Warning: this article from CNN will probably raise your blood pressure. It reports on the Westboro Baptist Church’s announcement that it will picket the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old who was among six people killed during Saturday’s attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
By now, it shouldn’t surprise us that Fred Phelps’ notorious group would insert itself into this most terrible tragedy. They’ve already made their mark at countless funerals for military officers and people who died from AIDS. As always, they claim that these losses of life are a punishment from God for our country’s “tolerance of homosexuality.” In their statement re: the Arizona shootings, they proclaim, “God sent the shooter! Praise God for ALL his works, and BE YE THANKFUL!”
I do think that God’s Spirit is at work in Westboro Baptist Church—but not even remotely in the way they assume. God’s Spirit manifests in the outraged but non-violent response that almost always greets them—for communities rarely abide their presence. From Angel Action to Hell’s Angels biker gangs, many concerned citizens show up to contain and peacefully overwhelm Westboro’s hateful message. And I am indeed thankful.
There has been a lot of talk lately around the vitriolic political discourse in this country. Do words have consequences? Yes. One need only consider the actions of the Westboro church, and virtually everyone’s profound disgust with them. Words are so very powerful. And when words are used hatefully, it’s like a terrible perversion of the prologue of John’s Gospel, which celebrates the Word made flesh.
I pray that our country finds a way to embody the word of peace.