Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Westboro Circus Is In Town

During the shared time for joys and concerns this last week, one of my young congregants shared that we're going to have a visitor in the neighborhood in late April. The good folks from Westboro Baptist are showing up for one of their demonstrations. Yes, it's the God Hates Fags "church." Right here! Less than a mile from my teensy little church!

They're here to demonstrate in front of our local high school, which they've targeted because it's named Walt Whitman High School. Beyond their likely being offended at the whole concept of poetry, they've chosen Whitman as a target for their endless fountain of bile because Walt Whitman most likely was gay or bisexual. That means, or so one of the blogs at Westboro puts it:

"The children that attend that high school are taught Rebellion Against God 101 every day in every way. "

I wonder if you can get college credit for that. I think you need to score a 4 or higher on the Rebellion Against God AP exam in Virginia, but I'm not quite sure about Maryland state universities.

As Fred Phelps and his clan continue their Quixotic assault on all things that they perceive as homosexual, I find myself feeling motivated to show up for a little counterwitness on the day they're in town. It's not that the Westboro Baptist Church represents any significant movement in Christianity. They don't. They're a tiny little cult, whose fundamental failure to understand the core of the Christian message radiates from them like fever-heat. They loves them some attention, and their "pickets" are more like an attention-seeking tantrum than a real protest.

Problem is, they've also become something of a poster child for folks with an axe to grind against Jesus people. "Look," they say, pointing at the signage. "This is what Christians believe! How could you be a part of such an evil thing?"

That's absurd, of course. Anyone who's bothered reading the Bible knows that this kind of hatred is utterly out of keeping with the foundational principles of Torah and the teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth. But if you've already been put off by the intensely exclusive anti-gay, anti-"unbeliever," anti-science rhetoric of fundamentalism, it's easy to think that somehow Westboro represents what most Christians really believe.

So on Friday, April 24th, a little counter-witness seems both decent and in order.