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:
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.
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.)
I 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.
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.