What Can Christian Conservatives Learn From Westboro Baptist?

What Can Christian Conservatives Learn From Westboro Baptist? July 19, 2012

I don’t know if any of you follow the Stuff Christians Like blog, but it’s a site I can sometimes get into for light reading and some genuinely funny Christian satire. The proprietor, Jon Acuff, is sort of like a Mark Lowry for young evangelicals. One thing I like about Jon’s style is that he more or less avoids writing on politics and sticks with non-controversial topics everyone can laugh about. However, judging by who he hangs out with and counts among his friends (Rachel Held Evans, Jesus Needs New PR and co.), I’ve suspected that he’s a useful idiot for the left.

My suspicion was confirmed recently when Jon made a few posts about the fact that the Westboro Baptist crowd decided to picket his church, Crosspoint, this week. Although I can’t find a page for the church that states clearly what their policies are with regard to homosexuality, I gather they’re “seeker-friendly,” and according to a statement from the pastor, Westboro “disagrees with their approach to handling sin.” We can fill in the rest. Jon’s own thoughts were fairly mild-mannered (he’s a mild-mannered guy), but the comments threads were revealing. Some of his readers were saying outright that they didn’t even think homosexuality was sinful.
One reader provided a link to the WBC website, so I amusedly decided to take a glance at it.
What I found was bizarre. Sometimes it was unintentionally funny. More than anything, it gave me acute political and religious whiplash.
Here’s the thing: I think most or all of us can agree that anyone who would proudly display a sign saying “Thank God for dead soldiers” is more than a little crazy, yes? Same for someone who would post in large letters on their site “God hates Jews.” And even though I think we should exercise more caution when approaching this issue, we can agree that even saying “God hates fags” is offensive and unhelpful.
Also (and WBC specifically doesn’t have anything on this but I’m thinking of similar sites in that niche), I think most or all of us can agree that anyone who would say Michael W. Smith uses Satanic runes or that we should all burn our copies of Star Wars is more than a little crazy.
But at the same time, we need to be willing to concede areas where the WBC types might actually be onto something. I found whole pages on their site devoted to mainstream media, movies, music etc. that made some legitimate points. The fact is, much of that stuff really IS of the devil. They called Lady Gaga “one of Satan’s favorite daughters.” You know what, I can totally buy that when we’re talking about Lady Gaga.
To give another example, WBC is part of this niche group that claims Obama is the Anti-Christ. I think that’s hyper-exaggerated and false. But I feel no qualms about saying that he’s an evil man, and I feel no qualms about describing the Democratic party as the party of death and filth.
Let me try to sum up what I’m getting at in a nutshell: If you take WBC and their ilk and remove the wildly uncontrolled rhetoric, bizarre exaggerations, and general lack of gray matter while keeping the fearlessness, the refusal to have hang-ups about “demonizing the enemy” when it comes to politics and entertainment, and the contentment to be considered weird and out-of-touch with the culture, I think you’ve got something I can actually get on board with. In fact, that’s a pretty good description of me and my approach to culture.
Now I know that may be taken the wrong way, and I’m prepared to elaborate further in the comments. But if you’re reading this as a deeply committed Christian conservative like myself, I think and hope you’ll see what I mean if you take a few moments to let it sink in.
As a little post-script, people like to foam at the mouth about how hateful the WBC bunch are, but I submit to you this little comment from a reader on the SCL blog. Which generated 87 likes, I might add:
When I’m sad, I imagine that the WBC bunch gets run over by a military convoy followed by a gay pride parade, so all that’s left is goo and glitter. Then I’m not sad anymore.
Raindrops on roses, etc.?
Let the debating begin. Remember to mind your manners.
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