The responses by Bryan Fischer and Mike Huckabee have once again reminded me the great gulf fixed between fundamentalism and mainline Christians. Do not mistake my words here as a rant against conservative Christians. I am a conservative Christian, but I am neither fundamentalist nor evangelical (at least in the American sense of the word). I am mainline. I am a United Methodist. I, instead, speak about the fundamentalists, those like Fischer and Huckabee — those like Westboro Baptist Church. Let me state clearly here as well something. There is little difference between the normative fundamentalist and Fred Phelps. Phelps just as the courage to say in public what so many pastors yesterday said in the comfort of their pulpits.
What was the first response you had to the tragedy? Was it to demonize the gays? Democrats? To call for the end times? Was it fear? Did you promulgate a false notion of history, as if violence suddenly increased in this country due to a Supreme Court ruling? Did you suggest it was because the rampant sin in society as if this sin is something germane to our social situation? Or did you begin to pray for the families of the victims, even for the shooters? Did you wonder what you could do to host a vigil, to send a prayer, to tweet something to the family, to hug your children?
If your first response was to assume the children in some way deserved it, that we as Americans deserve it, then you are nothing more than a follower of Fred Phelps.
If your first response, after the anger subsided just a bit, was to begin to call for prayers of comfort, you may be a follower of Jesus who refused to condemn the Gentiles who perished in the tower at Sidon.
Compare well the responses from the Westboro ilk and the mainline Christians:
The Roman Catholic Church issued a statement from Cardinal Dolan:
Once again we speak against the culture of violence infecting our country even as we prepare to welcome the Prince of Peace at Christmas. All of us are called to work for peace in our homes, our streets and our world, now more than ever.
The ECLA issued prayers of intercession:
For communities and schools affected by violence, especially Sandy Hook Elementary School. As they remember and as they grieve, hear their cries and wipe away their tears. Assure them of your promised peace in the midst of suffering.
The United Methodist Church in their respective districts issued words of care, while on Facebook issuing a prayer for all.
“Friends, in the midst of this tragedy draw closer to your loved ones, especially the children,” his letter said. “Reassure them of God’s love and your love. While we cannot undo this carnage, we can respond with the message of hope and healing that our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ offers to us all. Through the tears of a nation, remember the promise of the Psalmist: ‘Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ (Ps. 30:5).”
Recently, Dan Savage issued a plea for the Christian Left to get louder:
Here’s the thing – we who you would call liberal are too busy working – too busy praying – too busy doing God’s work for us that we do not have time to blast anyone. For example, these mainline churches in Newtown are already working to help the families in crisis. The UMC and other national groups are already working to provide backup to the churches in Newtown while still working in respond to Sandy, while still working in response to AIDs, immigration, labor, equality… while we are still working around the world. The reason you only hear from the right wing is because they aren’t work — they are too busy coming up with excuses and playing the blame game to work, to do real, meaningful work.