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When a family has to bury a man or woman who has died in the service of their country, a minimal expectation would be that they have the ability to honor their loved one in peace. A rather strange and ghoulish phenomenon has arisen in the past year, however, that not only exploits the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq for political purposes, but also has inspired a group dedicated to countering their protests. And ironically, neither group is anti-war:
On her way into the church where the funeral was to be held for her 23-year-old son Thursday morning, Deirdre Ostlund approached six men and women waving signs against gays and America and told them in a cold fury: "I'm Andrew's mother, and I want you to know you are truly hateful people."
As Ostlund turned away, Shirley Phelps-Roper taunted her: "Adulterer! You can't admit you sent your own child to hell! If she does not heed this warning, she will look up from hell with him."
Her small group continued to sing "God hates America."
But across barricades, crime-scene tape and police officers, 20 flag-waving men and women countered with the original, "God bless America, land that I love ... "
This ritual, unfolding across the nation outside military funerals, arrived in Anoka on Thursday an hour before the funeral for Cpl. Andrew Kemple, who died in Iraq Feb. 12.
The group that serenades grieving family and friends of deceased soldiers with "God Hates America" belong to the Topeka church run by Fred Phelps, the virulent anti-gay preacher who used to do the same with funerals of AIDS victims. Shirley Phelps-Roper, the preacher's daughter, continues the family tradition of spreading hatred in the name of God in about the most repulsive non-violent way possible. Complete with garishly colored picket signs proclaiming "GOD HATES FAGS" and "GOD HATES AMERICA", these mouthbreathers from Kansas arrive to exploit the dead and get their message into the papers with their remarkably disgusting behavior.
Now a counterprotest group has formed in reaction to the Topeka ghouls called the Patriot Guard Riders. Their purpose is to provide a buffer between the Phelps gang and the funeral and to mount a defense of the US and our soldiers to the calumny offered by the haters. The PGR protestors have their hearts in the right place, but all this does is heighten the tension and rhetoric at what should be a ceremony where the survivors can find a bit of peace. It may be necessary, but it doesn't really solve the problem.
The Phelps group shows what happens when a bigot rises to authority of any religious group; the rest of the congregation winds up losing all sense of humanity. These protests by Phelps and his little minions of mouthbreathers violate the centuries of Christian sensibilities and sensitivities regarding the basic manners of grieving. In religious terms, their rhetoric represents the ultimate sin of presuming to know the judgment of God on another soul. They have proven themselves to be nothing more than ghouls in Christian clothing, a warning to others and an embarrassment to the truly faithful. (via Shot In The Dark)Sphere It View blog reactions
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