When I heard of the news of the death of Elizabeth Edwards,I was saddened. Without knowing her, I admired her and especially her efforts to make our world a bit better. My sadness changed to serious anger when I heard of the plans of Fred Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas to demonstrate outside the gathering for her funeral. This congregation has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. The one thing they seem to really "love" to do is to tell other people how they are going to hell. The criteria for being hell-bound, in their thinking, is to not possess their idiotic mind-set. They seem to know no shame.
But then a strange thing happened on my way toward a growing sense of vengeance. I read a brief article in the "Christian Century" that told of another way. Seems that the folk at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Durham were blessed with an antigay protest outside their building by the Westboro crowd. The decision was made to proceed with worship as scheduled. The congregation would pray for the protesters, but would not confront them. In the midst of these tense circumstances and as an expression of hospitality toward them, the pastor placed on the church lawn a table set with china, silverware, water and wine glasses, candles and a centerpiece. The protesters left when the service began. It is not known if they caught the significance of the table.
Probably not the way I would have handled it. But I now realize that it is the way I must consider and move, in my heart, toward expressing.
It has been a long time since I have been much on making New Year's resolutions. Like many others, I don't follow through very well. But this experience touched me enough that I decided to try to live into it and see what would happen. I'll even state it as an end-of-the-year resolution. No need to wait.
I will try to practice more compassion and look for ways in which it can be applied.
I know I will need some help. So I am looking to one of my favorite authors to provide what is needed. Karen Armstrong, prolific author and thinker, is shaping more and more of her efforts toward the work of compassion. She has a new book coming out in January titled "The Twelve Steps of Compassion." She has also started a grassroots effort entitled Charter for Compassion. Go to www.charterforcompassion.org to find out details and where you can add your name to a growing list.
Armstrong says that every major world religion has at its core some concept of the golden rule. She challenges us to return to the core.
I wish you a happy, compassionate, new year.