Westboro Baptist Church: How actual Christians can not fall into their trap (which most of us are, to be honest)

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.

  1. They are going to protest. It’s going to piss us off.
  2. We will express how pissed off we are.
  3. 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

  1. I must remember that “convincing” my opponents is an unobtainable objective
  2. I shouldn’t put much effort into dismantling lies, but more into presenting truth.
  3. I try to stay away from any point of argument that could be equally leveled at me.
  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.

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.

The Art of Apologetics: Homosexuality (Part 5) – Where to from here?

Before this point in the blog series, my hope was to explain and defend why Christians, or more specifically, me, believe that homosexuality is wrong.

After this point in the blog series, I am going to be talking to Christians who believe that homosexuality is wrong…how do we as Christians go about this? How important is this issue? What do we do about it?

Side Tangent – Westboro Baptist Church

And one more thing I need to get off my chest: Please do not associate Westboro Baptist Church (the guys with the “God hates Fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” signs) with the rest of us as Christians. Westboro Baptist Church is a hate group disguised as a religious institution. Whew. Got that off my chest. Moving on.

No, wait, not moving on. Seriously. If you want to get me visibly upset in a conversation, let’s have a conversation about Westboro Baptist Church. Westboro Baptist Church and their “pastor,” Fred Phelps, have successfully convinced a group of young minds to go across the country and convince everybody that Jesus is constantly PMSing over the topics of gays, Jews, Catholics, and on and on. That does not bear the slightest resemblance to the Jesus Christ I read about in the four gospel stories.

Okay, NOW we are moving on.

How important is the topic of homosexuality?

First, based on what we’ve talked about, we need to put the issue of homosexuality in its proper priority-level. Remember…homosexuality is wrong for one reason and one reason only: It doesn’t glorify God because the body is not using the sexual organs the way that God intended them to be used.

This means that homosexuality is no worse than anything else in which something or someone does not do what God intended them to do. So the case of a man having sex with a man and the case of a person being called by God to go into the mission field in another country and not going is equally bad. Not worse. Not at all.

So where does the “homosexuality” issue land on the priority list? Well, let us ask: What does God want of my genitalia? God wants my genitalia to be used in intercourse with my wife within the context of marriage. Anything outside of that definition is not what God wants.

But let us ask a BIGGER question…what does God want with my entire being? God wants me to have a relationship with Him. God has chosen that the only way we can have a relationship with Him shall be the same as anybody else, through trust (another word for this is “faith”).

So if I am interacting one-on-one with a homosexual who is not a Christian, why would I ever choose to tackle the homosexuality issue? There are bigger issues at stake, and these should be the higher priority.

Also, I believe that if somebody understands who Jesus really is and how Jesus really sees them, He’s unshakeable. A person perfect in love, perfect and truth, and willing to give up everything for me? I have noticed that the people who walk away from Jesus often perceive Jesus as the rule policeman who died for you so that you would feel guilty enough to start following His rules. I do not see how it is possible to arrive at that conclusion about Jesus if you look at His teachings and His life. I DO see how it is possible based on what imperfect Christians (and currently, 100% of the Christian population deals with imperfection) might say to each other.

So to sum up the sentence quickly: Homosexuality takes a big backseat to Jesus.

What about a Christian who is a homosexual? Well, somebody who puts their faith in Jesus Christ receives the Holy Spirit. One of the tasks that the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit undertakes is leading Christians into truth (I am also convinced that since the same Holy Spirit is in all Christians, sometimes Christians will supernaturally work together in word and deed, without even realizing they are doing it). But I cannot change someone…that only happens as a result of that person letting the Holy Spirit transform them.

So for the Christian who is a homosexual, all I do is continue to teach them truth (and that means that I don’t avoid the Biblical truth about homosexuality, but I also don’t overemphasize the Biblical truth about homosexuality). It seems to me that God doesn’t deal with all of our issues at once in this “spiritual formation” process. Perhaps a Christian will say “we need to work on His homosexuality problem” whereas the Holy Spirit will say “NO. We are working on his anger problem right now.” Or “We are working on his trust problem right now.” Or “He feels like He can’t succeed at this ‘Christianity’ thing right now. He needs love and encouragement.”

So for a Christian who is homosexual, we should not just teach truth, but teach the truth that the Holy Spirit wants to teach, not what I believe should be taught in that moment. We should not hide the biblical teaching on homosexuality, but we should not overemphasize it. From that point on, perhaps we should trust the Holy Spirit to do things on His time.

What about Carson?

Since I have been typing a bunch of posts defending my position, defending what I believe, let me say exactly what I do in regards to this truth.

I have never tried to get a homosexual to be heterosexual. It’s not my job, and I believe that it’s counterproductive. And if a non-Christian homosexual became a non-Christian heterosexual, what profit is that? None. Therefore, my first job is always to represent Jesus Christ. To paint a clearer picture of who He is by word and deed.

Now, if you ask me my position on homosexuality, I won’t dance around it. I believe that homosexuality is wrong, but not because I believe that homosexuality is a threat to society. I believe it is wrong because God said so. That’s about it. (I have further theories about why God said so, and that is what all these blogs have been about. But the short version is “because God said so.”

I have had previous parents of students, current parents of students, and current students of mine who are homosexual. Do you know what I do with those homosexual students? I teach the very best classes I can, take care of them as best as I can, and give them equal respect as anybody else. For two reasons…A) If I can win them to Christ, it will be by loving them in a way that they understand as love. Correcting the behavior is counterproductive. B) We are in the same boat. They have made decisions that do not glorify God. Guess what? I have made decisions that do not glorify God. Therefore, we’d be great friends.

You might hear me give my opinion on the topic of homosexuality, but you will never see me mistreat a homosexual. That’s my promise.

One more note: I am afraid, in regards to homosexuals who read this, that my being “anti-homosexuality” will be perceived as being “anti-homosexual.” It is my intention to not do that…I know that one might argue that “you can’t be anti-homosexuality without being anti-homosexual”. Well, I am. I do not dislike homosexuals. I actually do want life to go well for them. But, I can’t get around the fact that I believe that homosexuality is wrong.

Let’s word it like this: I believe that homosexuality is wrong, therefore I will not be homosexual. Other than that, I will teach truth as best as I understand it, but the only behavior that I will be forming is my own, with God’s help. I can’t, and won’t, form the behavior of others. I can only teach truth…not change people.