Two Freds (and me)

Fred_Phelps_on_his_pulpit

mister-rogers

They both showed up several times in my newsfeed today. Both Caucasian American men and both pastors named Fred, but otherwise they seemed complete opposites. Today was the birthday of Fred McFeely Rogers, a Presbyterian minister who passed away in 2003. His real congregation was the millions of children (including the one I was thirty years or so ago) who knew him through public television simply as their neighbor Mister Rogers. And today saw the death, after a long decline, of Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, famous for picketing funerals and other events with signs proclaiming God’s hatred for some people. The juxtaposition was jarring. I thought about the two Freds all day, and couldn’t help wondering if they will meet in the afterlife. What would they say to one another? What does each of them know now about God that he got wrong while here on earth? (None of us gets it completely right, I’m sure, not even Mister Rogers.) Continue reading “Two Freds (and me)”

Fear and Peace: Advent 2

Bethlehem wallBethlehem wall 2

Israel made me nervous.  In all my international travels, I had never been anywhere that I felt so unsafe.  Before entering any of the shops in downtown Jerusalem, we had to have our bags searched for weapons, and it seemed every shopkeeper had a story to tell about a bombing that his or her business had managed to survive.  One of my friends said that she felt protected because everywhere we went, there were teenage Israeli soldiers with guns.  Their presence made me feel just the opposite.  And yet every day, we heard “Peace.”  Shalom, the Hebrew word for “peace,” is the common greeting there, and it was in our ears and on our lips at each stop along our journey.  Shalom.  Peace. Continue reading “Fear and Peace: Advent 2”