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September 21, 2023

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Church leader known for hate messages ill

As a youngster growing up in north central Ohio, my hometown cable company provided us with CBC out of Windsor, Ontario.

For a pre-teen sports nut this meant one thing: Hockey Night in Canada.

Every Saturday night in the winter, I was treated to watching the greatest hockey stars of the 1980s and the supremely mouthy, most controversial hockey personality of them all, Don Cherry.

Don Cherry was a good coach but for the last 35 years he has become a legend in hockey circles for his opinions and outrageous wardrobe.

Coach Cherry never holds back with a controversial opinion, most of which are politically incorrect. Love him or hate him, almost no one familiar with him is neutral about him.

As a fan of Coach Cherry and sports biographies, I read Don Cherry’s autobiography during this time period. I have remembered one thing from this time.

When Coach Cherry was asked what good he had to say about Eddie Shore, the Hockey Hall of Fame member, Cherry said he had nothing good to say about Shore because he was a miserable human being.

This struck me as harsh, but I loved it. Such honesty has left its mark on me.

This brings me to Pastor Fred Phelps. It is being reported this week that he is near death. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, a group which is known for protesting funerals and its opposition of the gay community.

You, my readers, know that there is no bigger believer in LGBTQ rights than me. Luckily for our nation, more people like me seem to be coming forth every day and those who agree with Phelps are not.

As a Christian, people like Phelps appall me. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for all. I believe I am redeemed in Him.

Unlike many believers though, I do not subscribe to exclusionary beliefs. I believe every religion, or in some cases no religion, is represented in Heaven. I believe what we do on this planet matters. We cannot hurt our fellow humans, creatures, our planet and hope for the reward just for believing. Conversely, I believe Heaven cannot be bought either.

My thoughts on this subject are a constant aggravation for those who love me and believe more traditionally, but this is what I believe. I am the complicated Christian.

As a Christian, I am supposed to be forgiving and charitable. I believe I am, despite my loud mouth.

Despite this, Don Cherry sticks with me. I believe no charity is to be given to someone who gave none themselves.

Those who only hurt, demean and defame with no second thought or regret deserve only scorn.

As for Phelps, this is a man who made his life’s work to bring nothing but Hell and hatred to people who did not deserve it.

The hurt he has caused is incalculable. He has done this without a sense of regret or shame. His whole life has run counter to Jesus’ example. As for me, I will take Don Cherry’s example with one exception: I will not wait until Fred Phelps’ death to speak no good about him.

He deserves no pity, empathy or forgiveness. Upon his passing, his soul will retire to a place much, much warmer than Florida.

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