I’ve written before about the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas and Pastor Fred Phelps. But I must write again. Why? Because I do not want to be associated in any way with Pastor Fred Phelps’s followers’ demonstrations outside the funerals of American soldiers who have died in their country’s service. I’m concerned that some people will think everyone who claims to be a Christian, everyone who believes the Bible, or everyone who happens to be a Baptist is in some way in agreement with Pastor Phelps’s warped theology and hate-mongering proclamations. Not so.
Phelps believes that each soldier’s death is a result of God’s judgment upon America for the fact that some Americans choose homosexuality. His followers travel the country to hold up protest signs with messages like “God Is Your Enemy,” “God Hates the U.S.A.,” “God Hates Fags,” “God Hates Fag Enablers,” “God Hates Your Tears,” or “Thank God for IEDs.” Needless to say, a lot of people consider this behavior a “10” on an Offensiveness Scale of 1 to 10. Some 31state legislatures have considered bills banning such protests and the United States Congress recently passed a bill restricting such demonstrations at national cemeteries. President Bush signed this bill into law on Memorial Day, 2006. Now the father of a Maryland Marine, Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder who died in Iraq, has filed an invasion of privacy suit against the church demonstrators.
Homosexuality is addressed in several passages of the Bible, and God does make it clear that he does not condone this form of human sexual expression. God also makes it clear that he is a loving, forgiving God of grace and that his ways are not our ways. So even if we believed God is not in the forgiveness business, we are still not able to look about us and say, “Lo, the Lord is doing this,” or “Lo, the Lord is doing that.” We don’t know the omniscient mind of God.
I do not know Pastor Phelps’s heart, but I assume he does indeed trust Christ for the forgiveness of his own sin. Assuming this is true, I will be in heaven with him some day. This thought does not repel me, because God has forgiven me of sins too. Nowhere in Scripture can you find a passage that allows us to say another person’s sin is worse than our own and that they therefore deserve some special condemnation. Certainly you cannot find Scripture that preaches hate.
Beyond this, even if you set aside questions about the pastor’s theology, your sensibilities and proprieties will still likely be shocked at the lack of respect Pastor Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church evidence toward the grieving family and friends of fallen soldiers. There are many other places Phelps’s deluded followers could demonstrate their views. The fact that they choose soldiers’ funerals smacks more of media savvy and sensationalism than any real sense that American military efforts are somehow responsible for the state of sexual morality in the United States.
I am a Christian. I believe the Bible. For most of my life until only the past few years I have worshipped in Baptist churches. I believe homosexuality is a sin. But I do not believe God is a God of hate. I do not think American soldiers or for that matter the War on Terrorism or the War in Iraq are direct judgments of God upon America because homosexuality exists in this country. I don’t want to be associated with unbiblical hate or demagoguery, and that is what Pastor Phelps’s work represents. He is another form of David Koresh or Jim Jones, blindly leading his people into religious extremism, all in the name of God. I am sorry for this, and I am sorry for his people. I pray God’s Spirit will work within him to lead him to a new understanding of the truth of his Word.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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