Jumbo Shrimp and Christian Hate Mongers

It would seem that the latest assault of organized hatred on our hometown has subsided, at least for the time being. In case you missed it, just last week several members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka brought their hate-filled placards and rhetoric to three locations in Columbia, hoping to make clear their theological position on the horrific Kahler tragedy: “God sent the killer.”

With their deplorable, in-your-face approach to “evangelism,” I am left to wonder…what are we, as Bible-believing Christians, supposed to do when confronted with misguided, clearly-evil actions like this within our own, still-mourning community?

Loudly protesting that these extremists represent neither an accurate gospel message (Ephesians 4:18) nor the boundless love the Lord Jesus Christ has for sinners (Romans 5:8) is a little bit like handing your 12-year-old a BB gun and asking him if he can hit the big red barn ten feet away. It’s blazingly obvious to just about anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Jesus of the Bible that these folks are not speaking for Him (2 Peter 3:9; Luke 13:34); even those who have an inaccurate view of Him – perhaps believing Him to be “just a great moral teacher” – can immediately see how antithetical to Jesus these folks are and how sharply they contradict His teachings (Matthew 22:36-40; 1 John 4:7-11).
Being fairly certain that no one is the least bit fooled by Westboro’s appalling message of hate, I am tempted to ignore them completely.

That’s probably the right answer, since it would seem that these misguided folks feed on negative media attention and the horrible frenzy of shouting matches that seem to accompany them wherever they go. Sadly, for me, ignoring them ceased to be a viable option when two of my daughters came home from Rock Bridge High School with questions and comments that made it clear that they were at least “mildly unsettled” to see the name of Jesus Christ so publicly profaned right in front of Rock Bridge (the same school the Kahler girls attended). To say nothing, then, seems like a betrayal.

Thankfully, my daughters are both whip-smart and know their Bibles; neither one of them missed a beat in dismissing these messages of hate, nor were either of them concerned for a millisecond that maybe, just maybe, these picketers had some profound theological insight that the rest of the Christian community had somehow missed. I think, rather, that all of us were greatly dismayed to see the name of Jesus Christ used in such an offensive manner, particularly as we consider those in our midst whom we love but who do not yet know our Lord. Leading anyone to Christ is hard enough as it is…how much harder to stay in dialogue with a friend or co-worker who has sincere questions about the Christian faith when they are exposed to people shouting “God hates fags?” For the record – in case there’s any confusion on this point – no, He doesn’t. (1 John 4:20-21)

So this is not an academic question at all. The true Christian response to the presence of misguided hate mongers in our hometown is being observed by a watching world. Our response must be spot-on and completely consistent with Scripture…all of Scripture, not just a few carefully-selected verses. Our own children are understandably curious to see how those of us who claim to love Jesus are going to deal with something awful like this in our midst. Are we going to come out firing from the hip, denouncing the picketers with an equal amount of fury and vitriol…or are we instead going to stop, pray, and ponder how our Lord would have us act when we believe His name is being horribly, unspeakably profaned?

My own personal temperament tends to be a bit too much like the Apostle Peter’s; when they come to arrest my Lord with clubs and torches, my gut-level response would be to pull out a sword and cut off the ear of Malchus as well (John 18:10-11). I love Peter; we Christians are indebted to him for so much, not the least of which is providing all of Christendom with an object lesson in what Jesus very clearly does not want us to do when attacked.

So how, then, do we respond?

One immediate answer, of course, is to pray earnestly for the surviving members of the Kahler family, for their relatives, for their extended families and for everyone whose life has been irreversibly scarred by sudden, violent death. My prayer for all concerned would be that this senseless tragedy would (somehow) serve to bring many closer to God, that broken hearts would survive the unimaginable pain of this loss and that they would be strengthened and comforted. In short, I think one response our Lord always welcomes is for us to lift up the suffering of others in our prayers and petitions and ask Him to pour out His Spirit on their lives.

Along the same lines, I wonder if our own hearts are large enough to accommodate praying also for those in the church, like the Westboro folks, who have been deceived into thinking that they alone possess salvation and “hidden truths” of Scripture, when in fact what they have taken hold of is the all-too-common “gospel” of Hating Anyone Who is Not Exactly Like Us. If we are honest, we know plenty of people who profess to be Christians and yet hold on to their hatred for this particular person or that specific group of people. If I am honest, there are days when it crushes me to admit that I, too, am prone to being “one of those people.”

So the second answer, perhaps, is to spend a little more time than usual examining ourselves to find out how we, too, are profaning the name of our Lord. The Apostle Paul assures us over and over again that we are indeed sinning against Christ every single day (Romans 3:10-18, 3:23, and 7:14-24), though many of us are deceptively lulled into thinking that we are sinning against Him in “acceptable” (!) ways; this allows us to comfortably point fingers at the virulent racists, the serial adulterers and the gay-bashers while not feeling quite so condemned ourselves. An offhand remark that belittles the achievements of a rival co-worker seems so much more tolerable than hurling vicious invectives at others and carrying placards splattered with blood-red paint, doesn’t it?

Well, no. It’s all sin, and it’s all an offense to God.

And all of it will be dealt with, Scripture assures us, either in hell or at the foot of the cross (Matthew 25:31-46). As we draw nearer to Christ, may our hearts be so thoroughly transformed that we are able to pray sincerely for everyone involved in this horrible tragedy, including the hearts of those who would twist the truths of Scripture beyond recognition so they line up with their own personal hatreds and prejudice.

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but whenever I read Matthew 7:22-23 and get to the part where Jesus looks at those who thought they were living their lives for His glory – only to find out that He never knew them – it scares the heck out of me. Perhaps to reassure myself, I am tempted to toss the “Christian hate mongers” (how’s that for a contradiction in terms?) into the fiery pit opening up underneath these words of Jesus and reassure myself that what the Lord says here doesn’t apply to me, or to most believers that I associate with.

Or does it?

Just how hard am I praying for the survivors of this unspeakable horror…or for the misguided hate mongers who cruelly mock them, for that matter? (Galatians 5:6)

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>