I was relaxing for a few minutes late tonight; unwinding in an armchair, unaware that I was about to be appalled by a documentary that was spotlighting the deepest type of hatred a human being can have; that of another human being.
I watched in horror as the program “20/20” did a brief news piece on a church with the name “Westboro”. Perhaps you’ve heard of this church. They are well known for their picketing and demonstrations in places like funerals for fallen soldiers and where they will be in direct public opposition to homosexuals, Jews, and other subcultures of our society. They spew their message of hatred, claiming to speak for God and rightly upholding God’s Word.
The most disturbing aspect of the brief documentary was the use of the children of this church as pawns in their agenda of hatred. 7-year-olds and younger standing with their parents, holding signs saying things like “God Hates Fags”, “Jews Killed Jesus” and other unspeakably hateful words.
And in the midst of this news piece, I found a ray of hope and a cause to celebrate. The producers of “20/20” spotlighted a daughter of one of the married couples who are members of Westboro Church. Her name is “Lauren” and she at one point questioned the teaching of hatred, and pointed out a hypocrisy in the Westboro Church. She was quickly ostracized not only from the congregation, but from her family as well. The ironic thing was that Lauren’s attitude was so much more Christlike and biblical than those who cut her off for not believing the Bible. She was compassionate, forgiving, and gracious toward her parents and her former church who continued to be cold, unwavering, and pious toward her.
When I teach from God’s Word (and I do regularly), I challenge the students to search the Scriptures for themselves. To never EVER “take my word for it.” I urge them not to believe something simply because they’ve heard me say it.
To my own children, I gladly welcome them to search for and learn about and investigate other “religions”, (though I hesitate to call Christianity a religion), because I know and have learned for myself that God’s truth can stand on its own. Scrutinize it, inspect it, test it, dissect it, do whatever you’d like to do to it, and it will come through completely intact. It’s not the truth because I believe it, I believe it because it’s the truth.
And I cringe, to put it mildly, anytime I see “Christians” (though I’d never call the members of Westboro Christians) are represented by a small group of nut jobs who stand on street corners for no other reason then to spout hatred. Its reprehensible and nauseating. But I must say that I’m thankful to live in a country where nut jobs are free to say whatever they like. How ironic that they stand and picket and protest at the funeral of a soldier who died defending their freedom to protest at his funeral.
“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. If we don’t love, then we don’t know God because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
What the church in Westboro fails to do is what God does perfectly and continually…he loves me and you, His creation while abhoring the sins we commit. He looks at those who love Him and sees the righteousness of Jesus, and at those who don’t love Him with compassion, patience, and a willingness to forgive and restore. Nowhere in the Bible am I, as a lover and follower of Jesus, commissioned to hate anyone at anytime for any reason. Search the Bible cover to cover and you simply will not find anything that even slightly resembles the sanctioning of hate-speech toward those who do not embrace God and His grace.
And so I am compelled to pray for those connected to Westboro. I believe that the grace and love of God is strong enough and broad enough to reach even them.