Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Westboro "Baptist Church"

The Westboro "Baptist Church" has long infuriated and sickened me. Today I was even more disgusted as I heard that they are planning to protest the funeral of the nine-year-old girl that died in the Tucson, Arizona shooting. It's bad enough when they protest at soldiers' funerals, but when they protest at a little girl's funeral, it shows how truly sick and hateful they really are.

These people once picketed a church I was attending. This puzzled me, at first. Our pastor was very well-known for being outspoken about homosexual marriages and abortion. What could they possibly have against our church? They held signs that said, "Your pastor is lying to you," and "This way to hell," and "Fag lovers." Their problem with us was that our pastor taught that we should hate the sin, yet love the sinner, as Christ teaches in the Scriptures. Our pastor spoke about people he called friends that were gay. He did not agree with their choices, but cared about them, in spite of their lifestyle. The Westboro people did not agree with that. One of the women that I knew from choir went outside to speak with them. She was upset that they were dragging an American flag around on the ground, disrespecting our country's flag. When she confronted them, they cussed at her. Very Christ-like behavior, I must say.

What angers me the most about the Westboro bunch is that they reflect badly on Christ and on other Christians. We all get lumped into the same category. However, they are nothing like those of us who are TRUE followers of Jesus Christ. It's not mine to judge, but I don't believe that they are Christians at all. I don't know where they get their agenda of hate--they didn't get it from God's Word. I attend a Baptist church and have for most of my life and the things that they believe and practice have nothing to do with the Baptist denomination.

Some of their protest signs state that "God hates America." John 3:16 says that "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." I John 4:7-16 explains that God IS love: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." If you want to know what God does hate, it's written in Proverbs 6: "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community." Wow. Does any of that list strike you as applicable to the Westboro people? Maybe God hates what THEY do. Hmmm....

They are outspoken about homosexuality, claiming that God hates gays. However, the Bible is full of God's love for sinners. The story of the woman at the well in John, chapter four, tells of Jesus' encounter with a woman who was living a sinful lifestyle, yet he did not speak words of hate to her. In John 8, a woman was brought to Jesus who had been caught in the very act of adultery. Jesus said, "let him who is without sin cast the first stone." When they all left, he told the woman that he didn't condemn her either. Are any of these Westboro people without sin themselves? Do they believe that any sin is worse than another? James 2:10 says whoever keeps the whole law, but stumbles at one point is guilty of breaking all of it. There is a message to them in Matthew 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

As for their obvious hatred of anyone and everyone, that is absolutely not found in Scripture. I John 3:15 says, "Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him." I John 4:20 tells us that, "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." Matthew 5 says we are to love our enemies as well as our brothers. In Luke 10, Jesus explains to a lawyer that we are to love our neighbor as ourself and that EVERYONE is our neighbor.

While I believe that Jesus shed his blood for anyone who wishes to receive, even people from the Westboro cult, I don't believe that they are Christians. The Bible tells how to know if someone is truly of God. John 13 says that everyone will know that we are Christ's disciples, if we have love for one another. Again, I look to Matthew 7: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." James 3:9-12 says "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." I John 4 says to test spirits to see if they are of God. If what someone says does not measure up with what the Scripture says, they cannot speak for God. Matthew 7:21-23 says, " “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’"

I have read comments by others online who have vowed to picket Fred Phelps' (the leader of the Westboro group) funeral when he dies. I cannot say that is something I would desire to do. For one, the man does not deserve that much attention. He should be ignored. For two, I believe that while others are gathered around his grave, Jesus will be setting him straight in a way that no one on earth ever could. And third, I believe that we should do what he and his people refuse to do: love. When the Bible says to love our enemies, it isn't written only to them. It's for us as well. As much as we hate all that they stand for, we must love them as well. And so, as I close this blog out, I pray, not only for the victims of the Arizona shooting, but also for the Westboro people, that their eyes may be opened to the truth of God's Word and they will repent of their wicked ways.

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