The folks at Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, reared their controversial heads by picketing another funeral; this time it was for Elizabeth Edwards, the cancer sticken wife of former Presidential hopeful, John Edwards.
They held up large signs stating, "Thank God for Breast Cancer", and "Elizabeth Edwards is in Hell." Their indictment of Mrs. Edwards revolves around her denial of the sovereignty of God on various talk shows after her son, Wade, was killed in a car accident in 1996. She also 'meddled in matters of the womb' by having infertility treatments which has resulted in two additional children, 'now motherless.'
This congregation, led by founder and minister, Fred Phelps, is mostly known for their very outspoken condemnation of homosexuality which they feel is beginning to bring down God's judgment on America. They regularly picket gay/lesbian parades and other events with signs stating, "Fags Burn In Hell," "Thank God for AIDS," "Fags Doom Nations" and "God Hates America" among other sentiments.
When asked by a documentary film maker if their outspoken protests wouldn't tend to drive people away from God and the Bible, Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Fred Phelps, stated, "You think our job is to win souls to Christ. All we do, by getting in their face and putting these signs in front of them and these words, is make what's already in their heart come out of their mouth."
Having heard of these protests for a few years now, I went to their website and carefully considered the Biblical justification for their views and came away with a disturbing conclusion. In many ways, they are correct.
BUT, according to that same Bible, their methods of communicating their message are wildly inappropriate and are actually doing great damage to the gospel of the Savior and God they serve. Let me try to explain why these folks are using such incredibly offensive messages to get their point across.
As recently as 30 or so years ago, pastors in most American Protestant churches that emphasized the infallibility and authority of the Scriptures, were not at all shy about preaching the fact that God is absolutely Holy and hates all manner of sin. The need for salvation through the sacrificial blood of Jesus and the warning that sinners repent or face the consequences of hell was a regular topic of sermons all over this country and no one even blinked an eye.
In subsequent years, America has taken a nose dive morally. When I was in high school in the early 1980's, you never heard any of the kids talking about homosexuality. Ever. It was a shameful, taboo subject and you would be inviting harsh ridicule for bringing up the issue.
Now, high school and even middle school kids openly talk about how they like to experiment with their sexuality by being in bisexual relationships. High school girls are now almost expected to make out with each other at parties to be considered cool and entertain their boyfriends.
In many of our mainstream and mega churches, our congregations are full of political correctness with pews full of "seekers." It seems that everyone who goes to church and is a "good person" will automatically go to heaven especially if they volunteer for the yearly food drive. Our preachers are obsessed with helping their flock to prosper and live highly effective lives, free from condemnation or Godly accountability.
They preach a wimpy Jesus who went around teaching nothing but love and not judging others, rather than the whole truth. Yes, Jesus did indeed preach about loving your neighbor but few church goers today bother to actually read the Bible to see what else He had to say.
Christ spoke more of hell than He did heaven. He was very harsh when exposing the hypocrisy of the religious rulers of His day, and He had no problem proclaiming sin to be unacceptable to God. He made sure to emphasize that those who chose to continue living sinful lives would not see heaven. Period.
This is what the Westboro Baptist Church is trying to convey with their in your face messages. They want to make sure everyone understands how much God hates sin and will most certainly judge the unrepentant. The Lord clearly states in His word that homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, stealing, lying, etc. are abhorrent to Him. Those things always have been and the passage of time and political correctness has not changed His mind.
Today, as never before, millions of so-called Christians would rather bow to the god of the "good life" and convince themselves that the grandfatherly god they have fashioned in their minds will just wink and excuse their sins. Hate to pop their bubble but it matters not to God Almighty whether anyone is offended at the truth.
There are several doctrinal issues I have with the Westboro church. Of course the major one is the method they use to get their message heard. As Christ's ambassadors to this dark world, we are commanded to "speak the truth in love." Titus 3:2 (NIV) states we are to "slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men." 1 Timothy 6:11 says, "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." Somehow the folks at Westboro must have overlooked these instructions.
There is nothing improper about telling others about the gospel and their need for salvation. It is actually a loving thing to gently but earnestly inform the lost that they desperately need to turn from their wicked ways and accept the pardon Jesus bled and died to provide for them. But to use abrasive, disrespectful messages and to deliberately try to offend, shock and usurp God's place to judge they are, themselves, disobeying the Bible's clear commands of how to treat others. These people are not even trying to draw others to Christ! This is not how Jesus got his message across. He could be rather blunt but he was never rude.
I shudder to think of what God might one day say to the members of Westboro Baptist regarding the destructive way they have represented His name. How awful it would be to hear Him speak the words of Matthew 7:21, 23, when Jesus told his disciples, "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven." "Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Wake up Westboro Baptist Church. We recognize you by your fruit and it is stinky and rotten!
Donna Wasson is all of the following: Married. Mom. Hospice RN. Avid reader. Animal lover. Needing to spread the Gospel while there is still time.
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