Westboro Baptists, The Death Of Fred Phelps, And Protestors Who Get It Wrong

A local government official who attended my church took a position in favor of same sex marriage a few years ago. This wasn’t a theological matter for her but one of governance: she felt that the state could not refuse a marriage license to couples of the same sex.

It was a principled position as you can imagine many people saw it differently. For those in our church, it led to polite discussion of what it means to be a Christian in our society.

For a few Christians outside our church, it became an opportunity to get out the picket signs and bullhorns and show up at our church on Sunday mornings with their leaflets and slogans.

This group of Christians are from the Church of the Divide, a very small (perhaps ten member) fellowship from a town miles from our church. The van they show up in is covered with their messages:

The Church of the Divide protest van. The messages on the sides are a bit more in-your-face

The Church of the Divide protest van, coming soon to a church near you. (The messages painted on the sides of the van are quite incendiary.)

There were also some signs telling us we needed to kick the woman out of our church.


These folks showed up for three or four Sundays, then went elsewhere. They had another church to go protest.

Picketing Funerals

I hadn’t thought of the Church of the Divide for a while. Then I read the news of Fred Phelps’ passing. He’s the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, another very small fellowship whose main ministry appears to be staging protests.

(That link is to a Wikipedia article; I won’t link directly to the church’s website because it is so full of hate. I’ve written about Westboro Baptist before, though, all about how a little girl showed them the way of Christ by setting up a lemonade stand across the street from their church.)

20130517-19_Memphis-Oxford-Panama_IsaiahI don’t want to say much about the hateful activities of Westboro Baptist, but I will point out that one of their most infamous tactics is to picket the funerals of military members killed in the line of duty.

Here’s where it gets weird.

The Westboro Baptists don’t have anything against the deceased people. Instead, they are protesting the U.S government’s LGBT policies, and they know that picketing military funerals will garner a lot of attention. The church has no concern for grieving families and friends. They see those mourners as collateral damage in the war on government policy.

Protestors Who Get It Wrong

I think some are ready to respond to the news of founder Fred Phelps’ death the wrong way; people have posted on Twitter and Facebook about wanting to picket his funeral. Those protestors would be just as wrong as Mr. Phelps and his followers.

But others are calling for people to show Westboro Baptist what it really means to love your enemy: let Fred Phelps be buried in peace. These people are getting the way of Christ right, and the Phelps clan could learn a thing or two from them.

Will they, though? Will leaving the Westboro Baptists to bury their dead in peace be an act of kindness that heaps burning coals on their heads? Not if their response so far is any indication.

We can only pray that the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts to bring them to repentance through the Lord’s kindness. And we should remember that the Lord is good to all, even people who make up Westboro Baptist Church.

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10 Responses to Westboro Baptists, The Death Of Fred Phelps, And Protestors Who Get It Wrong

  1. Adriana says:

    Have you seen this cartoon, Tim?

    Such a sad, pathetic little man. I wish I could say I’ve never felt hatred in my heart, but I have. The first time I said aloud the words, “I hate you,” it frightened me. It was as if I had just taken a sip of poison. When I look at the legacy of Fred Phelps I have say, “God, forgive me for my pride! Heal me and teach me to love!”

    “The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

    P.S. “Westboro Baptist Gets Schooled by a Little Girl” is a great post.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the cartoon link, Adriana, it fits right in with the post today. I think that Bible verse you quoted sums it all up nicely.

  2. Jeannie says:

    As I read that link to Westboro’s article and all the Scripture they quoted, I thought, what difference does it make how many verses you quote if your heart is full of hatred. It’s poison, just like Adriana said above. We can only pray that God’s love will break through, somehow.

    • Tim says:

      These are believers who have not yet grasped what it means to live under the gospel of grace. I too pray the Spirit will bring them understanding.

  3. Aimee Byrd says:

    I’m still trying to picture the “vision of the van” meeting between the ten members of the other small church. I feel so sorry for the poor middle school daughter who may be getting picked up from school in that eye sore.

    • Tim says:

      That van gets a lot of miles on it, Aimee. They can be found all over northern California protesting this or that. Sometimes it’s fellow Christians, sometimes it’s government offices. They’ve even pulled up in front of my courthouse, but I’m not sure what they were protesting that time.

  4. caramac54 says:

    “These people will be just as wrong as the Westboro picketers…” Yup. Well said, as always.

  5. When anyone dies, I feel sorrow for them. I don’t know their heart and where they stood with Jesus. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, I was sad at hearing even children I know rejoicing over his death. I was sad because I hoped he’d be put in prison with a chance to learn about Jesus and find Salvation.

    I do think that believers in Christ are to judge those within their congregation, but there are ways of doing it according to scripture. . .to first approach them alone. If they are unwilling to comply, you bring others into it who are elders and pastors. If they still decide to not change then you do put them before the congregation and it is said to let those outside of the church to be judged by the world in courts, while we not look down on them since they don’t know better as an unbeliever…. and to allow the believer in Christ to be judged within the church because they should know better as we are supposed to lead them towards righteousness and lovingly correct, rebuke, and teach them His truth.

    I get so sad when I see people picket without them KNOWING the people at all. That is not of God.

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