Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I'ts Not What They Say, It's How They Say It

This article was originally published under a different title. I changed the title to avoid undue and unnecessary inferance.There have been protesters at several military funerals and memorial services in Colorado Springs, lately. They yell insults at the bereaved and call their departed loved ones names like “scumbags” and “fags.” They noisily wave placards reading “God hates America,” “God hates fags,” and “You are not blessed, you are cursed.” They are basically abusing their First Amendment rights to trespass on the First Amendment rights of others, and, if not causing physical harm, are causing emotional damage to others who are at their most vulnerable. These protesters aren’t only protesting the war, they are attacking those who gave their lives for the right to congregate and express their opinion.
Who are these protesters? Are they followers of Cindy Sheehan? Jihadic Islamist sympathizers? They call themselves the Westboro Baptist Church, from Topeka, Kansas. Their protests begain as demonstrations against homosexuals, but somehow spilled over to include the military. They claim to be people of Faith, but there is nothing in any Faith that I know of that justifies this kind of behavior. I am not questioning their faith--I believe that religion is a very personal element of a person’s life. It would be against my own beliefs to criticize them for theirs. But it is their behavior I find deplorable. They are not representing Christianity, as we have come to know it, they are practicing pure hate speech and promoting activities which go against Christian values.
Don’t expect these people to listen to you if you quote Scripture to them. Westboro Pastor Fred Phelps was recently confronted with “Judge not lest ye be judged,” and he responded angrily, saying “It is my job to judge.” Other times, as documented on local television stations, members of Westboro have responded to Bible readings by members of local churches, who have turned out to counter the Westboro demonstrations, by shouting them down and calling them “scumbags.” They appear to have put themselves above mainstream Christian protocols.
They have not broken any laws, and have not initiated physical force, and, as I have said before, they have every right to express their opinions in this country. But Freedom of Expression goes both ways, and the Westboro people should expect and respect counter demonstrations, if they wish to be treated with respect themselves. They should also respect the privacy of others, and not disrupt the aforementioned funerals and memorial services. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
Historically speaking, organizations such as the Westboro Baptist Church have come to a bad end. Since they have not done anything to encourage others to join them, they are essentially a closed religious fringe sect, similar to the Jonesian congregation in Guyana, or the Branch Davidians in Waco. Sadly, and frightening to me, the government may take violent action to “save” the Westboros from themselves.
Part of me is thinking “where is Janet Reno when you need her,” while the Spiritual part of me prays, “Lord, please bless these people that they may come to terms with their God, and that they may appease their anger. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I sincerely hope that my Spiritual side prevails.

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