There is a circus coming to town this weekend. The attractions aren’t lions, tigers, and bears but something much more frightening and ferocious. It is the band of inflammatory, sign carrying, insult spewing protesters who call themselves Westboro Baptist Church.
As much as I don’t want to give this group any more face time than they already garner by their own extreme measures, I feel compelled to ask the ecumenical community of Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, and even surrounding towns to lock arms in spirit and prayer with one another this weekend.
In case you’re not familiar with them, Westboro (out of the Topeka, KS area) specializes in picketing military funerals, memorial services of AIDS patients and anything having to do with sexuality in the culture. They are most famous for their neon, “God Hates Fags!” signs. Their website rattles off endless lists of all the other people and things that God hates as well!
They have selected three area churches for this Sunday’s media hyped spectacle. And by media hyped I mean that they inform media in the towns where they plan to be, whom they are targeting, and why. Of course, Westboro always makes for good TV so why wouldn’t the local news cover them?
Their focus includes a church in White’s Creek because of their ministry to the military personnel in their community at nearby Ft. Campbell (for reasons I still don’t understand). They also included certain Cross Point Church campuses, and Gracepointe Church in Franklin for their invitation to all people, broken, hurting, and seeking to come as they are.
1 Corinthians seems to be where Westboro likes to go to compile their list of those whom God hates. As someone who has personally found myself in the Corinthians hall of fame of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God I have a soft spot in my heart for all of this. I also claim some of my dearest friends as members and staff in these targeted churches. Interestingly in the ESV the passage that includes envy, greed and drunkenness also finds the word “revilers”, which according to American Heritage is “one who criticizes in an abusive or angrily insulting manner.” Am I the only one who sees some irony here??
Sadly, what Westboro demonstrates (pun intended) even better than their disdain for just about every group in our culture, is the way all of us can see the parts of the bible that don’t seem to apply to us as “worse” than the parts that do. When this happens we lose our desire for discourse and embrace the idol of being “right”. When being “right” precludes me from having compassion then I’m no longer right. When me being “right” sends me on a mission to disrupt your privileges then I’m dangerous!
Pray for courage, peace and wisdom for these targeted churches. Pray for Westboro that God would soften their hearts. Pray for ourselves that we would engage in relationship and dialogue and not pick and choose the parts of the scriptures we rally around based on what applies to us the least.