Signs

We’ve all heard the expression “God works in mysterious ways.” It occurred to me this evening we may be in the midst of one of those enigmatic phenomena without realizing it.

Without a doubt, the Westboro Baptist Church is one of the most hateful groups ever to call themselves “Christians”. In case you aren’t from the US, WBC is the so-called “church” that protests funerals of soldiers or other high profile individuals, like Elizabeth Edwards or Christina-Taylor Green, a nine-year-old girl who was killed when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot. One of them went on Fox News with Sean Hannity and explained why the Amish school girls deserved to die, and why they would protest at the funeral (they canceled). Here’s the transcriptMembers of this bizarre little cult sect religion (?) wave signs saying “God hates (homophobic slur)”, “pray for more dead soldiers”, “9-11 gift from God”, and “God hates the world.” Their website domain name? “GodHates(Homophobic Slur).com”. To put it bluntly, WBC is really just a inbred family who promotes hatred, and they are so far “out there” even the most bigoted of religious conservatives put distance between themselves and WBC. How you know it’s really bad? When even the freaking KKK decides to protest because they’re too extreme. No, really.  I’ll give you a minute to absorb that one, then come back.

They once protested in my town at a high school because a group of students had formed a prayer group in the front foyer of the school building. They were asked to find a different space because a) they were blocking the entrance to the school, and b) they hadn’t filled out the necessary paperwork to be considered an official “group” meeting on the campus. There had been a small kerfuffle and a little misunderstanding, but once everybody realized it was really just about following campus procedures – as everyone else is expected to – and not about preventing students from praying or practicing their faith, the group did what was asked, were officially recognized, and now have a nice little space in which to meet. WBC showed up two years later.

Remarkably, the WBC protests are finding they are not without counter-protests, which is where I think the wondrous mystery lies. People are coming out in droves to block WBC protesters from the view of the families who are mourning. Over 600 Texas A&M students, or Aggies, formed a “maroon wall”;  200 people showed up to block WBC at Elizabeth Edwards’s funeral; The Patriot Guard Riders is a group of motorcyclists (mostly veterans) formed specifically to show up and counter WBC on request of the mourning families; and (my favorite) roughly 300 people showed up dressed as zombies to block WBC’s protest at a soldier’s funeral at Lewis-McChord military base here in Washington state. The only problem I have with that one is I didn’t know about it in time to kill two birds with one stone – dressing like a zombie in public and protesting Westboro Baptist.

Before I go any further, I want to be crystal clear: I’m not in any way about to suggest it’s okay for WBC to be doing what they are. It’s absolutely vile, and while it may technically be free speech in this country, they will most certainly be held accountable for what they’ve done when they stand before the bar for judgement. Quite frankly, I think the WBC family are nothing but a bunch of narcissistic loser media whores. My prayer is that the love projected by the counter-protesters surrounds and embraces the grieving families, and completely overshadows and drowns out the noise of WBC. I also pray that counter-protesters will always remember why they’re doing what they are: shielding families so they can bury their loved ones in peace.

My point is that it seems as though by Westboro Baptist Church’s small handful of members showing up to spread a message of abject hate, hundreds of people are organizing to abate WBC’s evil with love. The wonderful part of it is, while I joke about dressing up like a zombie, it truly is a very serious matter, and every single person who turned out to protect those mourning families did it out of a profound sense of respect and love. I can’t think of anything more amazing. While I do not believe WBC was somehow sent by God to demonstrate the worst in us in order to draw out the best in us, I can’t help but wonder if we’re witnessing something of the Divine at work on the back end.  It’s almost ironic, isn’t it, to think the people who say God is using them to teach us a lesson might well be being used in that way, but the lesson is one of coming together to spread love and peace?

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