Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are coming to town today. They’re protesting at the base because of the young pregnant Marine, Corporal Maria Lauterbach, who was found murdered here recently.
What one has to do with the other, who knows? I don’t.
I had intended to go down and take some pictures, mostly out of morbid curiosity but also for future Photoshop enabled ridicule and humor value. Of course, with Phreaky Phred et. al. Photoshop would almost be superfluous. Whatever, that’s neither here nor there really.
Yesterday’s column by Timmi Toler had me thinking twice for a while. She advocated ignoring them completely, thus removing their only real power. It’s true that they are little more than attention seekers with a message of hate, and it’s true that without attention they would probably just fade away, and deservedly so.
But after thinking about it, here’s my problem with that strategy. Phelps is just a less publicly palatable version of Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney or any one of a number of very prominent Christians. Removing Phelps from the public view is akin to locking up crazy old Uncle Joe in the closet so he’ll stop telling the family secrets to dinner guests. It doesn’t really do anything to cure the family disfunction.
My response, which can also be found here on Timmi’s blog where she reposts her columns (highly recommended blog, btw), is below the fold.
Timmi, I appreciated this column a great deal, and have been turning its premise over since it went up.
I find it interesting that there is such a strong response here in Jacksonville to this protest. As far as I can tell, the uproar is directed only at the idea that these people will be directing their protest at the base, and a quick look through the letters to the editor on the Daily News’ site, and the comments at the ENC Forums seems to be reflective of what I’ve heard in the community at large.
So for the most part, it’s not the message of hate and bile with which Christians here disagree, it’s the choice of venue. These folks are the very public face and voice of Christianity. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, the late Jerry Falwell, the preachers in Jacksonville’s pulpits: these people are just more polite when they deliver the exact same message, yet they have the undying loyalty of a very large percentage of Christians in America.
Until Christians like you take that voice away, the message is quite clear: Christians hate “the other’, be they “fags”, atheists, or even Christians who don’t support tearing down the Constitution in favor of the Bible, and anyone who disagrees with them deserves to be tortured for eternity. This is not a message of love, no matter who says it or how they say it.
It’s distubing enough that this attitude is seen as acceptable in public discourse, but it is being condoned by people with credible opportunities to be in a position with enough power to bring about the legislation of it.
Sweeping Phelps under the carpet and ignoring him, or even standing against him just because he chooses to spread his hate at Camp Lejeune will not return that voice to you. It is the message, coming from more refined and successful hate mongers, that needs to be marginalized and denounced. It is their power that threatens not only me, but also you, and dressing their excrement up in a three piece suit and putting it in a church or on a campaign trail makes it no less so.
When no Christians stand and protest against Phelps and he fades into this afternoon’s sunset, it won’t make his ideas go away, it will just make them more comfortable to support in his more genteel brethren.
I would encourage Christians to attend Phelps’ rally and say, “No. You do not speak for me.” Say it today to Phelps. Say it tomorrow in church. Say it loudly over and over until the voice of Christianity is no longer one of hate and division, but one of love and inclusion.
Until then, Phelps has your voice, and Phelps has the mike.
From whence came the art:
That photograph is titled Westboro Baptist Church at the Billy Graham Crusade, 2, by RSEanes.