I winced when I heard that members of the Westboro Baptist Church were coming to town. I wince as a Christian because while some of the things they say are true; however, there is a whole lot that they say that is false. As a retired military man, I wince because they disrupt military burials.
One of the major fallouts of the Reformation and Enlightenment movements was the idea that a person can intelligently interpret the Bible as he or she sees fit: Everyone is entitled to form their own opinion of what the Scripture does or does not say. With this freedom both good and evil can be done in name of God, and there is no church, agency or individual that can correct false doctrines or beliefs, or control cultic activity. In America, we must allow cults, bigots and/or fanatics to express themselves because of their Constitutional privileges: And none of us would have it any other way.
Actually, the Westboro Church is not a cult but is a sect - a small group that is an offshoot of an established religion. Westboro claims the name Baptist and one would assume that they adhere to some Baptist doctrine. However, if you check their Web sites you find a number of novel concepts that set them apart from "normal" Baptist doctrine.
One example: they believe they must fight God's war on evil. Now, God needs no man to fight evil in this world. God is more than capable of winning His own fights. In fact, I get the feeling that God and Jesus would just as soon we stay out of the way, because I don't remember Jesus calling me to be a member of God's Army, nor do I remember answering a want-ad for employment; i.e. to "do something for Him."
The Bible says that man is full of "every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity," and the U.S., like every other country in the world, suffers the same moral problems. But nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to get in a sinner's face and scream and shout at them about their "evil" ways. Christians don't have to condemn others over their sins; that's God's job, and Christians only get to watch.
Privately, we are to hate evil; cling to what is good; seek no vengeance; to live in harmony with each other; love our neighbors as our selves; and not follow in the same, immoral ways of the world.
Still, we do have a question of how to respond to the Westboro Church faction, and I don't think that is so terribly complicated. Demonstrations at funerals violate federal law. So catch them, fine them and turn them loose. You don't have to watch or listen to them - most communication systems have an "on and off" switch, so use it. If they get in your face, pardon them for their ignorance and turn your backs on them.
In Augusta, you could always use The Chronicle's "Rants and Raves" or the Metro Spirit's "Whine Line" - which, by giving us the opinions of the populace, keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.
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