members of this church, under Phelps' leadership, are known for their picketing of the gay community and soldiers' funerals, holding signs near the gravesides of mourning, sobbing family and friends, waving messages of "Christian love" like "Thank God for dead soldiers," "God hates fags," "AIDS cures gays," and "Fags are worthy of death."
And that's what the congregation said publicly. I don't even want to know what it preached behind closed doors.
The pickets, of course, did little to end homosexuality, bring (perhaps irreligious) homosexuals into relationships with the Lord or spread the gospel.
All Westboro members did was anger, confuse and spread darkness around the globe. Every sign they held ignited a fire and turned everyone around them into a screaming pile of Mr. Hydes.
They also sullied the reputation of Jesus and his message - the stories of a gentle, loving, merciful Jesus.
Westboro set us all back, those of us who wanted to be more like Jesus, befriending the outcasts and the misunderstood.
I always knew as long as Phelps and Westboro was around, I'd have to work harder to reach out to those who hated or were suspect of Christians. I never wanted anyone to believe I was a (secret) Westboro sympathizer.
So when I learned Phelps died this week - at 84, of natural causes - I thought what any Mr. Hyde might think, "Someone should go picket that (expletive deleted) funeral."
Yep. That's what I thought.
I even sat with my friend, the same friend who told me "I have an infinite amount of patience," and watched him write on Facebook, "I'm in" to someone's status asking to get a group together to go picket Phelps' funeral.
My friend, you see, is gay and from Kansas, giving him more than enough reason to dislike Phelps and Westboro.
But at that moment, while he was writing "I'm in" on his friend's status, it should have occurred to me that this isn't how Christ would want me to think.
It should have occurred to me that just because Phelps spent his life hating others, doesn't mean he should be the recipient of the same kind of vile he spread around the world.
But in my Mr. Hyde mood swing, I was only consumed with the dark side. I mean, am I supposed to have patience for a man like that? One who corrupts the loving words of my God and targets my friends with hate speech?
Apparently, yes I am.
Because if Jesus were alive today, he would have the patience.
He would be able to walk up to Phelps and love and forgive him anyway despite the darkness he contributed to this life. The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he sees everyone as equally worthy of his love. There is no man with a greater sin than another. No disqualifications or prerequisites. We must only believe and serve.
Hate doesn't drive out hate - only light can do that.
And intolerance doesn't invite people to know the true personality of God - only patience can do that.
Darn. I hate when I'm humbled.
Jennifer Preyss is the faith editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss