Fear and Westboro Baptist Church

A couple weeks ago, God confronted me about fear. It was no accident that nearly every blog I read, every article I looked up, even unrelated tweets and fb statuses (statii?) could be connected via the theme of fear.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

 

A disgusting prayer request


Fear governs and shapes and shifts politics, too.  Today, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Snyder vs. Westboro Baptist Church.

To recap, WBC protests military funerals because of some whacked-out correlation between homosexuality-the US military – and God’s judgment.

Everyone except WBC can find something to HATE about these people. Conservatives, Liberals, Christians, Non-Christians, pro-military, pacifists, I challenge you to find an American that doesn’t go to this “church,” that likes them.

The problem is, the Supreme Court got this right. We are guaranteed the right to free speech without interference from the Government, as long as our assemblies are peaceful. I hate that military families are subjected to a double-loss, loss of their loved one and loss of peace of mind surrounding their funerals. I hate that this “church” feels like it should persecute families in order to make a point about God. I hate that this group speaks and I hate what they say, but I believe that in order for me to have the right to speak freely, I have to accept their rights as well. I love the First Amendment. I wrote about that, here.

I think, like most things we fear, we want to control dangerous speech. We want to wrap it up and throw it away. We want to dismiss it. “Farewell,” we want to say. But as Chief Justice Roberts said in his majority opinion (possibly marking the first thing he’s said with which I nodded in agreement)

Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.

 

That’s saying the Government of the United States should/cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. It doesn’t say anything about citizens unable to punish them under the law. You don’t like their speech? You hate their speech? Join the Freedom Riders who stage counter protests to shield the funerals.  You want to contain their speech? Pray that God changes their hardened hearts. Do their signs disgust you? Make your own counter sign.

When I get scared, when I’m trembling with fear, I want someone else to take away that fear and make it ok again. Westboro Baptist Church scares Christians, because we’re afraid our message will get mixed up in theirs. We are afraid people will judge ALL Christians because of the actions of a few. We fear the association that comes from this group using the name of our God to do something terrible.

You might disagree. “No, I’m not afraid of them,” you’ll say. “I’m angry. I just think it’s in bad taste to protest military funerals.” It is. It’s the tackiest, most attention-seeking, mouth-breathing, inhuman thing that they do. But, unfortunately, tacky is permitted by our Constitution. I believe anger is based in fear, sometimes. I get fearful and resort to righteous indignation rather than face the fear that I don’t have all the answers and can’t make the pain stop.

There are ways to react that are not based in fear. Stand up! Condemn the actions of WBC and other groups like them in the court of public opinion. We have the freedom and the responsibility to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, for the families of those who have stood up and fought, to ensure the freedoms, that, like it or not, Westboro Baptists are entitled to as well.

When people come together, to show what they are made of, and they are a praying, loving, mass of Christians, God is there, in the midst, and there’s nothing to fear.

How does fear manifest itself in your life? What is your best idea for dealing with WBC?

 

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33 responses to “Fear and Westboro Baptist Church

  1. I believe the question lies with whether their demonstrations are peaceful. Physically: yes. Emotionally:NO! Mentally:NO! If it is the funeral of one of your loved ones, their protesting can cause emotional distress. Wishing the deaths of US soldiers emotionally affects people in a negative way. So in knowing that, are they demonstrating peacefully? No, their whole point is to emotionally terrorize others into believing what they have come to deem ‘right’. I agree with your outlook on the first amendment, but this group has pushed it to its limits

    • And I think that’s the basis for Alito’s dissenting opinions, though, I believe, he could have stated it better than using religious freedom on Snyder’s part as a justification. The problem for me is that as much as I hate what this group does, and I HATE what they do, I don’t think it’s personal for them. While the family is a private citizen, the soldier is a branch of “government” and as such, I’m not sure where the line gets drawn, against protesting the government and protesting at military funerals. Until that line is set forth from Congress, I have to go by my (admittedly limited) understanding on this one.

      • Clearly, the soldier in this case is dead and cannot be witness to this demonstration of “free speech” – emotional torture might be a better term.
        So, the whole argument that a soldier is a part of government falls flat when you consider that the soldier is dead and the living private citizens possess the ears on which this demented hate speech falls.

        Hopefully, the WBC members will come to their senses (and sense of compassion, if they have one). Hopefully, too, the justice system will realize that the genuine treasure that is free speech is not a justification to wield noise and words as weapons during one of human life’s most vulnerable moments.

  2. This is a perfect example of using our “freedoms” to destroy people. This is hate spewed from the mouth of people who call themselves Christians. I don’t think it’s worth for me to say more than that. Sad part is that they believe that what they are doing is speaking on God’s behalf. A shame, but also an opportunity to look within and make sure we don’t make the same mistake (easier to see the hate in others than our own).

  3. Thought provoking. You mentioned something about people fearing that maybe all Christians would get lumped in with WBC…sadly, I think this might be true. So many people lump all Christians together…someone has a bad experience at a particular church or in a particular denomination, and they think all churches or all people of that denomination are the same.

    • I’m afraid it’s true, too. We tend to do this about all groups we know so little about – we take the actions of a few and make it the trademark of the whole religion, movement, political party, etc.

  4. I always wonder, what will I do if (God forbid) my husband is killed in Iraq and these people come to protest his funeral? So I asked him, “what do I do?” And he said “let them – that’s what I’m fighting for.”

    I do not like their message, but I, too, believe that the Supreme Court got this one right. I hope that, if they did come upon my family, we have’d have the strength to patiently tell them “you’re welcome for this freedom.” They won’t understand, but we will.

  5. My idea is to pray. I know it’s not an original idea, but its the best thing to do. Pray that God changes their hearts.

    • Amen. I pray that God starts working on their hearts.

      • Sorry. Don’t mean to be troll-like, but is it not insulting to God to hope that He “starts working on their hearts”? Like he’s been asleep at the wheel. Don’t you think He’s probably put loads in their world already to change them. Isn’t it more their stubborn ignorance or something that prevents them from growing?

        It’s nice to pray for them – they certainly can use it – but blame should be placed in appropriate areas. I wouldn’t want any individual who already finds theism ridiculous to read that sentiment about God “changing their hearts” or “starting to work on their hearts” and then to think to himself what kind of God would be doing nothing at this time.

      • My intention is never to insult God. He has certainly hardened people’s hearts when they did not listen, changed people’s hearts. Perhaps “start” wasn’t the best word, and I should have chosen “continue.” Thank you for your contribution to the discussion.

  6. is it fear that we will be lumped in with them? or fear that we are like them and actually believe what they are saying?

    i find what they say to be despicable, but if I say and do nothing, then my action of doing nothing says I don’t care enough. I am sorry that we are people of extremes, much like the people of WBC. but are we any different?

    i pray that we are.

    • and I think you’ve done the right thing by writing about it, making your readers aware. our job is to show the love of Christ to those who are the victims of this tasteless, tacky expression of free speech.

    • that’s a tough one, Doug. I think there’s definitely something in me that runs to the extreme, something I have to keep in check with the help of the Holy Spirit. I want to say more than I do, I want to yell, I want to start tossing chairs, but my message would be lost if my actions went rogue.

      • yeah, I know I have tendencies to run to extreme. So I have given it to the Holy Spirit and have strived to make my life a life of moderation. i’m still not perfect by any means.
        I would love to scream and yell and tear up the signs. but must consider the idea of love and grace. I think there is a time and place for righteous table-turning, but not in this situation.
        I do appreciate the thoughts and discussion that this post generates. Thank you.

  7. Kristin,
    Thanks so much for writing this awesome thought-provoking blog. Fear is something that I am addressing in my own consciousness lately as well. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember that if I put my trust in God, I need not fear. I also find it helpful to focus as much as possible on the present moment because a lot of my fear will be about hypothetical things that may not ever happen, so it’s a waste of my time and energy to worry about stuff that may or may not happen. It doesn’t help the situation in any way. Also, I remind myself that the opposite of fear is love, then try to focus on that instead. But it’s a process and it can be difficult when we are living in a society that is collectively consumed by a fear that is deliberately put on us by those with the money and power in order to keep us oppressed. I try and step away from the fear, power, money paradigm as much as possible and be on the love, sharing, helping paradigm instead.
    This WBC thing is only a symptom of a deeper sickness in our society. Things like shootings, unemployment, poverty, greed, pollution, etc, etc, the list goes on. These are ALL symptoms. We do not love our neighbors, we do not love ourselves, and we do not love our Mother Earth. Isn’t that what Jesus preached? Wasn’t he all about living simply, loving your neighbor, sharing with the poor, being humble as a child? So it sucks seeing so many people calling themselves “Christians” who don’t really act very “Christ-like”. But we must resist the urge to judge these people (or anyone for that matter). Getting angry and counter-protesting won’t help either. We cannot fight fear and anger with fear and anger. Instead, as Michael commented, we can pray that God brings love into their hearts and lives. Then we can forget about WBC and go focus on being more Christ-like in our own hearts and lives and communities. Focus on overcoming fear, filling our hearts with God’s love and then shining that love out in our own lives, especially in our day to day interactions with our families, neighbors and the people closest to us. We can radiate love outward from our own hearts, build a community of love with those around us, and then through God some of that love will reach the WBC people. These folks out protesting homosexuality at funerals are obviously not happy, healthy human beings. People living happy, fulfilled lives full of love are not out protesting at funerals, hating homosexual people, and praying for certain people’s death. There is no question in my mind about that. So I try to cultivate compassion towards these people. I believe that’s what Jesus would have done. I urge you not to hate but to love instead because we need all the people that we can get on the love paradigm if our society is ever going to heal itself. Remember what Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let’s all work together on bringing God’s light to the darkness within our own lives and letting God’s love radiate from us to the people around us. Easier said then done, I know.
    Also, I do support freedom of speech and speaking of darkness and light, it’s worth bringing up that people like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning should have freedom of speech as well. They should be heroes to the people as they are helping to bring some light to the darkness of corruption. But I guess that is a whole other can of worms 🙂
    Anyways, love your blog. The word statii made me laugh. And you always find the greatest pictures 🙂 Much love!

