By Beth Demme
I’ve heard a rising refrain lately about “ALL Muslims” this or that. I’m tempted to respond with two words the next time I hear it: Westboro Baptist.
Any time someone says ALL Muslims are the same, Christians should understand that’s like saying we are ALL like the members of Westboro Baptist Church.
Westboro Baptist is a “church” but it has also been called “the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.” Its website is GodHatesFags.com. (I don’t want to link to it. It’s too despicable. I’m sorry the words “God Hates” appear together on my website, even if it is just for reference purposes. And I would never use the F word to describe a human being.)
I can’t fathom how any modern organization can simultaneously be a Christian church and an active hate group. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars.… The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (1 John 4:20-21)
Westboro Baptist members picket at the funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty and other places they think they might get on TV. Westboro was most recently in the news for announcing plans to protest at the funerals for the victims in the Pulse massacre in Orlando.
The scariest, most upsetting, most jaw-dropping fact about Westboro Baptist is this: they actually believe they are spreading God’s truth.
Someone recently asked on Facebook why “The Baptist Church” hasn’t revoked WBC’s credentials. This seemed like a great question to me, until I realized there isn’t a governing body empowered to issue, or revoke, credentials in the Primitive Baptist Church. The PBC is separate from both the American Baptist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention.
You can read more about the Primitive Baptist Church here and here. In the meantime, here’s my two sentence summary: In the early 19th century, some Baptist churches began to introduce Missionary Societies, Sunday School programs, and Seminaries. The churches rejecting these reforms chose to be known as “Primitive” or “Old School” Baptists.
Having now read a lot of material published by various Primitive Baptist churches, I don’t think Westboro Baptist necessarily exemplifies every church in their connection? Denomination? Association? Coalition? Club? Group? But if the other Primitive Baptists wanted to dissociate themselves from WBC, they would have the same problem the rest of Christianity has: they claim to be part of us.
WBC does not exemplify, or even represent, Christianity. Yet, when ALL Christians are lumped together, we are associated with WBC and its hatred. Is it possible this is happening to Muslims, too?
WBC’s primary theological statements are: God Hates Fags and God Hates America (for not hating LGBTQ people). One section of their website is dedicated to “Bible Verses About the Hatred of God” which leads you, in part, to a 94-page manifesto titled, “God Loves Everyone, The Greatest Lie Ever Told.”
Yes, WBC preaches that “God Loves Everyone” is “The Greatest Lie Ever Told.”
They picket often, carrying signs saying God Is Your Enemy, Gays Eat Poop, Thank God for 9/11, God Hates Jews, and God Hates YOU. As one former church spokesperson, Megan Phelps-Roper, now says, they “have a view of humanity, most of it is worthless, entirely worthless and deserving of destruction.” This is not only sad, it makes a mockery of Jesus. Why would God seek relationship with humanity if most of us are worthless?
Some WBC members say they picket and spew hatred because they love our country, and they love gay people oh so much, they want to see repentance. “When you see someone is backing into traffic, you yell at them. You don’t mope around and say ‘it’s such a good idea.’”
But WBC’s actions aren’t about repentance, they are about unapologetic bigotry and hatred, two things antithetical to God.
In this video, a teenager from the church explains how they like to send letters to the families of deceased American soldiers. The letters don’t offer consolation. Instead, they tell the grieving family, “you angered the Lord your God and now He has cursed your family. There is no consolation.”
WBC criticizes funerals as opportunities for “worshipping the dead.” WBC members say they are God’s “evil angels,” not because they see themselves as evil, but because they are informing people God has evil in store for America.
According to their signs, “God is America’s Terrorist.”
To them, God is a terrorist who hates everyone. Well, almost everyone. As with most hate groups, they have selected themselves as the elect group with whom God is pleased.
Megan Phelps-Roper says her grandfather, founder of Westboro Baptist, “denounced other Christians so vehemently that when [she] was young she thought ‘Christian’ was another word for evil.”
I guess sometimes it is.
I know I don’t want to be lumped together with Christians who spew hatred and condone evil. That’s enough to make me wonder, is there a Muslim woman somewhere in the world today thinking the same thing about ISIL and the terrorists who have hijacked her religion?
What do you think? Are ALL Muslims evil? How do you dissociate yourself from Christian hatred? How do you reconcile “church” and “hate group”? Do you think God Loves Everyone is the Greatest Lie Ever Told? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
More Like This From Beth: