Apologies for the poor formatting in this post. WordPress is giving me some grief.
In the past week, the members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeca, Kansas have come to the attention of news media even here in far off Australia because of a case being heard in the US Supreme Courtwhich challenges church members’ First Amendment rights. WBC members apparently picketed the funeral of Matthew Snyder, a US Marine killed in Iraq four years ago. Snyder’s father, Albert, subsequently sued the WBC for damages on grounds of mental suffering he claims he endured when his son’s funeral was turned into a WBC debacle. In the current case, Albert Snyder is appealing the overturning of that court decision in which he had been awarded $11 million.
As probably everyone but me already knew, WBC, led by founder Fred Phelps, regularly pickets military funerals claiming that God had killed the serviceman or woman to make a point, and that he enjoyed doing it. WBC’s websitestates that they have carried out 44, 286 such protests so far. Church members wave large, colourful signs at these events which bear such frank slogans as “God Hates Fags”, “God Hates America”, “God Hates You”, “Your Pastor is a Whore”, “The Jews killed Jesus”, “Aids Cures Fags” and “God Hates Your Feelings”. Subtle WBC is not.
WBC targets high-profile funerals, such as that of brutally murdered gay student Matthew Shepard, in order to attract maximum media attention. They are doing a great job with that. According to one reportWBC’s membership totals less that 100 adults, over 80% of whom WBC admits are related to each other by birth or marriage. For such a small and exclusive group WBC has a very, very loud voice.
WBC’s main webite www.godhatesfags.com is a fascinating read. There they state their positionon numerous issues supplying a smorgasbord of Bible references in support of each. In a nutshell, if I’m understanding them rightly, here’s are some of their core beliefs:
- The Bible is the Word of God
- Sodomy, sex outside of marriage, adultery, divorce and remarriage are all sins and those who are guilty of them will burn in hell for eternity
- People who have had an abortion, likewise
- In fact, God hates everyone who is not among his chosen – the Elect
- Only God’s chosen will make it to heaven – eternal damnation awaits the rest of us
- Pastors who preach that God loves the non-Elect are lying whores
- America supports homosexuality and divorce and is, therefore, doomed to destruction
- Disasters like 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina & Rita and the Boxing Day Tsunami are all evidences that God’s blessing has been removed from those nations. Indeed, those tragedies were brought about by God to make that very point
- God laughs when sinners die
- God is especially glad when soldiers die – anyone who would fight for a country that tolerates homosexuality is, by definition, not a friend of God’s
- God particularly hates non-elect Jews and will ensure they burn in hell (see WBC website www.JewsKilledJesus.com)
- If you’ve missed the hit list so far you should know that sending your kids to public schoolqualifies you for the lake of fire
WBC members consider themselves Calvinists in that they hold to the well-known Five Points of Calvinism sometimes known as TULIP. This means, in part, that WBC believes than mankind is intrinsically sinful and cannot choose to reach out to God of his own volition. In this view, believers – the Elect, are saved by the grace of God, chosen by God to be saved. All those who do not belong to this group are destined to suffer an eternity of fully-conscious torture in Hell. Indeed, these folk were hand-selected by God for Hell before they were a twinkle in their Daddy’s eye.
Although it would, I think, be true to say WBC share some of these views with many nice, ordinary Reformed Baptist and Reformed Presbyterian churches, their extreme Calvinism perhaps accounts, at least in some degree, for the group’s astonishing lack of compassion. Recent posts on WBC’s blog Godsmacks, one of the many websites the group hosts, include one praising God that a Moslem child was killed by a monkey in Malaysia, and another rejoicing that so many gay and lesbian young people are committing suicide. The post which states, “Thank God Fewer Than Half of Americans Oppose Same-Sex Marriage”trumpets that this is great news indeed and clear evidence that the Lord’s return is imminent.
I remember the moment I realised that personal testimonials aren’t worth a smidge of rat doody. It was some years ago as I watched the video suicide note left behind by members the Heaven’s Gate Cult. In it several young men – wide-eyed with rapture – described the incredible happiness they had enjoyed as a direct result of cutting off their testicles. They went on to explain that – joyous day – they were about to swallow cyanide in the happy anticipation of being collected by friendly aliens later that afternoon. The sincerity of their happiness was absolute. So… I’m not the one to be impressed by the glee of two of Fred Phelps’ granddaughters as they explain in this video that, not only is it their God-honouring duty to be thrilled to bits when sinners suffer and die but that, even that if it weren’t for the bonus of that putting them on the same page as God, they would find the sinner’s misery pretty satisfying anyhow. Indeed it would be difficult to imagine even the most TULIPpy Calvinist failing to be a little disturbed at the bright-faced young things’ giggly delight as they envisage the destruction of the damned.
While WBC allows that God can and does save some sinners – them for example – and that salvation, once you’ve got it, is keepsies for good, members are quick to cast out any in their midst who question WBC’s beliefs or practices. This short documentarydetails the shunning of 24-year-old Lauren, oldest daughter of senior WBC member Steve Drayne. It is not so much that Steve and his wife voted with other WBC members to force their daughter to leave both the group and her home that I find shocking, but that Steve apparently experiences no sadness whatsoever about the loss of his child. Indeed, now that he realises Lauren is one of those predestined for Hell – the giveaway was Lauren’s asking some sticky questions – Steve is genuinely glad to see the back of her.
