How Do We Show Love for Hate Groups Like Westboro?

Anonymous asked a question

You know what? I’ve heard a lot of criticism towards Westboro Baptist Church and I’ve searched for Christians who have reached out and I could only find two on the whole internet. I’ve noticed Christians disassociate themselves with them understandably but I think they are victims in many ways but ultimately been held in bondage by the enemy. I don’t hear about enough of us praying for them for their own sake. What do you think?

Hey dear friend, I think this is extremely kind and generous of you. 

It’s true that the members of Westboro Baptist Church, in a sense, are victims of their founder Fred Phelps. In fact, his granddaughters Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper left the Westboro cult around 2012. They’ve both since become activists, particularly Megan Phelps-Roper. They certainly deserve our compassion and empathy and a second chance. Megan credits Twitter users with changing her mind about Westboro, because it was there she found gracious and real people who were willing to dialogue with her. It’s possible that in our lifetime, Westboro will cease to exist. 

Here’s the thing. The Westboro cult is inexcusably terrible. No one should ever feel like they have to reach out to them. It’s up to each person to decide whether they’re called to dialogue with them, pray for them, or connect with them. No one should feel less compassionate just because they’re not reaching out to Westboro. Some people are simply gifted at reaching out to very difficult people. Some of us were never meant to.

When it comes to hate groups, it takes very special people like Daryl Davis, who convinced at least 200 white supremacists to turn from their ways, to have the energy and fortitude to love on them. That’s not a mission for everyone.

This is a safety and accountability issue. I’m all for patience and understanding, sure. But hate groups that are actively injuring people should not be our first concern. The victims should be our first concern. The abused, wounded, and trampled are those in need of justice. 

Yes, certainly these hate groups are in some ways a victim to their mob mentality. Yes, it’s possible to care for both the victim and the abuser. Yes, cycles of trauma have created monsters and it’s not entirely their fault for becoming that way. But for me, if we lean too hard in this direction, that tends to create a lopsided situation in which evil is given too much nuance. To me, that seems to be a type of Stockholm Syndrome.

You have a hundred movies and TV shows now that are showing “bad guys with a heart of gold” or “bad guys with a back-story.” I wonder if this perpetuates abusive relationships and the idea that evil actions can all be explained. I wonder if we think that love is some kind of magical antidote that will cure the systemic evil in this world. This can only go so far. Evil actions deserve consequences and rehabilitation.

I serve many, many victims of abuse. I can tell you right now that from every story I’ve heard, the abusive person was in some ways traumatized and damaged. But never, ever did I think that this excused the evil. And I have simply seen too many stories where abusers show no remorse, no sorrow, no willingness to examine themselves. I can pray for them, sure. But sadly, I will have to pray for them from a distance. I pray that the right people, with courage and compassion and wisdom, who are far smarter than me, can get involved.

— J.S. 

Photo from Unsplash

2 thoughts on “How Do We Show Love for Hate Groups Like Westboro?

  1. Wise words, Pastor.
    We were told in Driver Training class that you must focus on the road, not let your sight shift to some side attraction, because “What you stare at you steer for.” Unconsciously. Focusing long on something bad, even with righteous indignation or the best redemptive intentions, can pull you slightly off course.
    As you say, unless that’s the path God wants you to walk and will supply grace for.

    Liked by 1 person

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