21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool !' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
This week a hate group that markets itself as a Baptist church, ‘Westboro Baptist Church’ will be appearing in the state of RI at various sites including the State House, the Naval War College, Brown University, The Jewish Community Center and a couple of Temples in the state. You can find more information about this hate group at their website www.godhatesfags.com and the name of the website probably tells you all that you need to know about these folks. I thought for a moment I might quote them in this statement, but their words are so disgusting and evil that I couldn’t bring myself to even ‘cut and paste’ them.
Westboro Baptist Church first came to national consciousness as far as I know by picketing Matthew Shepherd’s funeral and then placing on their website a picture of Matthew Shepherd’s face bouncing on flames (suggesting his place in hell). The picket with a number of absurd and filthy signs such as; God Hates Fags, You’re Going to Hell, Fags Die God Laughs, Thank God for IED’s, Thank God for Dead Soldiers, etc. I think it is obvious, but still needs to be said, that these people do not speak with any authority on the Bible, the Christian faith, or for Baptists.
My first concern is primarily the people who will come into contact with these people and who are target of their hateful rhetoric. I am also concerned with the fact that they call themselves a Baptist church. In a state like RI, which is predominantly catholic, many of our neighbors do not understand the Baptist tradition. Many times I have had to explain to well-intentioned but uneducated Catholic neighbors that Baptists DO worship God, Do believe in Jesus, and are in fact the same religion as they are. Westoboro Baptist Church does not represent the Baptist tradition in any way shape or form. We believe in a God of love and that God made ‘himself’ known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, whose words in Matthew I quoted above. Jesus expected that the first mark of a Christian community would be speech that is loving and patient. People would know that we follow Jesus just by listening to us talk to one another, for our words and tone would be honest and true, but loving and intended to lift up. The members of Westoboro Baptist Church, in all of their Bible quoting, have read right past the essential building block of being Christ’s body on earth, speak with honesty and love. According to what Matthew wrote, in speaking this way, they are condemning themselves through their own condemnation. The Hell that they threaten is the Hell they themselves will receive through their own hurtful, hateful speech.
Let us be in prayer that God will protect all those who are attacked by these people, and use this opportunity to explain to our RI neighbors that Baptists, specifically Berean Baptist is a place where we talk about God’s love for all humanity.