Westboro Baptist Church [sic] protests

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Someone sent me a link to the 7 Craziest Westboro Baptist Church Protests Ever. I knew these people were far gone, but I didn't realize just how far until I saw some of these. I knew of a few of these, but some are crazier than I'd imagined. It's almost a parody of some of the worst excesses of the most extreme fundamentalism.

I've long argued that Christians who think there's something wrong with homosexuality, who see it as a perversion and see engaging in an actively-gay lifestyle as morally wrong will too often prioritize that one issue (or that one among a few they prioritize) over issues that are given as much or more serious attention in the Bible that they have little to say about. This isn't true of all who try to speak to their culture about homosexuality in this way, but it's true of too many, in my opinion. One reason I think this happens is that it's a minority opinion, and hardly anyone is expressing opposition to the claim that child sexual abuse is wrong. So the fact that child sexual abuse is far worse than homosexuality on virtually any account doesn't seem to matter to those who want to be culture warriors, because they don't see that as a battle to be fought, ignoring entirely that the only battle the New Testament sanctions with our culture is the battle for people's souls, which requires pointing out which things are genuinely sin but doesn't justify a disproportional response to your favorite sins that you don't commit over the others that appear in the same sin/vice lists in the New Testament, such as disobedience to parents, envy, spite, complaining, divorce, heterosexual lust for another person's spouse, not giving people your coat when they ask for your shirt, and so on.

It goes one step beyond that to find things that have no or virtually no connection to homosexuality to protest, as happened when Jerry Falwell infamously picked on the Teletubbies, because one of them carried a purse (as if carrying a purse has something to do with same-sex sexual relations; my wife carries a purse, and I carry her purse for her, and neither of us is gay). Westboro Baptist Church [sic] takes Falwell's folly to a new level. They protest the Kansas City Chiefs games, claiming that they're a haven for homosexual activity. They protest stores that sell vacuum cleaners made in Sweden, because Sweden legalized same-sex sexual acts in 1944. They protest funerals and large-scale memorials because, you know, it's immoral to mourn gay people and large-scale deaths must be God's judgment and must be for that particular sin rather than the ones they commit. They even held up a sign contradicting John 3:16 ("God hates the world") at Michael Jackson's funeral. I won't link it from my blog (it's one thing to link from Facebook; my blog is too highly Google-rated), but the Arkansas Ku Klux Klan has a disclaimer on the front page of their website denouncing and repudiating the Westboro Baptist Church [sic]. I truly says something that even the KKK doesn't want to go near them because of their extreme views and tactics. (To be fair, the Westboro website has a statement from Phelps distancing himself from the KKK. But it's not this prominent disclaimer on the main page of the website, and the Arkansas KKK has also distanced themselves from current and past chapters of the KKK for similar tactics as what Westboro engages in.)

Even so, I'm a little hesitant about a couple things I see in this list. They protested Lady Gaga. What they said about her was way over the top, but isn't there something to their claim that what she stands for amounts to rebellion against God as revealed in the Bible? It's true that Westboro is hateful and divisive, but I won't let me disgust for their words and tactics prevent me from rejecting the materialistic, self-absorbed, sexuality-obsessed pop culture that Lady Gaga stands for that hordes of teenagers are being sucked into in ways that cause much psychological damage and train them for dysfunctional relationships.

Similarly, Comic-Con isn't exactly the first place I'd think of when trying to find the most idolatrous events in American culture, but it's also not exactly free from sin as defined by the Bible. There's much in the way of elevating things to higher priority levels than they ought to be. There's plenty of idolization that does go on, especially of celebrities (but not so much of superheroes as much, as Westboro seemed to be claiming). Any reordering of priorities that has them not match up to actual intrinsic worth is a form of idolatry, biblically speaking. But the same can be said of flea markets, sports events, state fairs, shopping malls, internet sites that catch too much of someone's attention, and so on. Singling out Comic-Con and making some of the particular claims they made is just plain dumb, but a biblical critique of American culture as a whole would include some criticism of it, and I have to distance myself from the author of this list on that point.

I can't end this post without mentioning one thing. Twice in the last week I've seen people claiming that Westboro Baptist holds to Reformed theology. That is incorrect. They're quite clearly hyper-Calvinists, and the label "Reformed" is reserved for those actually in the Reformation tradition, which has never included the hyper-Calvinists, who were dismissed as heretical as soon as they appeared. Westboro teaches that God doesn't love those who won't be saved. They teach that they shouldn't pray for the salvation of unsaved people. They call non-believers the enemy when scripture is quite clear that no flesh and blood is the enemy of the followers of Christ. They think that God's desire that none perish only applies to the elect (which, taken alone, is less hyper-Calvinist in my view than their entire view, but it's clear that in their entire theological system they see this as part an parcel of their rejection of God's love for the unsaved and their view of unbelievers as enemies rather than lost sheep despite recognizing that they have no clue who is elect).

Update (24 July): Apparently they even protested Jerry Falwell's funeral. And this is how not to respond.


My personal favorite WBC [sic] protest was back when Gene Robison was being made a bishop and a group of Anglicans walked out of the ceremony. They needed a place to meet and have a service, partly a protest of what was happening across town in Durham. They met at my church building to have another service that evening praying for their church to return to orthodoxy.

WBC showed up condemning my church because we refused to join the sign-waving protest ... never mind the fact that we hosted the orthodox Anglican/Episcopal group.

It isn't their most outrageous, certainly, but it's the only time I've had real experience with them, so it ranks high on my list.

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