That’s right, the “church” that has become famous for its “God Hates Fags” posters and picketing of funerals of slain U.S. soldiers is coming here to speak from their unclean lips outside a few public and private high schools in the Metro area. As a Christian and a defender of the faith, not only does this make me go through the roof, it brings me unspeakable dismay.
The Bible says I don’t have purely righteous anger. It’s true; I do not. But this is as humanly righteous an anger that I can possibly muster, so I’m going with that. The folks from Westboro are perverts, plain and simple. They want to criticize what they see are moral wrongs in America--fine, only they’re not maligning moral wrongs—they’re maligning people who, for the most part, have nothing to do with the seat of their issue, for instance fallen soldiers and high school students.
“God hates fags?” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God hates anyone. It does say that God hates the sin we commit and the sin-filled attitudes we carry with us through life. Well, since that covers the sum of humanity from the dawn of man, I guess if God hates fags, then God hates protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church, isn’t that right?
To be sure, I have little objection to comparing aspects of American society to Sodom and Gomorrah. However, this is what I do see: the theological assumptions underlying Westboro’s detestable protests are just as bad as their behavior. In fact, they are downright Islamic in their understanding of God. According to widely available online summaries of the Islamic conception of God, Westboro’s viewpoint, visually displayed in their “God Hates ___” posters, clearly shows striking similarity to the attitudes of Allah, as espoused by the Qu’ran. In the words of Dr. William Lane Craig, Islam has a “morally inadequate concept of God…God loves not the unbelievers; God loves not evildoers….the proud.…transgressors….the prodigal….the treacherous; God is the enemy to unbelievers,”(1) and has mercy only on those who believe and do righteous deeds. It seems that the person himself in a state of wrong behavior garners the actual hate of God.
Now, I don’t judge this theological view too harshly. It is a perfectly natural position to take as a natural outworking of a natural religion made by natural man, who is, naturally, sinful. It usually takes little effort to get most people to agree that the unconditional love of God shown upon people who do bad things seems itself foolishness and a moral travesty, yet this is a core aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a follower of Jesus, I am thoroughly convinced that this first misstep in theology firmly places the demonstrators of Westboro outside the camp of orthodox Christianity. To accuse them of defaming the name of Christ is too obvious. To denounce their attitudes and activities is too tame. Therefore, I do not hesitate to call this “church” a cult to which all Christian churches should distance themselves.
There will probably be some provocative media attention given to Westboro’s road trip to St. Louis. I wonder if the local media will ask orthodox Christians how they view Westboro Baptist Church? They would if they cared to balance the situation, but why am I concerned at this point?
I see a possible window of opportunity. In Westboro Baptist Church, we have a fair opportunity to study the effects of worldliness and perversion dressed in Christian language and Bible verses, something that Christians have paid far too little attention. We can examine what happens to people who hold to morality without God. We can point out the dangers that such groups have in hindering the message of Jesus and should humbly reflect on ways orthodox Christians have acted similarly in different ways.
Finally, I accept that true Christians are often put in the awkward and unenviable position of being seemingly ‘caught in the middle.’ Too many decent people will view the acts of the Westboro group with derision and make an implication of sorts toward true Christian churches. Others may pressure Christians to say that such groups have no valid point whatsoever, which isn’t true. The window of opportunity just gets bigger as I survey the options. Now is the right time for all followers of Jesus to make the gospel known in the clarity that we’ve all wished we had time for, ironically (and maybe pop another ugly pimple on the face of American Christianity). Let's get crackin'.
(1) William Lane Craig vs. Jamal Badawi: Debate on the Concept of God in Islam and Christianity (relevant portion begins at 7:30)