The folks at Westboro Baptist think I’m going to hell, and I’m OK with that. This is simply based on my membership in the Satanic cult known as the Roman Catholic Church, but they could probably find another reason to predict my eternal damnation if they knew anything about me.
They are in the news again this week, picketing funerals and otherwise being hideous. I think I am supposed to be shocked by their behavior, but I’m not. I would be shocked if they weren’t behaving like this.
No one expects this particular cult to demonstrate any of the charity or love that characterize the best in Christianity. Certainly no one expects them to be models of ecumenism or interreligious dialogue. Their version of “loving thy neighbor” is “letting thy neighbor know that he is in danger of eternal hellfire in the most noxious possible way”. I am literally never surprised when they take an opportunity to fill their self-appointed role as prophets of God’s hate.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth giving them the publicity they get. It seems as if that is just feeding the beast. What good does it do us? It makes us feel good about not being like them, it gives us that delightful tingle of indignation, but does it do anything to bring light to the darkness they proclaim?
To put it another way, is their hate speech news? Or is it just more of the same?
I remember the first time I was made aware of them, when someone had told me about their website with a web address too vulgar for me to share. I went to the website because I didn’t believe what I was hearing.
Immediately I burst into tears. I was 18, a freshman in college, and felt as if I had been slapped by hatred. That such cruelty existed in the world was beyond belief.
And now I wish they’d stop getting so much attention. Is it just that I’m jaded now? Is it right for me to want to rob someone of the visceral reaction to hate that can galvanize us for love?
What do you think? Should we stop paying attention to Westboro Baptist, or does paying attention to them serve a purpose?