The Children Are Innocent

by PammyMcB

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (NIV Matthew 7:15-20)

I wonder, today, how Fred Phelps, an American pastor heading the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church based in Topeka, Kansas, must feel. He has preached his hate speeches over and over again and his church has picketed many, many funerals. The Westboro Baptist Church has planned to picket the funerals of the children, who lost their lives to the gunman at the Sandy Hook school. Phelps claimed that the children’s lives were taken because Connecticut has legalized gay marriage. The website boasts, “The dead children of Sandy Hook Elementary are better off dead than to continue being raised for such great wrath and destruction as you have brought to this land. There is no hope for any child of this nation outside of Westboro Baptist Church. You have a duty to teach your children to fear God or else leave them to desolation, darkness and destruction.”

What you will not read about when reading releases from the Westboro Baptist Church is the shooting that took the lives of two law abiding police officers, Corporal David Gogian and Jeff Atherly, who lost their lives in an attempt to prevent an possible massacre at a local grocery store in Phelps own home town of Topeka, Kansas. So I ask, Mr. Phelps, what are the citizens of Topeka being punished for? Is it the hate speeches that spew from your own mouth, the likes of which lead to more violence and more hate? What wrong did the innocent officers and innocent families of the officers who died commit? Why did God see it fit to punish these two men?

I do not understand the logic of attacking victims of violent crimes and saying they deserve to be victims due to the actions of others. Innocent children do not have the right to vote; and though the lives of twenty children in the Sandy Hook school were taken, each and every child in that school and that community have been victimized. What did Jesus teach us about children? Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (NIV Matthew 19:14)

The Jesus I follow is the Jesus that teaches love and compassion. He does not condone the killing of the innocent for any reason. Apparently, the Jesus I follow is not the Jesus that Phelps follows. The only conclusion is that they are two separate beings. What I find the most perplexing about Phelps’ teachings is that he is a former Civil Rights activist.

Today, Americans are coming together to have Fred Phelps and his followers recognized as what they are, a hate group. A petition has been initiated and signed by 132,167 Americans as of yet. I had checked the site just a little less than an hour ago, and the petition had only 127,303 signatures. Other Americans have joined the group, Anonymous, which has sent out the following video publicly (I am not associated with Anonymous in any way):

Unfortunately, Fred Phelps is not the only pastor who is preaching hate-filled messages to evangelical congregations. Another pastor spewing hate is Sam Morris, of Old Paths Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Although the Old Paths website claims, “We believe in the separation of the church and its members from worldliness, apostasy, heresy, or any questionable habits that would tarnish our Christian testimony or bring reproach to the name of Christ,” Morris complained about the call for tough gun control laws [italics are mine]. He went on to state that “I guarantee you there’s at least six or seven guns in this place [Old Paths Baptist Church] right now. Amen.”

Amen? To be a Christian is to follow the law of Christ, not to pick and choose which law you choose to follow. What need does a pastor have to facilitate the possession of a firearm? Did Jesus not teach us to turn the other cheek? Had I been sitting in the pews when so much hate was being bellowed through the air, I would have committed myself to never walk in the doors of the Old Paths Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Tennessee again.

So, Morris, how do you view arming yourself against the brothers and sisters Jesus teaches us to love? What do you think Jesus would say had he heard you spouting so much hate in the church? I do not see what need an evangelical pastor has in owning a firearm to protect himself from both Christians and non-Christians alike. There is no need for a pastor to even hunt for food, as food is widely available and far cheaper than hunting licenses; and the needs of the family of the pastor are met by the tithe given by parishioners  Where is your faith, Morris? My Christ and Morris’ Christ must be two different entities, which is the only explanation I have been able to find for our differing opinions on owning firearms.

I am not against owning firearms on the whole; for had it not been for my father’s guns, my siblings and I would have often gone without meat growing up. I am against having military grade automatic and semi-automatic weapons when you are not in the military. No one needs to agree with my opinion, as it is mine alone, and I have the right to my opinion as well as voice that opinion.

My Christ teaches us to love, not hate. My Jesus taught us, “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (NIV 1 John 3:11-16)

Morris’ sermon included, “that authorities should take the body of the suspected shooter, ‘and string him up in public and set his body on fire and leave it out there to let the birds pick his bones.’” This is hate. “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer,” Jesus taught us. To say that this man’s family should have to suffer even more than they already are due to not only his actions, but also the loss of him, his mother, and the people he killed on Friday is hate. Did Morris forget that the shooter was human? Did he forget that the families that are in turmoil are already suffering? Did he forget that Jesus loved all men, women, and children, especially those marginalized due to their differences including mental illness? I could never imagine how it feels to be the parent of the children and adults that lost their lives and to hear that I am being blamed for someone stealing the life of my loved one away. Does Morris even understand the meaning of the word ‘respect?’

I do not and cannot believe that my Jesus would call for the death of innocent children due to what is taught in the school. Morris believes, “the number of mass shooting were escalating because of schools were government ‘mind-control centers’ that taught ‘junk about evolution’ and ‘how to be a homo… And I want to tell you what evolution teaches – here’s the bottom line – that you’re an animal. That’s what it teaches. So, you’re an animal, you can act like an animal. Amen.

Amen? What do small children, the eldest being seven years of age, have to do with what is being taught in their schools. They are not the ones who passed laws, nor are they the ones that have mandated what is to be and is not to be taught in the schools they attend. For a matter of fact, it is the teachers’ responsibilities to teach what they are required to teach in the school. It is the parents’ responsibilities to teach what they want their children to believe and not believe out of the school. There is no crime or sin that calls for the death of innocent children and adults.

The website for Old Paths Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Tennessee goes on to say, “All of our teachings come from the King James Bible. This way we know that we will have unity in doctrine and spirit. Because our doctrine comes straight from God, we do not apologize for our beliefs and standards. Whenever a person gets offended at Bible preaching it is because of a spiritual problem on the part of that person.” Well, I am offended by the beliefs and standards of this church if they do not teach love and acceptance, as Christ has taught us to do. If that means I have a spiritual problem on the part of myself, then so be it. I say; I do not remember reading doctrine that condones the murder of an innocent child in Christ’s teachings.

I do find that the children will be punished for the sins of the father. However, even Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:6-7, Deuteronomy 5:9, and 1 Corinthians 15:22, that calls for the sins of the father being put on the child, scripture does not mention the death of the child due to the father’s actions. The Bible does cover the death of children according to their fathers’ sins in the following manner: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16) “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20)