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Meditation 722
Human tragedy and God's message

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About two months ago, a young man going home to Winnipeg in a Greyhound bus was stabbed to death and decapitated by another passenger. A senseless gruesome event which made the news around the world.

Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church promptly announced[1] his intention to come to Canada with his band of followers to picket the funeral. His view was that the killing was a message from God advising Canadians of God's wrath for legalizing same-sex marriages, a message Phelps claimed was sent in previous years via an ice storm in Quebec and a bus going off a cliff, also in Quebec.

As for the current tragedy, nowhere were there any published reports that either the victim or the killer were gay. So where did Fred Phelps get the idea that God was sending an anti-gay message through one straight male brutally slaying another? Perhaps the same place that he got the idea that the war in Iraq was God's punishment on the United States for allowing homosexuals to follow their inclinations in the privacy of their own homes. He got the idea out of his own twisted bigoted mind. So, just as he callously pickets the funerals[2] of servicemen and servicewomen killed in Iraq, he threatened to come to Canada and picket another funeral.

If God were sending a message with this tragic event, would it not be clearer and at least slightly related to the event - such as don't take the bus; or, turn down the iPod, it bothers others and damages your ears[3]; or, ban greyhound dog racing? But no-one else claimed God was sending a message. Only Phelps uses unrelated tragedy, whether it be weather, earthquakes, war, or murder, as an exuse for his anti-gay message from his God.

In another age, such a crime would have been treated differently. The killer was clearly insane at the time, so the crime, instead of being attributed to God sending a message, would have been attributed to demonic possession. Blame it on the other side. At least it leaves open the possibility of a loving God.

A message from God or demonic possession; both positions represent a desperate search for meaning and reason in a tragedy which has neither meaning nor reason.

If there is a god (however unlikely that may be), and that god is using Fred Phelps to send a message to the rest of us, then this is what I think that god's message would be: "Attention everyone! Please take a good look at Fred Phelps! This is what blind bigotry does to you."


  1. As in many of his announced appearances, Phelps was a no-show having succeeded in getting his desired press exposure.
  2. Of course Phelps pickets more than funerals. He is planning in October to picket the swimmer Michael Phelps in Baltimore - somehow to Fred Phelps' warped mind, eight Olympic gold medals is proof God hates Baltimore.
  3. There is no evidence this was what set the killer off. The victim was sleeping.