Like protesting Mom and Apple Pie
Not everyone may care for the 9 foot, 4 inch arms upraised preacher next to a 17 foot tall cross, but the statue is on private property and was viewed as non-contraversial as it was in the planning stages. However, the Rev. Fred Phelps, of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas had said that he wants to picket the Rev. Billy Graham's Funeral. Apparently he couldn't wait. Phelp's church, which is made up mostly of family members, took a break from protesting at the funerals of soldiers who have died in Iraq to protest Billy Graham at the statue's unveiling.
In the Greensboro News-Record article Group to Protest at Southern Baptist Convention Phelps said of Graham, "he has departed from the faith and gone off into heresy." The heresy for Phelps is that the evangelist is soft on homosexuality. Neither Billy Graham nor the Evangelistic Association he heads commented on the protest.
Billy Graham has preached to 210 million people worldwide over more than six decades of ministry. He leaves matters of doctrine to others. While Phelps and his church push a doctrine of hate, Graham has consistently refused to get involved in controversy and seeks only to say that God loves you and wants a relationship with you. Whether you like or dislike the statue, being against Billy Graham seems to me uncharitable. It's like being against Mom and Apple Pie. And I think that's the part that is hard for the folks from Westboro Baptist Church to stomach as they seem to see hatred as a central Christian value and Billy Graham has never preached hate.
The only effect Westboro Baptist Church's ongoing protests are likely to have is to cause people to view homosexuals less harshly. Most Christians want to distance themselves from the 76-year old preacher Phelps who sends his young grandchildren out to spew hate while holding signs that say "God Hates Fags."
I have personally been picketed against by this group and have seen their anger first-hand at The General Convention of the Episcopal Church. It just made me sad to see the way the children and grandchildren had been fed a steady diet of hate until it is all they know, the only focus for their lives. It makes me sad still as I hear of their ongoing and ever expanding protests. How can they name so confidently who God hates? Why would they want a church where everyone is not welcome to come in and worship? It's hard to believe they have ever read the Gospels.
If you want a bigger dose of the topic, you can see Shirley Phelps-Roper on Tyra Banks show with her two daughters. Shirley is pastor Fred Phelp's daughter and the groups chief spokeperson. The link is here Phelps Family on Tyra.
In the archives is the religion column Soldier's families need love, not protests.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor +
King of Peace Episcopal Church