Nate Phelps is one of only four of Fred Phelp’s 16 children who have turned their backs on their parents’ faith. As noted in this video, Nate’s former friends and family at WBC aren’t all that impressed with him as a result. But Nate is in good company – there are a lot of people who WBC don’t like. Swedes for example. WBC don’t like them *at all*. It’s worth pasting here a section regarding the Boxing Day Tsunami from WBCs FAQ pageas an example of the frothing venom WBC is capable of generating when their dander is fairly up.
Do you realize that among the dead and missing are 20,000 Swedes and over 3,000 Americans? Filthy Swedes went to Thailand – world epicenter of child sex traffic – to rape and sodomize little Thai boys and girls. 20,000 dead Swedes is to Sweden’s population of 9 million as 650,000 would be to America’s 290 million population. We sincerely hope and pray that all 20,000 Swedes are dead, their bodies bloated on the ground or in mass graves or floating at sea feeding sharks and fishes or in the bellies of thousands of crocodiles washed ashore by tsunamis. These filthy, faggot Swedes have a satanic, draconian law criminalizing Gospel preaching, under which they prosecuted, convicted and sentenced Pastor Ake Green to jail – thereby incurring God’s irreversible wrath: “He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Psa. 105:14,15. America, who is awash in diseased fag feces & semen, and is an apostate land of the sodomite damned. Let us pray that God will send a massive Tsunami to totally devastate the North American continent with 1000-foot walls of water doing 500 mph — even as islands in southern Asia have recently been laid waste, with but a small remnant surviving. And you wonder if this is the wrath of God?
But lest you mistakenly assume that WBC actually cares what happens to those ‘little Thai boys and girls’, they go on to explain that no-one is innocent, no matter his or her tender age and anyway…
…It is God’s prerogative to kill children to punish their evil, Godless, vile, filthy parents and others who were raising them for the devil anyway; they are most certainly better off now than they were in the hands of such evil people…
Oh, well then. Just so long as they are better off.
WBC see themselves as modern day Jeremiahs preaching an eleventh hour sermon of repentance to a world hell-bent on destruction. They openly scoff at the suggestion that they ought to be praying for the lost, citing as their example the words of Christ in John 17. Remember, that’s the scripture where Jesus states that he does not pray for the world but only for those the Father has given him. WBC accept the unlikely possibility that some may be saved in response to their ‘preaching the truth’ but they admit they don’t care a whit either way. Their duty is just to preach the gospel, and God’s business is to save – or, most likely, not. WBC seem pretty sure there aren’t too many left on earth who are going to escape eternal and firey misery. They frequently make statements to the effect that the ‘day of grace has passed’ for the vast majority of us ‘dummies’.
I’ve written in the past about drawing a distinction between radical Christian fundamentalism and the caring, intelligent, Bible-believing folk I know and love. But, although members of WBC are undoubtedly less shy about their views than most, as I read through their beliefs and practices, I was struck by how familiar much of it seemed. Certainly I know (and love) many self-professed Calvinists and would once have considered myself in that camp. Further, I personally know many Christians, who, for example, would agree that AIDS is God’s judgement on homosexuality. And it’s only a few months since I overheard a Christian woman at a homeschooling event explaining to the young non-Christian mother with whom she was attempting to share the gospel that the Boxing Day Tsunami was plainly God’s judgement on Islam and Moslems. Evidently she hadn’t twigged to the Swedes.
So all this has got me thinking: Are the members of WBC an aberration, a bizarre hate group that has little if anything in common with orthodox Christianity? Or are they, as they claim, just a bunch of good ol’ Baptists who are willing to live and die on the ground of plain and honest doctrinal integrity? Are they dangerous fringe-Fundys? Or would it be true to say that many other Christians would agree – just quietly – that WBC’s beliefs do indeed reflect the clear meaning of Scripture? I mean, although some of the fundies I have known wouldn’t be saying so outside of select company, many do believe that God hates gays, and Jews, and Moslems and other unbelievers and that he is pretty chuffed when he sends some nasty suffering or other their way.
So I’m just asking the question: If God hates gays, where does it leave me…as I don’t? Can I utterly reject the bigotry of the ilk propagated by WBC and yet keep Christ? Or am I going to have to admit that I am teetering on the brink of ditching Christianity altogether? Should I face up to the fact that I can no longer honestly claim to be Christian because there is more than one segment of the Bible with which I am probably never going to happily reconcile? Am I vainly trying to ignore the unpleasant fact that the Bible is, as so many have said, a sexist, misogynist, racist and homophobic document? Am I just attempting to build a new religion that suits me because the orthodoxy of the one I used to hold so dear I now find offensive in so many respects? Is it going to come down to Integrity OR Christ? And what will that mean in real life? What will that mean for me?
Clearly there is some thinking still to be done.
Oh, but before I sign off I need to mention that WBC specialises in musical parodies. Would you forgive me if you missed ‘Hey, Jews’, ‘Fat-bottomed Whore’ or ’50 Ways to Eat Your Baby’? Or if you are up for some light reading, you could try this fascinating treatise which takes subject of baby eating further than you can probably imagine.