No matter how you feel about the war in Iraq, I think most of us agree that any time a soldier gives his or her life in service to our country that it is a tragic loss. And I think most of us would agree that the solider's family and friends should be given the dignity of mourning the loss of their loved one in peace.
But there are people who apparently don't agree with me on this one.
One of them is Pastor Fred Phelps
, a Baptist minister from Kansas. Phelps is leading a crusade against the war in Iraq by celebrating the death of American soldiers killed in this conflict. According to his rhetoric, these men and women are dying because of God's wrath and vengeance for America's "acceptance of homosexuality." Phelps sends people out to the funerals of service men and women who have fallen in Iraq with signs that proclaim hatred of homosexuals and America in general including one that says "Thank God for dead soldiers."
A few weeks ago, three soliders from Tennessee were killed serving in Iraq. One of them happens to be the brother of a member of my church. Services for him are planned this weekend. Now, the family in question has been through a lot of hardship of late--they just lost a daughter in a car crash as school ended and now they've lost a brother. I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and anguish they are feeling right now.
To make it worse, Phelps is sending some of his protesters (I hesitate in using the word "nutballs" here but the term does apply) to the funerals for both soldiers. Which means that Phelps' crew will be here Saturday to protest the funeral and offer up such wonderful messages as "Thank God for dead soldiers."
But the fun doesn't end there.
Local conservative talk show host, Steve Gill caught wind of this
and this morning took to the airwaves calling on the Southern Baptist convention to condemn Phelps' actions and to rally a group to go out and protest Phelps' protesters. From what I caught of Gill's rhetoric, he'd like to have 1,000 listeners out Saturday to show support.
So, it looks like this is turning into a circus. And in all this, we seem to be losing sight of the fundamental issue at stake here--a family has experienced a tragic loss. And they should be allowed to mourn and remember the life of their loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice that allows both sides of this to come out and speak their mind freely and openly about this issue. But instead, both sides are getting caught up on a rherotic and an agenda that suits their own personal goals or needs.
And the more I think about it, the more irritated I get. The families deserve a right to grieve privately.
I've not heard any reports of either of the families in question seeking out media attention or attempting to turn the death of a loved one into a political cause like Cindy Sheehan.
Neither side of this swirling issue were invited to the services on Saturday. I wish they'd figure this out and not bother to come down to Smyrna on Saturday for this. But, alas, I fear that it will be a circus with a grieving family caught in the middle.
To both sides: please, stay home. I understand and respect your right to speak your mind and share your opinion, no matter how much I may disagree with it. But I also ask that you show some thought and consideration for these families.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/24/2005 10:04:00 AM