"God Hates Fags"? -- The Reprehensible Acts of the Westboro Baptist Church
One of the stories making news here in New Mexico concerns a group of "Christian" protestors who will shortly be climbing out of their various trash-cans to protest the favorable treatment that homosexuals receive in Santa Fe. According to the Albuquerque Journal story entitled "Santa Fe Prepares for Anti-Gay Pickets" (you may need to be a subscriber to view the article):
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., placed a news release on their Web site, www.godhatesfags.com, announcing their plans to picket eight Santa Fe churches that expressed support for a 21-year-old gay man who was severely beaten in February.
After the group's plans were announced earlier this week, Lennen said nearly 200 residents have fired off angry e-mails to a local newspaper's Web site, several of which have indicated the writers would be willing to act with violence against the church members.
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On the church's Web site, a news release was posted about the group's Santa Fe trip, stating that the church would "picket the sodomite whorehouses masquerading as churches and governing body... in religious protest & warning: 'God is not mocked!' God Hates Fags! & Fag-Enablers!"
The leader of this "Christian" organization is a "Baptist" Pastor named Fred Phelps (and I put the denomination in quotes because I believe a large number of Baptists would outright reject his views). His views have been the fodder of much anti-Christian backlash because of his outlandish and virulently anti-homosexual language. Consider this: on the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) website is a proposed monument "dedicated to Matthew Shepard's Entry Into Hell, which WBC intends to erect in Casper City Park as a solemn Memorial that God Hates Fags & Fag-Enablers." This is truly deplorable. Can you imagine this coming from a church where Jesus said "love your enemies"? Can you imagine this coming from a church where the central tenet of Christianity is that God sent his only Son to die for the sins of the whole world?
This truly angers me, and it should anger anyone who is a Bible-believing Christian because this group is smearing every one of us. As St. Paul says, we are "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20), and Stand to Reason has put a great deal of time and effort into developing this idea. In what way are Christians ambassadors? As Christians, we speak for the King. In many ways, we are God's visible face on earth. People learn about God from our manner. But people like Pastor Phelps are making Christians look like absolute morons. And, of course, because he makes inflammatory remarks, he is the one who is quoted in papers as a representative of the Christian church. How is he making God look? Consider the following from "Fags Doom Nation?" by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason:
We talk about being an ambassador for Christ. This is not being a good ambassador because what happens when people like this represent Jesus Christ in this way? They get quoted in the L.A. Times. You will not see Stand to Reason quoted in the L.A. Times in this way. Why? Because we don't make statements like this. We try to make more even-handed statements and more carefully articulated statements that put the issue in its proper light. That won't sell papers and it won't make us look bad, which is my point in doing it the way we do. But they don't want to feature our kind of Christians in their newspaper because they don't agree with us. Instead, they will look around for somebody who is not a good ambassador.
He still is an ambassador, by the way, he is still representing Christ. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "We are ambassadors for Christ." So we are representing Christ whether for good or for ill, and we have to decide what that is going to be.
In this case, Fred Phelps is doing so for ill because he is not a good representative of Jesus Christ.
As I said just yesterday, regardless of your point of view on the homosexual issue, there is no question that God called us to love our neighbors and our enemies. God ate with sinners as a means of demonstrating his love for them. We do not need people like the Westboro Baptist Church making asinine statements and painting Christians as brain-dead bigots. We need to reflect God in His fullness to the world. This means that we should teach what the Bible says, but we need to do so in a "winsome and attractive manner" that does not turn others off to the truth of the Gospel. After all, as Greg Koukl has said many times, the "Gospel is offensive enough", we don't need to add to the offense with over-the-top statements that repel those who are open to God's Word.
My advice to the Westboro Baptist Church: Either tone your rhetoric down and start demonstrating as part of your outreach the love of Christ (which does not mean you have to abandon your belief that homosexuality is a sin) or shut up! As a Christian, I reject both your tone and your tactics. You are not welcome to bring your traveling side-show to New Mexico where I am confident you will repel more people than you will save because I sincerely doubt that your approach will lead anyone to a closer walk with God. In fact, it will probably build up more walls giving people excuses to reject God. That is reprehensible!