Ah, yes. Westboro Baptist Church. The “God Hates Fags” people, who have (by no accident) associated their identity with their stand against homosexuals so much so that it is the name of their website.
According to their schedule, they are running around Oregon this Saturday and Sunday. They are choosing a selection of larger churches that are blessed and successful, that spread the gospel (which, you know, means “good news”) of Jesus Christ to a great many people. They are going to picket Salem Alliance (a church that has my respect because, in my experience, that church lives out the “In Christ Alone” in their teaching and emphasis) as well as People’s Church.
So I, personally, have to be ready for them.
But by ready for them, I do not mean ready to fight them. Or to debate them. I’m not going to be going to them. I will be driving past them to get to my own church that morning, but that’s all.
By me getting ready for them, here’s what I mean.
I feel it’s safe to say that anyone who knows me knows that I am not easily upset. Few things make me angry. However, talking about Westboro Baptist is one of the few things that makes me seethingly angry, for the same reason that they are seethingly angry with me. They believe that I, and people like me, are spreading lies about God by teaching that God loves everyone and wants EVERYONE to come to know Jesus Christ and be saved from their sins. I believe that they are spreading lies about God by teaching that God hates the world (in those exact words). They think that I’m misrepresenting God, and that they have the truth. I think that they are misrepresenting God, and that I have the truth.
However, the one factor I have is control of myself. So when I say that I have to get ready for them, I mean that knowing that I will be angry, I have to spiritually anchor myself in the truth of God, as revealed by Scripture. They are angry. I am angry. I must learn not to sink to their level…because they want me to be angry.
Because this is the cycle of what’s going to happen.
- They are going to protest. It’s going to piss us off.
- We will express how pissed off we are.
- They will take our pissed-off-ness as a sign that they are doing the right thing, and will quote every “Blessed are you when persecuted” Scripture in the book.
So Christians, please keep this in mind: MAKING US ANGRY IS THEIR GOAL. WHEN WE GET ANGRY, THEY WIN. Why else would their signs be so crass? So abrupt? Their protests are meant to illicit a reaction!
So this blog post is intended to keep my head on straight. And hopefully to help others who find themselves in the same boat as me whenever the topic of Westboro Baptist comes up.
First: Some rules I have to keep in mind when approaching this one
- I must remember that “convincing” my opponents is an unobtainable objective
- I shouldn’t put much effort into dismantling lies, but more into presenting truth.
- I try to stay away from any point of argument that could be equally leveled at me.
- When I get angry at them, when I fight them, when I accuse them, et cetera, then I am playing right into their hands.
1. I must remember that “convincing” my opponents is an unobtainable objective. My arguments will not change people. In fact, 98% of the time, if someone believes something, they will ignore any evidence to the contrary (This is called “belief bias” in psychology). Just as I have had a long time to stew over what I believe, they have had a lot of time to stew over what they believe.
How do I apply this to myself, not them? If they are biased, I must realize that so am I. I need to listen to their arguments for the merit of their argument. Lies are often twisted truths…so I must learn to discern the truth from the lie. I also must be constantly challenging my own beliefs.
I do not believe in Christianity because of dogmatic beliefs that I won’t let go of. I believe in Christianity because it has held up against scrutiny. I do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible because Mommy told me so. I believe in the inspiration of the Bible because while the evidence does not prove it, it points to it. In fact, God meant for there to be evidence that pointed to it.
So running into the fray of Westboro Baptist acolytes with plans about how to out-debate them won’t solve anything. Yes, I will speak out against their teaching, but I will speak out against their teachings for the sake of the onlookers and observers, not the WBC-ers. Convincing WBC-ers is a lost cause, unless God himself pulls them out of there. Just ask Mark Phelps (son of Fred Phelps, founder of WBC, now deceased as of March 2014. Fred is probably currently having a conversation with God about how much he abused his children, but who knows?). Mark escaped the church and Phelps family and accepted Christ at another church. Nathan Phelps, another son of Fred Phelps escaped the church and Phelps family, but is now traveling the world speaking about how religion is abusive and evil.
2. I shouldn’t put much effort into dismantling lies, but more into presenting truth. Dismantling lies in order to protect people from them is kinda like curing your house’s ant problem by stepping on each individual ant. It would take forever, and by the time you had stomped out every ant, new ants would have invaded your house. Even if this weren’t true, new ants would invade your house the next day. In short, dismantling lies by itself is ineffective, and it is a waste of time. The amazing thing about truth, however, is that truth automatically dismantles lies. Imagine a courtroom with five witnesses, all lying. What would be quicker and more effective? Finding out where they are false, or simply submitting a recording of what happened?
How do I apply this to myself, not them? WBC makes me so angry that I do this: I go to their website (www.godhatesfags.com), find out how exactly they are arguing their points, and then I find out how to dismantle their arguments. It’s actually quite easy…they tend to do eisegesis a lot (quoting Scripture, and then inserting their own meaning into it). However easy it is, however, it is useless, ineffective, and it simply makes me angrier.
