05 November 2007

The Face of Christianity

I'm sure you have read about Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist church. If you haven’t, they picket soldiers' funerals and the funerals of AIDS victims in order to spread their message that America is being judged by God for its embracement of homosexuality. The father of one of the soldiers recently won a court settlement of $11 million against Phelps and his church for damages.
This is already verging on old news, but I had to bring it up. I can handle a lot of what the news throws at me, but every once in a while something really hits me. This happens to be one of those things. It shocks, saddens, disgusts...there's a whole slew of reactions to this.

Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that everything Phelps says is true. All bad things that have happened recently, including 9/11 and the Iraq war, are in direct response to the acceptance of homosexuality into mainstream America. (I do not hold this as true, just for the record.) Is this (the picketing of funerals) the best way to make change? Do people respond, in any positive way, to broad, sweeping remarks of judgement, let alone at the service of someone they love, who has died? If one person does respond, is that a good trade-off for the thousands who are hardened even more against the message? And there is also the issue that America is a land who roots for the underdog. Homosexuals are considered a minority which ensures their qualification as "underdog." Blasting them with such hate-filled signs will naturally bring those to the fight who wouldn't have come otherwise. And dead soldiers? I don't even have to comment on that because everyone (well, except these people for some reason) recognizes the 58 levels of wrongness associated with that. Why haven't they thought of this? How can they think that what they are doing is the best course of action for rallying people to their cause?

This has been on my mind ever since I read about the court case in the newspaper. Either coincidentally or because of the same news subject, our pastor spoke about judging others yesterday. It was an excellent sermon.
One thing he said that particularly struck me was this: “The Bride of Christ (meaning the church and including all believers) should be beautiful, shining. The world should see her and recognize her for who she is.“ Does it? Does the world see her and recognize her as something worthy and magnificent? Specifically, with Phelps and his group of followers, the answer is a resounding, “No!” Luckily, he and his followers have plunged so far to the edge of the spectrum, it is a little easier for the population in general to see them as fringe and not encapsulating the philosophy of the church as a whole. But we are associated by the very fact that we both get our beliefs from the very same book. This will cause others to question the validity of our claims of a loving God.

I guess my main issue here is the extreme sadness I feel that these people are sullying the character of our loving, caring Father. Jesus, himself, ate with sinners and those who society had deemed outcast. He never confronted their behavior with pointed fingers and words of hate. He loved on them. God loves everyone. We are his children. If I, a very human, fallible mother, can be sad and disappointed in my children when they make poor decisions but still love them, how much more can a perfect, relational God be saddened by our folly and yet love us unconditionally and without fail?

The Westboro church believes that homosexuality should be outlawed and death should be its price. This is based on Mosaic law in Leviticus. I’m not going to comment on what I think of that doctrine except to point out this one thing. What did Jesus do in John 8 when the Pharisees brought an adulteress before him, stating that Mosaic law demanded stoning? He said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they had all left, Jesus said to the woman, “…neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” He didn’t condemn her. He showed her grace and mercy. I don’t have all the answers. I just take my cues from how Jesus walked and talked.

I just wish Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist church did the same.

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