Protesting a Funeral

I accidentally stepped into the middle of a news story today. On my lunch break, I had an errand to run, and I drove down Franklin Rd. As I passed the Woodmont church, I saw about 200 people with flags. I figured it was possibly a homecoming of some kind. Come to find out, Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) was protesting at the funeral of a fallen soldier, and supporters had come to overshadow the protests. Click here for the local news story and video.

I have meant to write about this group before. They certainly elicit a reaction. Since I unknowingly witnessed the response to their protest, now is probably a good time to do so.

Let me start off with a brief, positive word. I appreciate the willingness to take a stand. Certainly the protesters encounter severe opposition, but they continue in their convictions. It is not often that sin is denounced in the world, and I would like to stand behind their message. I would like to, but I simply can’t. Despite what might be good intentions, their message is grossly misguided.

There is an element of truth in their message. God does hate sin. This country (and every country) needs to wake up and repent of their sins. Our relationship to God is something that we should take seriously. Judgment will indeed come, and we should do everything that we can to be ready when it comes.

WBC believes that God is punishing this country for their sins. If I understand them correctly, the deaths of soldiers serve as a sign of judgment against this nation for the sins of homosexuality, abortion and the like.

It is true that God can bring judgment against a nation. The OT testifies to God’s Sovereignty over world powers. God can humble the mighty nation as he chooses. But, it is presumptuous to speak with certainty about what serves as God’s judgment today. While it is God’s prerogative to test, discipline and punish individuals and nations, God will carry out his will in his own time. It would be foolish to suggest that we know with any degree of certainty that we know how, when and why God brings judgment today. We know that God is the judge, and that final and ultimate judgment will come, but beyond this is mere speculation.

Not only is the WBC teaching flawed, their method and manner are lacking. There are times for sharp rebukes, but there are also times for gentle and loving responses. There are times when people simply need compassion and care, especially in times of pain and sorrow. The WBC seems to intentionally use inflammatory signs to spread their message. Their approach tends to harden people rather than building relationships and opening hearts to hear a message.

So, as a Christian, what should my response be to this group of professing Christians who act in this way? My answer to that would be to practice what we preach. As much as possible, they should be treated with love and kindness. If we fault them for lacking love in their approach, it is hypocritical to respond to them in like kind. How you do that, I’m not sure. It does not demand that you allow them to run over you, but neither should you run over them. It starts with at least treating them like other human beings. Threats of violence and expressions of hatred toward them are unacceptable. Yes, they seem to beg for retaliation, but Christians cannot respond in such manner. Other than that, I am at a loss. I’m left shaking my head that this is an interpretation of Christ’s message, and I’m left praying to God in the midst of such a mess.

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3 Responses to Protesting a Funeral

  1. sheahenj says:

    Interesting. Kind of reminds me of WNBA players recent tweet about the Japan tsunami. “What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes,” No matter how much we want to try to decipher why things happen we just won’t know. We cannot assign specific interpretations to tragic events even if it does make us feel better. That is probably why people do this sort of thing. Something doesn’t make sense, such as the death of a solider or a destructive tornado, and we want to understand. So we quickly try to point the finger to make ourselves feel better. Too often that finger points people or even turns people away from God.

    • Jeremy says:

      Good points, Jonathan. It is true that we just don’t know. Another thought that occurred to me as I read your comment is that the finger pointing is almost always directed at others (at least as I have heard it used today). We rarely endure hardship and automatically assume God is punishing “us.” You don’t hear people who have a fire burn down their house or get into a fender bender argue that that was God’s judgment.

  2. Pingback: Top 11 Posts from 2011 | Theological Sweets

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