Saturday, April 4, 2009

How Do I Hate Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

Westboro Baptist is unquestionably insane, but as I've spent a chunk of time going over their web presence in anticipation of their arrival in my neighborhood, I'm struck by a few things.

Their infamous signage, for one, is mostly remarkable for it's stark and iconic simplicity. It's a potent meld of basic primary colors and washes, coupled with brutishly simple messages that articulate their dark vision of the universe.

Second, as someone whose spent a small chunk of time recently trying to revamp the web presence of my own tiny little church, I can say that they' an impressive new media presence for a church their size. The Westboro website is clean and well designed. It gets right to the point, letting any visitors know in no uncertain terms that no matter who you are or where you're from, they hate you.

They've got an array of blogs, which express the viewpoints of a variety of different members of the extended Phelps family. Though each is somewhat different from the others, they all are remarkably good at staying on message. You've got current events related hate. There's a "Dear Abby"-esque hate-advice blog. There's a blog that angrily discusses their current schedule of hate-related picketing. Even more impressive, the folks at Westboro seem utterly committed to open-sourcing their material. Every page on their site boldly announces that there is no copyright on the text. Anyone can use it in any way they see fit. Why one would want to is beyond me, but I'm sure with some thought I could come up with some entertaining options.

As I've dug my way through their single-minded sea of festering bile, I've found myself wondering if it might be possible for a little church to become the Bizarro World Westboro Baptist. Could a congregation of 35-40 individuals be as intensely monomanaical in their expression of God's grace to the world as Westboro is in expressing their pathological hatred? Would it be possible for a small church to become as notoriously joyous as Westboro is notoriously horrid? Such a church would have to be more than a tiny bit insane, sure.

But it'd be a good sort of crazy.