Evil at Westboro Baptist Church

In the odd chance that there might a dozen or so people still unfamiliar with the Westboro Baptist church, it might be useful to know the church is probably the only one of its size that has its own Wikipedia page. Recently the church has received a good bit of notoriety on shows like "The O'Reilly Factor" because of a court case involving their claim of freedom of speech to defend a suit charging invasion of privacy that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pastor Fred Phelps and his church have been busy making news for themselves by protesting at the funerals of our military heroes returning from the battlefield after suffering mortal wounds. 

Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed on March 3, 2006 in a traffic accident in Iraq while on duty and serving our country. He was only twenty years old. One of the protesters from Westboro Baptist Church who showed up at Matthew's funeral carried a sign that read "Thank God for dead soldiers."

What possible connection is there between the funeral of a twenty-year-old soldier and God's alleged wrath specifically toward gay people? According to the people of Westboro, God is punishing America because the Texas sodomy law was struck down in 2003. The connection is hard to comprehend, especially when it is suggested that our dead soldiers will burn in hell for the sins of others and when God is thanked for IEDs.

Mr. Snyder is very forgiving. He said, "I pray for their children. Their children need help. To be brought up with that kind of hatred...my God is a loving God. I don't look for hatred in the Bible."

The people of Westboro Baptist Church care not one iota for reaching out to sinners or leading people to salvation. They care only about publicity.

Mr. Snyder won the suit but lost the appeal. The appeals court ordered the family to pay more than $16,000 in court costs to the church, adding insult to injury. Bill O'Reilly has said on his show that he intends to pay those legal fees on behalf of the family.

Before looking closer into Westboro Baptist, one might suspect that they twist the meaning of cherry-picked Bible passages to suit their purposes. But Westboro doesn't just pick and choose passages like Leviticus 18:22, which says, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable" (NIV).

They hold signs which say "Fags Die, God Laughs," curiously attributed as Psalms 2:4. None of the several versions of the Bible in our home phrase that verse anything like the Westboro Baptist interpretation. The NIV version of Psalms 2:4 reads, "The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them."

The name of the Westboro homepage says it all: godhatesfags.com.

Apparently Pastor Phelps isn't very interested in the salvation of gay sinners; Phelps appears homophobic to the point that in a video produced by Michael Moore, he warned protesters in his anti-gay protest they were not to touch him. None appeared to be trying to, but that was beside the point.

The pastor demonstrated no interest in leading these sinners to salvation. Not only was there no indication that the people in Westboro prayed for (or with) their opposition, but remarkably and inexplicably, one protester even refused to sing "Amazing Grace" with her gay counterparts, and finally, she changed her lyrics in another attempted sing-along to "God hates fags."

Clearly Phelps and his congregation see homosexuality as the bane of our existence, but their goal is not to lead the sinner to redemption, but to preach hellfire, damnation, and the end of the world. Their message is that Armageddon is imminent because of modern society's tolerance of homosexuality. This position presupposes that sodomy is the worst of all evils and responsible for our pending destruction.

Most Christians adhere to the philosophy of "love the sinner but hate the sin." As the verse says in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (NIV).

The Bible has not been rewritten to proclaim that a sin is no longer a sin. Conversely, we should not try to rewrite the Bible and elevate certain sins above others to "earn" damnation.      

According to John 8:7, when the crowd wanted to stone a prostitute for adultery, Jesus said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (NIV).

Surely the members of Westboro would do well also to heed the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:5: "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" (NIV).

Or if the apostle Paul were still alive today, he might remind them of his own words from Romans 3:10, which read, "There is no one righteous, not even one" (NIV).

Bizarrely, Phelps contends that the coming end of the world is due to the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas. By what convoluted logic does this connect to soldiers killed in the line of duty because of a war that would never have started without the 9/11 attack in 2001? Reading "information" from the church's website, one wonders why homosexuality is considered a worse sin than adultery or atheism, which seems to be the logical conclusion to be drawn from Phelps's rhetoric.

It is true that the Bible says that there is one unforgivable sin. Matthew 12:31 reads, "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven" (NIV).

The point is this: If Phelps and his ilk really cared about redemption or salvation of sinners, then they would preach the gospel of Christ, not this perversion of hate. If their goal were to confront their "adversary" in the form of the gay community, then they should picket Barney Frank's house, not the funeral of a dead American soldier. 

John Leonard can be reached at john@southernprose.com. He is the Atlanta Creationism writer for examiner.com. His first book,  Divine Evolution: a Hybrid Theory of Creationism and Evolution, is pending publication by epress-online.
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