You've heard of them. Westboro Baptist Church, which touts itself as a Primitive Baptist church - and Wikipedia describes in its first paragraph on the church as a hate group - has made a name for itself as the protest group that pickets funerals and fundraisers, gatherings and grievers as deserving recipients of God's hate.
Note: no recognized religious organization claims any affiliation with Westboro Baptist Church. I think the Church of Satan would probably show them the door.
So what does WBC bring to the party? Signage, and lots of it. "God Hates Fags." "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." It makes me ill just to write the words; thank God I'm not the originator. That burden lies on somebody else's head, and he's welcome to it.
You'd think Westboro Baptist Church, its incendiary constituents and perhaps not least of all its leaders would take some note of its detractors. When no less a public enemy than the Ku Klux Klan comes out and says that they utterly repudiate everything the WBC does, you'd think someone might get the message. When the KKK says you're unconscionable, that's about as bad as it gets.
And now in the wake of the shootings at Arizona Representative Giffords' meet-and-greet, WBC declared it would protest the funerals, shouting that God sent the shooter and everybody that died deserved it, and the shootings were a warning to the rest of us to hurry up and start praying before we got the rest of God's righteous wrath.
I won't speak to righteous wrath. Whether or not we deserve it, (and I'm pretty sure we do) I don't think the WBC is any kind of reliable prophet regarding wrath or anything else. Here's why:
In the face of huge, angry outcries from pretty much everybody when they announced they would, the Westboro Baptist Church has now announced they won't protest the funeral of Christina Taylor Green, a little girl who was also killed in the shooting. In all the Bibles I've read, you're either a prophet or you're not. I've never heard of God's word being conditional, something to set aside if the heat goes up. And you have to wonder, why pick on this child's family in the first place?
Now this is just me talking and I don't know much about the kid, but I don't think God had it in for Christina. Nine years old, adorable in pictures, full life ahead of her. And then boom, it's over. I don't call that the work of God. God may have to have words with me when my life is over, but this is where I stand right now: Christina stood blameless and was murdered in cold blood by a madman. Not God.
But Westboro Baptist Church was going to picket her funeral and shout to everyone listening that God wanted her gone. WBC doesn't have a history of softpedaling its message. They're bold, bright, and ugly. Splashy rainbow signs declaring who God hates (everybody), why (you name it), and what you can do about it (not clear on that) are a hallmark of their presence. Also a hallmark is a large group of motorcyclists who interpose themselves between the WBC and whatever funeral procession they've got a mad on for this week. Love those guys. But back to the point! Now WBC says they won't protest Christina's funeral. Why not?
Because a couple of radio stations in the area offered them airtime in exchange for not protesting the funeral.
Hmm. That doesn't sound like a protest, nor does it sound like evangelizing. It sounds a lot like a hostage situation, a hijacking. And somebody paid up.
Mexican drug gangs. Middle Eastern warlords. And now if you can believe it, a group proclaiming itself to be a Baptist church. They take hold of our peace, our security and maybe our loved ones, take hold of them and don't let go until we give them something they want more. If Westboro Baptist Church was actually capturing people and holding them hostage, they'd get sniped down by the FBI. But no, what they're doing is worse. What they're doing to us isn't something that comes to an abrupt end, blam and it's over. Their declarations become intertwined with our grief. They rape our memories. They claim it's in the name of God, at God's command, all they're doing is evangelizing, warning us that we're going wrong and we got what we deserve, et cetera.
Christina's family has had a bad week. For their sake, I hope that nothing else is ever this bad. For all those families, let this be as bad as it ever gets.
Now is not the time to tell anyone that God hates them. If you ever wanted to harden a heart, if you ever wanted to turn someone away from God, just get that person on his worst day ever, and tell him that God hates him. Tell him that he got what God sent him, and rightly so.
That's what Westboro Baptist Church is doing. They're turning people away from God.
How is that a church?