An Open Letter to Fred Phelps

Mr. Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps, who identifies himself as a Baptist “Reverend,” is known for protesting around the country against, well, several things but mostly homosexuality.

I’d heard of him before but dismissed him as some wrongheaded guy with an axe to grind until recently, when two things occurred to me:

  1. His words hurt people, especially gays, and
  2. Since he calls himself a Baptist “Reverend,” he’s claiming to speak for Christianity. And that’s a big problem, in my book.

So I wrote him a letter, which I’ve posted below. I’m not holding my breath until he changes his tone, but this is my way of (1) giving him an opportunity to reconsider his ways, and (2) stating clearly that he does not speak for me. And I don’t think he speaks for God either.

Dear Mr. Phelps,

I’ve read some of your blog postings, and I agree with some of your points. I agree with you that many who name the name of Christ are familiar with John 3:16, but don’t read much of their Bibles. I agree with you that there are lying prophets in the world, including many who claim to speak for God but don’t. I even agree with you that we should read those sections of the Bible that speak of wrath and judgment to come.

The problem I have, Mr. Phelps, is that you seem to have forgotten the Gospel. Or did you ever know it? May I refresh your memory? It’s not that complicated:

(1) We’re all a mess, and left to our own devices we reject the rule of God to do our own thing.
(2) God didn’t leave us in our helpless state. Instead, for his own reasons, he chose to act. This is the Gospel part. God acted to provide us a means of reconciliation to him. That’s the person of Jesus Christ.
(3) Jesus is the sole mediator between God and mankind. He, not you or me, states whom God does or does not love along with what God loves and hates.

I agree with you too that God harbors a hatred, but it is a hatred of sin because sin destroys. “Doing our own thing” takes different forms for different people, but the result is the same; we forsake our maker, the only real God, and worship and obey something else, ultimately to our own peril.

I address you as Mr. Phelps, even thought you identify yourself as a Reverend, because I find your public statements about God hating America, Jews, and gays to be singularly irreverent. But since you identify yourself as a Christian, I will take you at your word and speak to you as a fellow Christian. I notice that you sing Amazing Grace at your protests. May I suggest that you revisit the portions of your Bible about God’s grace? Perhaps the New Testament book of John, followed by St. Paul’s letter to the Romans for starters?

Without grace, your words sound more like words of destruction than words of life, and they make you sound more like Satan, whom the Bible calls “the accuser,” than a messenger of God. Furthermore, if you abandon God’s grace, how can you be sure you aren’t actually doing the accuser’s work rather than God’s? Could it be that your preaching hatred toward so many people is your way of doing your own thing?

If so, I’d like to remind you that grace is available for all of us. You and me, Americans, Jews, and gays, and anyone else who’ll take it. It’s yours for the taking, sir, but not for the dispensing. I encourage you to take it.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Psalm 34:8

Sincerely,
Terrell Clemmons

3 Comments on “An Open Letter to Fred Phelps

  1. I’d love to see his comments if/when he responds. Keep up the good work, Terrell!!

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  2. Well, don’t hold your breath, Beth. I wrote this last summer. The only reason I posted it on here now was because he came to DePauw last week.

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  3. I just found out about your blog today through a discussion about abortion you were involved in with “greenzo” on the Salvo website, Terrell, but from what I’ve read of your writing so far, I think God has gifted you with the compassion and intellect necessary for a good Christian apologist. Don’t lose heart and keep pressing on, for the salvation of those who may read the words our Lord gives you, and ultimately to the glory of God! There are so many in my generation (20-somethings) who are lost and self-destructing under the delusions of worldly atheism. It breaks my heart, and your words have been like a breath of fresh air to me today, so THANK YOU.
    I appreciated your compassionate dialogue with greenzo at the Salvo website, and I thought you interacted well with the points they raised. I commend you for modeling the compassionate love of Christ to him/her in presenting the truth to them in a loving way. PLEASE CONTINUE!
    Grace be with you, NW

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