The members of the Westboro Baptist Church have been getting a lot of action lately. Their controversial picket themes, including the famous "God Hates Fags" campaign, have drawn crowds of counter-protestors at each stop along their seemingly endless picketing route. Their stops in Los Angeles included, of course, a visit to the Devil-sponsored 2010 Oscars, and upcoming tour dates include a visit at Virginia Tech next week, where they will lovingly let the students at VTU know that God sent the gunman who killed 33 students, faculty and staff and injured 25 more in 2007. You could say they aren't exactly popular.
There is almost nothing good to say about the WBC. They are bigoted, they are hateful, they are against everything our Constitution stands for (except perhaps free speech, which they enjoy quite fully), and their signs look like they were cut out of the side of a My Little Pony box. If it weren't for the dire state of religion in the modern world, I'd have nothing good to say about them. But they do have one thing going for them: they're honest.
They're honest about their Holy Book. They have read The Bible-- something it seems most modern Christians have not done. And they get it. While the Christians of 2010 sidestep what are clearly the main themes of that horrifying collection of stories to tell us that Jesus "loves" us, the WBC are clear on the message: God is a wrathful, vengeful, jealous God who is ready to throw us into the lake of fire. And to those who honestly think this volume is the Word of God, how can you look at the WBC and see anything other than a group of heroes? If God really does hate fags (and it's quite clear in the Bible that the punishment for homosexuality is death; see Leviticus 20:13), aren't the folks who are really trying to warn the gays of their eternal punishment deserving of praise, not disdain?
The ugly truth of believing in the Bible is that it is not a book of kindness and Good News any more than it is a book of hate and, well... really really bad news. It's quite easy to say that the overarching message is one of love-- of course you say that! It's the only way to market your product! No one is interested in a religion based on hate, unless you terrify them into it (and indeed, that seems to be the only way the WBC gains followers). So modern Christians try the next best thing-- they lie about their Holy Book. They say that God wrote it to tell us He loves us. Not that He wrote it to say we should kill wrongdoers (something repeated literally hundreds of times) or even that we should live lives of voluntary poverty (something Jesus talked about more than He talked about Heaven or Hell combined). No no-- Jesus' main message, and indeed, the message of the Bible as a whole, the Christians maintain, is one of love to our fellow human beings (something mentioned about forty times, as opposed to money, mentioned more than 800 times).
Well, it's a lie. And it's a sad lie. Because when Christians are able to drive this wedge in-- to pick out the nice, friendly parts of their text-- it means that they see through the fog of purported infallibility. They know that the only message worth spreading is one of reason, one of love. And so they puff up their little God to fit in that gaping hole left by the legacy of their faith over the years. If only Christians could take the next brave step and say, as Jesus did, that the legacy of their religion... is wrong. That it is based on lies, that the book it claims to honor is one that as often preaches hatred, fear and self-loathing as it does love or forgiveness. If they would go the next step, then they could disassociate themselves from the rhetoric of hate-mongers like Fred Phelps and his brainwashed family. But they cannot.
Because they claim to love and believe in a book that only upholds the claims of the Westboro Baptist Church.
The Bible can only be made to go against this kind of hateful activity-- the God Hates Fags protests, the picketing at funerals-- in the light of present day liberal philosophy, that forces us to look at verses like "Love one another," and say "My goodness... That can't mean stoning my daughter. That can't mean killing homosexuals. Or even thieves. My god, it can't even mean hating your mother and father, as Jesus taught." We've learned to move on from biblical teaching, but we have not learned to admit that we've moved on from the Bible.
When the Westboro Baptist Church makes its way to your hometown, Christians, stand up. Say "We will not take it! We will not take the sullying of our good name by this man, by this family, or by this book."
When the Westboro Baptist Church makes its way to your hometown, atheists, stand up. Say "We know you're honest. And we appreciate that you have the follow-through to be consistent with your beliefs. But your attitude isn't the only thing that's wrong here. So is your book."
The Bible isn't a decent moral guideline by the standards of a progressive society. If you hate the Westboro Baptist Church, ask yourself:
Do you hate them because they misread your Holy Book? Or because you're ashamed of what it says?