    • I agree that they are symptoms of a larger societal problem. We don’t care for one another. Not nearly like we should.

      My idea of counterprotest is not a hateful spewing. If we don’t go there with a different message, the family members of these soldiers are taking the brunt of their abuse. Is that taking care of orphans and widows? I don’t want to counter in anger or fear, but in strength and wisdom and prayer.

      Thank you, and I hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts with us here!

  8. I have nothing to say to this bastardized group of spiritual in-breeders. Like Jesus did, as He cursed the fig tree, I curse this group in the name of my Jesus, since they refuse to bear fruit of value or worth.

    Let the hand of my God crush them and drive them into the dirt of their own filthy hatred, and bring them to a place of repentance and humility.

    I have no stomach nor tolerance for these people. And don;t tell me about loving them or blah blah blah. Sometimes even God gets pissed, and He is LOVE. My anger comes from a place of sadness and heartbreak, but also rebuke since these people spew hateful rhetoric and put the Name of Jesus on it.

    Enough. They don’t need your love and acceptance. They get enough of that already from doormat Christians. They need to be slapped and have their spirits forced down to the ground.

  9. If these folks are around when I die and they choose to protest at my funeral (I don’t know why they would, but just in case), I would want everyone to massively ignore them. Don’t let them see you get upset. Don’t confront them. Don’t give them an opportunity to be in the paper or on the news–just ignore them. And at some point after my burial, eat some chicken-n-dumplins and think of me.

  10. My fears show up as overplanning. I don’t feel settled until I’ve planned for every contingency. takes the fun out of stuff sometimes.

    • Oh, micromanaging — I’m with you, Mo, but I have nothing compared to my mom. Imagine it, three teenaged girls in a van on a cross-country trip, and she has planned it down to 5 minute intervals. 5 minute bathroom breaks!!!! There’s no fun in that.

  11. This was a great post, Kristen.

    Statii.

    LOL.

  12. beautiful kristin. as always.

  13. God “hardened” their hearts? Are you sure? Didn’t they close their hearts on their own? Harden them on their own? Why would God be so counterproductive. That’s my point. I’m submitting that God is not the one to harden hearts; people harden their own hearts for themselves. Isn’t the alternative rather insulting to God?

    And, once again, of course this decision was most arguably wrong. Torture, even if it’s only mental, should be illegal. No one is hurt by this but private citizens who happen to be related to the dead person, the soldier. And, by the way, soldiers may represent the government, but they are not ‘branches’ of the government. A branch would be a thing, like the legislative branch – Congress – not a person.

    We don’t have to allow cruelty to favor free speech. We need to use our hearts and our brains.

    • I’m not saying he did or did not. I can’t say. I know that the Bible says that God has hardened the hearts of others.
      For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses. – Joshua 11:20. Is that insulting to God?

      I believe we’ll have to disagree about the constitutionality of this decision.

  14. I appreciate this post very much. I just found it although I see it was written in March! I had a similar reaction after seeing a protest group in Cambridge, MA – I grew up in Pakistan and lived in Pakistan and Egypt where speech is not protected. As much as I despise the message from WBC – I am grateful for freedom of speech. http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/2011/05/03/privileged-protection-and-awesome-responsibility/ Wrote a post on it in May. Thanks again.

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