Rather, the perfect remedy for this situation is Scripture. It reminds me of the Jesus who was a friend of sinners. It reminds me of the God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
Rom 5:6-11 (NASB)
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
See? It’s like a breath of fresh air.
Westboro Baptist Church will be throwing out lies left and right, lies that are based on truth applied out of context. They are going to take Old Testament Scripture intended for and directed at nations that literally worshipped foreign gods, and they are going to say that those Scriptures apply to American churches for “teaching the lie that God loves everyone.”
This is what upsets me the most: WBC will be taking the words of truth and misapplying them. That is what disgusts me. But rather than fighting their misuse, what is the solution? For my own spiritual sanity, I must read the words of truth and rightfully apply them.
First rule of Hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation): Scripture interprets Scripture. Scripture can definitely by misapplied, but if such happens, the rest of Scripture will sort that out.
Side note: I will post another blog post, for anyone interested, of why Westboro Baptist thinks the way they think and interpret Scripture the way they do. They truly believe that what they are saying is the truth clearly taught in Scripture…but they seem to think (and say out loud) that everyone else has blinders on when they read the Bible, but they have the God-given monopoly on correct interpretation of Scripture.
For a short version, their interpretation is primarily based on these two things: 1. Hypercalvinism: They believe that all positive Scriptures are talking only to them (they believe that they are the 144,000 faithful Jews in Revelation), and that all negative Scriptures are talking to everyone who isn’t them. 2. Allegory: They believe that when the New Testament says “Jews” in a positive light, it means “elect Christians” (in other words, “Westboro Baptist Church”). They hate Jews as much as they hate everybody else and will openly admit it. The Bible…well…doesn’t seem to hate Jews.
More to come on that. But back to the main point.
3. I try to stay away from any point of argument that could be equally leveled at me. It’s not that certain arguments aren’t true, but rather that I prefer to debate like a grown up, so I’m not big on the “well, you do this!” “Well, so do you!” “Nuh-uh.” “Uh-huh.” “Well, you do it worse.” “Nuh-uh.” “Uh-huh.”
So even though I believe them to study Scripture with certain presuppositions that they were taught, I also tend to approach Scripture with certain presuppositions, certain things I already believed before I approach Scripture anyway. I am not trying to get rid of these presuppositions (Since everybody approaches any information with presuppositions, it is an inescapable fact). Rather, I am trying to identify these presuppositions so that I know how others might see the world differently.
Even if it’s not true, I still stay away from arguments where they will counter-accuse me, even if I am not guilty of what they are talking about.
Here are some arguments that, I stay away from in order to avoid an annoying tit-for-tat argument.
“You talk about certain Scriptures, but you ignore Scriptures that don’t say what you want them to say.”
“You talk about others’ sin, but you sure don’t talk about your own sin.”
“You twist Scripture around to suit your own purposes.”
“You simply make God say what you want Him to say, rather than listening to Him.”
You see the theme here? We accuse them of these things. They accuse us of these things. Tit-for-tat.
How do I apply this to myself, not them? As mentioned, I want to debate against WBC-ers. However, the book of Proverbs tells me that this is a waste of time.
Yet, I am not going to totally ignore the accusations they make against me. I will analyze them in order to better myself as a Christian and as a thinker. They say I am twisting Scripture to suit my own purpose. I believe that thinking “Am I?” is a better response than “No, I’m not!” It is not that I am going to let their lies creep into my head. Rather, I have faith in the power of Scripture. If I approach Scripture with an open mind to what Scripture has to say, then the word of God will sort me out.
Can the same be said of them? Well, let’s let others worry about that. My own pursuit of God, His heart, and His truth is in my hands. He has already pursued me, now He leaves the ball in my court.
4. When I get angry at them, when I fight them, when I accuse them, et cetera, then I am playing right into their hands. Fred Phelps said that he took everyone’s hatred of him as “proof of his righteousness.” And although Fred is gone, his daughters and family members (except for the ones that escaped) continue that mindset.
Remember the way they think: When the Bible says positive stuff, they believe that it is talking about them. It is true that believers in Jesus Christ are persecuted, more today than ever. Having the freedom-of-speech freedom-of-religion thing protects us here in America, for the most part. However, Christians are still getting killed in many parts of the world, especially the 80/20 window (middle east).
For WBC, however, with its roots in Topeka, Kansas, they don’t see the “Jesus loves you” people getting persecuted. Therefore, every time someone hates them, they bust out every last persecution Scripture that Jesus said (“Blessed are you when you are persecuted, because I was persecuted” “The world will hate you because of me”).
So if I fight them, yell at them, defame them, make fun of them, or anything of the sort, then it really just fuels their fire. If I do anything to them that persecutors would do to Christians, then it simply makes them feel more right about what they are doing.
How do I apply this to me? If I ever find myself in a scenario where I am up against one of them, I need to speak against their teachings, not them. I need to stay level headed and not let my words be changed by my anger.
Discussing Westboro Baptist Church makes me angry. It makes me want to lose my cool. In light of this, I need the Spirit of God to keep me calm, rational, but to direct me when, where, and how to speak.