Both were lawyers. It's true. Fred Phelps was an attorney before he took up the cloth.
Another thing that Pilate and Phelps have in common is that each betrayed Jesus Christ in the name of the law. Phelps did it today:
Attorney Margie J. Phelps held her fire and brimstone Wednesday until she was safely outside the Supreme Court chambers.
Then she let loose.
"Your destruction is imminent," Phelps told more than 100 journalists assembled on the court steps. "And when it comes, don't stand there and say the servants of God didn't warn you."
Phelps had just finished an hourlong oral argument in the free speech case Snyder v. Westboro Baptist Church. She is the daughter of the church's founder, Fred Phelps, as well as its main legal advocate.
Inside the Supreme Court, stiff questioning from the justices hadn't flustered Phelps. In her first appearance before the high court, Phelps commanded both the facts and the law. More than one close court observer confided that she out-performed her opponent, attorney SeTan E. Summers.
Only once or twice during the oral argument did Phelps hint at the fiery nature of her ideology, as when she told justices that "our answer is that you have got to stop sinning if you want this trauma to stop."
Today Fred Phelps was handed an opportunity granted to few prophets and saints: to stand before Caesar himself, with all the world watching, and proclaim the good news and message of Jesus Christ. Phelps personally could have shouted at the Anti-Christ and proclaimed God's hatred of fags, Jews, and America for thirty minutes.
Instead, Phelps commanded his lawyer-daughter to seek mercy from the very court of Babylon. He professed his faith in the laws, rather than God. Only outside the court, away from people who could punish him for his religion, would he speak his belief that Jesus Christ is a God of hatred. Fred Phelps is a coward, who denied his faith when it counted most.
As a lawyer myself, I understand the instinct to use the law for self-preservation. But I cannot praise it in this case. To argue the law, rather than God's word, before an illegitimate court is not the act of a believer. It is the act of an attorney.
It's no wonder so few lawyers have been canonized. The only prominent saintly lawyer I can think of is Thomas More, who had the courage to maintain his belief before Henry VIII, and today sits at the feet of Christ in heaven.
Some day, Fred and Margie Phelps will have to explain their denial, and when that day comes, they may hear the words that heretofore Christ has reserved for fags, Jews, and sinners:
"Depart, I never knew you."