Seems that, for a while now, the execrable outfit known as Westboro Baptist Church has been suffering the drip-drip-drip of catastrophe. This is actually a welcome development to those of us who aim to represent Christianity in a biblical manner.
Hey, I feel badly when any human being — including the Westboro Baptist (WBC) leadership — undergoes tragedy, loss, even mere heartache. Some of my fellow men, however, reach a place where their baleful behavior will brook no other retribution– Westboro Baptists, for instance.
It may surprise — even unnerve — some devout observers to learn there exist real Christians who’ll admit praying for God to do something about blasphemous, counterfeit disciples like the not-good WBC folk — to do something about them, whatever it takes. Sometimes cancer — whether of the literal or spiritual variety — has to be cut out, no other solution will do.
And it looks like a Holy God has been doing some surgery among WBC, lately,
This gaggle of pseudo-Christian mutants has made a crusade of defacing the reputation of Jesus Christ. Images of their picketing military, celebrity and high-profile funerals, brandishing their “God Hates Fags”, “Pray for More Dead Soldiers” and “Planes Crash/God Laughs” placards, have regularly scandalized decent people for a decade or so.
Four years ago, Libby Phelps-Alvarez, daughter of the weird and warped Fred Phelps, Jr. who founded the Topeka, KS abomination, left the church, eventually speaking out against it. Since then, Libby’s nieces Megan and Grace Phelps-Roeper have also broken with WBC; and most recently their brother Zach followed in their footsteps. Estimates are approximately twenty individuals recently have parted ways with the sect (most of them in their teens/early twenties). (The church allegedly comprised between 40-60 members, the majority of them related to the pastor.)
Just months ago, patriarch Phelps himself passed away. News of his demise was accompanied by reports of major rifts among church leaders (they’ve denied these claims).
The pain and damage visited upon society — and more grievously, upon authentic followers of Christ within society — by this awful bunch are legion. As mentioned, they distort into something nearly impossible to stomach the glorious Gospel message of the Hebrew/Christian Scriptures . Further, the often frazzle-headed statements by some former members — those who’ve abandoned WBC and are now denouncing it publicly — poison the well for believers who desire to communicate the restorative, life-transforming principles which Holy Writ actually offers.
Twenty-one-year-old Grace has confessed she now struggles with the concept of God Himself, no longer confident He exists. Big sister Megan and Phelps-Alvarez admit they no longer consider homosexuality a deal-breaker with Him. “I don’t really care if somebody is gay,” Libby insists.
Zach’s evolving, post-WBC convictions include a more theological bent: “I still believe I’m being led by my creator here. I’m just not sure what his name is.”.
The doubts and even repudiation of basic, biblical tenets by these traumatically wounded souls are easy to understand given the abusive nature of their religious background — understandable but hardly the preferred reaction to Westboro Baptist Church’s outrages. Challenging one cluster of deceptions with other, reactionary deceptions? Never an acceptable remedy.
Zach reveals some of his questions surfaced at age eighteen, when the concept of a God who punishes mankind began troubling him. “I viewed my creator as sadistic,” he says. Phelps-Alvarez similarly chimes-in: “the only way to get [her father and grandfather’s] love and affection was to talk about hell.”
Sick stuff, indeed.
The proper retort, even so, is not turning from God altogether, or suggesting a sin-hating Lord is peachy with — or apathetic toward — wickedness, that He will never come down hard on disobedience or that the doctrine of Hell should be shut away from polite discussion. Foundational, biblical revelation, incontestably, forswears all these alternatives.
Like a monstrously abused child maturing into a parent who rejects any disciplinary measures for her own children; like hysterical Progressives who apoplecticly dismiss any concerns about Communism or socialism because of the excesses of 1950’s, anti-communist “McCarthyism” — the answer for the grotesque and unbilbical extremism of the Westboro Baptist set is not misguided and unbiblical extremism of another stripe; the answer is scripturally-anchored truth.
Of course God judges sin — against rebellious individuals and froward nations. If the source called the Bible is to be acknowledged, the Creator takes very seriously the flouting of His superlative ways. He’s a God of wrath Who demands people honor His commandments – including about sexual matters.
But that’s not all He is.
I have to cringe when, occasionally, I hear well-meaning commentators exegetically, hermeneutically, philosophically or theologically contort themselves into ducking a biblically un-duckable conclusion: a righteous, divine Law-Giver takes roaring offense at evil and, eventually, will take forceful steps against it. When the malignant insubordination of men or civilizations reaches a certain, intolerable peak? The King of the Universe isn’t timid about dealing harshly with it. One could convincingly argue, in fact, God’s judgment is a commanding meta-theme of Scripture.
Yet — it’s not the only theme. Plainly, judgment isn’t all God is about. There’s that whole mercy-and-forgiveness, God-sending-His-Only-Begotten-Son-to Die-for-Lost-Humanity thing, y’know. That’s gotta count for something.
In our present, antinomian era, it’s a great deal more common running into easy-come-easy-go types whose notion of Jesus rarely strays beyond the Welcomer-of-little-children who firmly enjoined listeners to “judge not”. (Every unbelievers favorite scripture verse.) On the other hand, it appears Westboro Baptists have never noticed that Book they claim to revere does portray a “Prince of Peace” of unrivaled kindness and tenderness; hardly a one-track rebuker of men, but also their spellbinding Comforter and Healer.
The remedy for delusions like those hawked by Phelps and friends is not to lop-off entire aspects of God’s boundless character, fixating only on others. Rather, it’s to harmoniously present all that is revealed about Him: the inspiring, exciting; the sobering, challenging, overwhelming.
It’s bad enough WBC’s victims/ex-members have been left hobbled in their personal ability to see God and His perspectives clearly. As they go on the record with their confused reflections, they’re also murking-up the waters for others who might be searching for truth.
I have no intention of ditching my Savior because a gaggle of wild-eyes nitwits poach His name and paste it over their deformed agenda. Other folks, however? Skeptics, seekers, spiritual strugglers? Or those quail-hearted personalities aching for an excuse to pay sentimental lip-service to “faith” while never staking out positions on any controversial moral issues? They might be more susceptible to such unfortunate influences, ultimately formulating their own lop-sided caricature of God and His wisdom because what they’ve heard of Him has come from Westboro Baptist heretics; or from those who’ve left WBC but, heinously mangled emotionally and spiritually by their ordeal, remain discombobulated. And that’s the worst thing of all.
More than anything, Libby Phelps-Alvarez, et al, need to be taken under-wing by a caring, patient band of proven Christians –those who’ll love and guide them toward encountering the God of Whom the Scriptures actually speak. They obviously didn’t see much of Him in their erstwhile church setting, but it’s hardly too late for them to discover Him in Spirit and truth. And then proclaim Him to others: A God Who hates sin but values people; pure, perfect, transcendent, but also a Redeemer; certainly no gleeful ghoul.
Nothing, in other words, like the crew over at Westboro Baptist Church.
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