I saw an article in this morning’s USA Today (1-Nov-2007) about a Topeka-based church that is picketing the funerals of fallen service members. The paper reports,
The church routinely pickets military funerals with signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags," saying God is punishing America for its immoral ways.
The group is planning to picket the memorial services of the seven college students who died in a North Carolina house fire, it said on its website.
I was absolutely stunned that a church group could equate an immoral America with a soldier being killed for doing his or her duty or with college students being killed in a house fire. I lost a friend in college and my cousin, Bobby, was one of the first two American civilians killed in Iraq. I can’t even begin to imagine the additional pain and suffering the immediate families of my friend and cousin (not to mention the rest of us) would have had to endure if people picketed at their funerals.
I’m not a very religious man. I do, however, consider myself a man of faith. My faith is a choice. I work hard at not imposing it on others. My religious upbringing was based on the Roman Catholic Church so I believe in God and I also believe in Jesus. I have read the bible all the way through just once (after several attempts) and the ultimate message I took away from it is to love one another, and I mean all others, not just Christians. In fact, my personal mission is to better understand people and to make positive contributions to their lives in both my words and actions.
Judgment comes easy. Tolerance to me is only slightly higher on the food chain. Understanding – that is a challenge, and requires compassion, patience, openness, and love. I must say, this church’s members push my understanding to its limits.
My heart goes out to the families of those killed in action and to any parents who lose a child. Any loss can be tragic. Having to be judged from the sidelines in the midst of that loss is, in my opinion, anything but an act of love or faith. It certainly doesn’t strike me as the Christian thing to do.
I, too, am dismayed at the recent state of affairs of our nation. However, picketing at the funerals of innocent people is like adding insult to injury.
America is its people. So if (as this church believes) America is immoral, then it is actually its people (or some percentage of them I guess) who are immoral. That means you or me or our next door neighbor.
In Matthew 7:1, Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” In Matthew 19:19, he quotes the commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Ghandi is quoted as saying, “Be the change you want in the world.”
The Beatles sang, “All you need I love.”
Given this wisdom, let us, as Americans, contribute to our own greater good. Let us use the power of prayer and of love – or whatever values, tools, or power you believe in – to be the change we want in this nation and in the world and to provide a way out of our current “darkness” and move us back into the light.