September 14, 2011 by esarsea
I’ve long wondered about these ass-clowns at the Westboro Baptist Church, and what makes them tick.
Recently, I wrote to a friend of mine and asked him for his views on the matter. My friend is a bit of a spiritual coach for me. He is a devout Christian, and one of the best men I’ve ever had the good fortune to know.
My question to him was:
“When you have time…help me wrap my brain around the whole Westboro Baptist Church thing. Are they simply our equivalent of extremists, like the terrorists are to the Muslim faith? When you have time, no hurry.”
Several days later I received the following reply. I felt compelled to share it here. I know we’ve somewhat avoided religious topics on this blog, but I found his insights quite helpful.
Long time no chat. Hope things are well with you and yours. Incredibly the summer is almost over (…but then I guess we say that every year about this time). It just seems to happen a bit quicker every year!
Anyway, sorry for the delayed reply on this. It’s a very good question so I’m glad to give you my perspective on it. Every time I see a piece on the news or an article regarding Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church I cringe. It seems rather evident that they traffic largely in hatred and sensationalism, freely declaring to one and all (as if appointed to do so by the Lord Himself) that God hates this and God hates that.
While there is absolutely no doubt from many references in the Bible that God is all powerful, all knowing and above all holy, in telling us about God’s character one of the primary ways He is described in several places in The Book is that ‘God is love’. Never do we find a description that states God is hate, yet if you were to learn about God only from these folks that’s what you would likely conclude.
A while back I did a bit of searching and reading about Fred Phelps and all indications are he had a very troubled upbringing in a very dysfunctional home. He had a few semesters in the Seminary then eventually became an attorney and from the outset took a very combative approach to practicing law. Eventually he was barred from practicing law in his home state and then some time later on the federal level as well, essentially for using overly aggressive and unprofessional tactics which employed personal attacks against his adversaries, an approach he still uses today. And although I have certainly never been present in his home, reports indicate that he behaves in a similar way toward his family with both verbal and physical abuse.
All that to say he appears to be an individual with some severe dysfunction in his life and he appears to have turned that anger and vengeance on the world, and done so in the name of God. Although God is indeed holy and His Word is clear that He will judge sin, the primary point of judgment of mankind will be whether we have surrendered our life to the Lord Jesus Christ, accepting His death in our place on the cross and endeavoring to live in obedience to Him, or if we have essentially ignored Him (however politely we do it) and have lived our life independent of Him thereby having no covering for our sin when we eventually enter His presence. Obviously the first condition results in being welcomed into God’s presence for eternity and the second results in eternal separation.
The true character of God can be seen in the infamous John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. Elsewhere the Bible says that it is God’s will that none should perish but that all would come to repentance. While on earth Jesus clearly demonstrated His tender heart toward lost humanity when He wept over Jerusalem, lamenting their resistance to all the times He had attempted to draw them close to have a real relationship with Him (Mt 23:37).
This heart for the lost is supposed to be in clear evidence in the lives of the followers of Christ as well. It was Jesus who said ‘by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another’. In 1st Corinthians 13 we are told that the greatest characteristic we are to exhibit is love. And not just love toward others of faith but how much more toward those in unbelief and lost in sin. How are the lost ever to be attracted to a relationship with the only One who can forgive and save them if they are repeatedly told that He hates them??
In Jesus’ day, the folks He was consistently the hardest on were certain of the religious leaders, the ‘holier than thou’ Pharisees who looked down their noses at others quite confident in their own self-righteousness. But it was these very leaders that Jesus told His followers to beware of and do not be like. How can this be? The Big Kahuna’s? Their fatal flaw was their pride and trusting in their supposed ‘righteous living’ oblivious to the fact that we are all lost without humbling ourselves before God and receiving His forgiveness.
These same religious leaders lived in expectation of the coming of the long promised Messiah, yet when they looked directly into His face not only did they not recognize Him, but it was they who plotted His execution to remove the bright light of His life which had exposed their utter hypocrisy and their lost condition.
The time will indeed come where God will judge sin but He certainly doesn’t need man’s help to do it. Until then followers of Christ are called to be His ambassadors reaching out to the lost in the love of God to encourage them to reconciliation with Him. The Westboro folks never exhibit any of this compassion for the lost that I have seen, only the condemnation that the Pharisees of old so quickly displayed. There appears to be no evidence that they, like Christ, genuinely love the lost and desire to reach out to them to help them come to know Christ so they can become free from whatever ensnares them.
The Apostle Paul exhorts us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness & faithfulness” In other words a genuine disciple of Jesus will demonstrate these characteristics. Elsewhere he tells us that “by their fruits you shall know them”. I’m certainly not Mr. Phelps’ judge, but from my observation I am not seeing much of the fruit of the Spirit in his life.
We have all seen people in this life who thirst for and thrive on controversy. But, the fact that they may do it from a pulpit doesn’t necessarily make them legit. To be sure, the true preaching of the Gospel will always be controversial because God does call us to repent, to turn away from sin and serve Him, and quite frankly humans do have an appetite for sin of all kinds. But when the message is consistently delivered with so much apparent anger and hatred you can be sure this is not a reflection of God’s heart of compassion. God calls man to repent because He loves us and knows that sin will ultimately have devastating consequences, and not because He hates one group or another.
As for the similarity between Phelps and Muslim extremists, I would say that there are numerous verses in the Quran that authorize hatred and violence against ‘the infidel’ whereas that is not the case in the Bible. Therefore when certain Muslim ‘extremists’ carry out violence they believe they are duly authorized to do so, but when people like Mr Phelps act hatefully they do so based on their own very distorted interpretation of the Scriptures.
Sorry to give you such a long dissertation but I thought it was important to lay out some of what the Bible says on the subject to put things in proper perspective. Hope this helps.
Blessings my friend,