It’s very easy to hate on Westboro Baptist Church and say “I’m not like those guys” — because I think everyone agrees there’s nothing remotely Christian about them, at all, and what they’re doing is nothing short of detestable brainwashed shlock.
Then there are some of us who attempt to be more thoughtful about this and say, “Well they need grace too, so let’s pray for them. They really need Jesus and to get right with God. They’re so lost.”
And I like the sound of this one better — except for the fact that both of these things sound like the exact same thing. One of them is straightforward contempt for them, and the other is contempt dressed up as pretty political talk that’s only self-flattering prose. It’s talking nice to look nice and not really because you’re nice.
Let’s be real about this. On one hand, the Westboro Baptist Church and “those kinds of churches” are destroying the world, one funeral at a time. There is such a thing as false teaching and heresy. We do need to point out wrong doctrine. They do need Jesus and to get right with Him. We can’t talk nice about this all the time. The sort of “hate” we reserve for them is NOT wrong, because God also hates injustice, oppression, and bigotry. God is not okay with so-called Christians picketing a soldier’s burial or a gay rights parade. If you hate Westboro, you’re probably closer to God than you think.
But on the other hand: The conversation can’t really end there. To picket against picketers only perpetuates a cycle of violence and retaliation that was completely upturned in the cross of Christ. To stand on what you’re against and to be against those who stand against something are the same thing. Someone needs to interrupt this horrible circle with grace. And actually: someone did, and He calls us to do as He did.
The Christian faith doesn’t fall to one party or another — it has no softness for your ideology or mine. It doesn’t cater to the black-and-white demonizing of one moral class; it doesn’t dehumanize a certain person as the alien or stranger. We were all outside in darkness at one point in our journey; we were all blind to grace. The Christian faith, then, draws in and does not elbow out. That means there’s room for racists, bigots, and intolerant tactless morons: because that is what you and I are, no matter how much more “civilized” you think you are than the next guy. We all have the capacity to become as depraved as Westboro or as lawless as the Prodigal. The only difference is the degree to which you believe you were set free when you were so undeserving. The more you know where you came from, the more you will want to help others move forward.
If you are consistently categorizing other Christians as “other Christians,” it’s possible you’re part of the problem and not at all the solution. If you’re continually criticizing other Christians instead of offering constructive answers: you’ve gone stalemate, and the church doesn’t need more isolated soapboxes. And so long as I write like this, I am also part of the problem, and these words are inadequate in and of themselves to change. I can only grieve and hurt for unity and beg you to do the same.
I’ve prayed for Westboro. Really. I didn’t just blog about it. This doesn’t make me better than anyone else: but I don’t want to ask anything of anyone else what I’m not already doing first. So if you’re really bold enough to hate injustice, I also hope you’re bold enough to love through the injustices. One without the other will only get what we’ve always gotten. Both will lead to something better, to something new, to what Jesus died for.