24th April, 2010 - Posted by nwilsonadmin - 1 CommentToday I am in Topeka, Kansas. Pastor Ty Sweeting, and lay leaders of MCC Topeka have offered Nate Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, hospitality as he tells his harrowing story of growing up in the home of the world’s most famous purveyor of religiously-based hatred, directed at the lgbt community, those with HIV/AIDS, and dead soldiers coming home from Iraq. Check out the story today in the Topeka Capital Journal, www.cjonline.com Look Nate up as well at www.NatePhelps.com
As I share the stage today with Nate at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, these are my remarks:
Reflections on Nate Phelps’ Story
April 24, 2010, Topeka, Kansas
Rev. Nancy Wilson
In a way, I am sorry to have to be here today. No one should have had to suffer and struggle to recover the way Nate Phelps has. No child should have to grow up in that environment. As pastor in Metropolitan Community Churches for 38 years, I have heard many stories of pain and rejection, of religiously-based abuse of children. This story is equally disturbing.
Nate, I am proud today to call you “friend,” and to celebrate your act of courage that is contained in the telling of your story.
I am proud of Nate’s willingness to stand in solidarity with communities, like the lgbt community, and others, that have been so impacted by the rhetoric of hate that the Phelps family, a la Westboro Baptist Church have been fomenting for so long. You didn’t have to do this, and we know that, and we are grateful today.
This is a complicated and tragic story. Those of us who claim to be people of faith have to be outraged by the way in which religion is used as a way to abuse and control. It only reinforces my belief that religion has the potential to harm or heal, to divide or unify, to foster hate or foster love.
It makes me very angry to know that tender hearts and minds are poisoned in this way. And, as a minister, to know that people would be lead to believe in a God who would terrorize us, who is hateful, and bent on punishment and destruction. I think the world has had all it can stand of this kind of religion. It is so clear that much of the terrorism that has marked this young century is rooted in bad theology and misguided religious bigotry.
I have the privilege of being the leader of a denomination that has helped many people who have stories not too different from Nate’s: of young people driven to suicide because hateful religion said that who they were, to their core was unacceptable to God. My hope is that people of good will, whether they are religious or not, whether they believe in God or not, can agree that this kind of religion does nothing to improve communities or lives. People of good will need to unite behind the idea of mutual respect, justice and peaceful co-existence.
Walter Brueggman said that changing attitudes, healing, on any issue, starts with “the public processing of pain.” We are witnesses of that process today, and I am humbled and honored to share this time and space with one as courageous and dedicated as Nate Phelps.
Our response today, must be first, of rejoicing, that Nate is claiming his truth and his freedom. Only good can come from that! For us to see someone who has survived, who is recovering, who is claiming his truth, speaking up for children, and seeking to contribute to the public good is healing. Secondly, we must be bold in our support and compassion for Nate Phelps and all who have suffered so needlessly.
Nate, even as you come home to Topeka, to state your case, we declare that you have a safe home among us. Maybe as people around the world think of Topeka, Kansas, from now on, they will not say, “That’s where Fred Phelps lives,” but rather, “That’s where Nate Phelps came home to help so many heal.”