Monday, January 18, 2010

A Treatise on Westboro Baptist

The Westboro Baptist Church decided to come to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa this past week in order to protest the local theater's showing of "The Laramie Project". For those who aren't aware of the significance of either of those, "The Laramie Project" is the story of a homosexual guy who was murdered, allegedly for being gay, a few years ago. The WBC is a fringe church that believes that America is a nation of evil and preaches the news that God's wrath is coming and we will all die and burn in hell. They sport the infamous "God hates fags", "Fag Nation", "US Army = Fags" etc, posters to which they bring to their 'protests.' They often show up at funerals for homosexuals and soldiers to yell and condemn the "worshipers of the dead" attending the funeral.
So they picked my hometown theater as a destination for this week.

I was invited by two groups of people to go 'counter-protest' the WBC. The first was a group started by people from my high school who rallied hundreds to this protest. They wanted to show the WBC that they were not welcome here.
The second was from my youth pastor, who had a different approach. His reasoning for going to protest was that any inaction in response to the WBC's verbal attacks, especially on the part of Christians, would be showing a sense of tolerance for their actions and furthermore not supporting the understandable backlash from the community, and thereby allowing Christians to be grouped in with the WBC, which is unacceptable. He suggested we bring signs that say 'God is Love 1 John 4:8' to show a Christian doctrine in opposition to the WBC's presence and doctrinal fury. The result was very successful, especially in the mingling of both groups.

Before I continue, I highly, highly recommend that anyone who is anyone watch this video. It is a wonderful look into the WBC.

A lot of my analysis regarding the WBC and how to respond to it has been influenced by that video and will be the basis of the following points.

Bottom line up front: the WBC itself is the embodiment of hatred. Lesser things have been said to start large wars. They use ideology, and worse yet, the Bible, as a weapon. They are conditioned not to listen, not to think, not to respond and not to question. The more hated they are and the more opposition they get, the more motivated and successful they become. They are fueled completely by the reactions they receive. Their lives are based completely on advancing their blind purpose to spread the 'word of God'. No 'God is love' sign will ever cause even a second thought as to their actions, especially since they believe what they do is love.

The most important point I would like to stress about them though is that they are people. As much as we can dehumanize them and liken them to the ideology they stand for, they are still people made in God's image whom God loves more than the world hates them. Watching the above video shows a very interesting and disturbing glance into their lives, but it is easy to see that they are real people with real feelings. And people deserve love no matter who they are.

That being said, I have thus far been no less disgusted with America's response to their presence than I have with their fringe beliefs. They are called the 'Most Hated Family in America'...which is an ironic title, I think. We criticize them for their hateful messages and dish the hate right back and call it justified. The above video showed a scene of a car driving by and throwing trash at one of their children. We stand toe to toe with them on the protest lines, fighting fire with fire, and call ourselves righteous. Our beliefs are better than your beliefs and we will fight them to show it.

I opted not to go to the counter-protest for the above reasons. I will not stand toe to toe with a group of people who are completely desensitized to alternative ideas. I believe whole-heartedly that raising our heads and ignoring their messages from the beginning would have made the WBC a name that not even their neighbors would recognize. Their motivation is reaction, their finances from suing the people who attack them, and their success is based on how hated they are. If they had none of those things, they would be just another fringe group that has no real effect on the world around them. They would tire of holding their signs that no one reads and their voices will be hoarse from yelling at deafened ears. I like to think that if I meet one of their members in person, I would treat them no different than anyone else and in doing so, not be in conflict with them and maybe show some of God's love in a personal way.

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness" Romans 4:5

And just as a side, the WBC didn't follow through with their plans to come to Cedar Rapids.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Heart Abandoned

Some of you may know the song The Stand by Hillsong. "So I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the one who gave it all. I'll stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered. All I am is Yours."
This song entered my headphones as I wrestled with some complicated issues today. I wanted to know the real meaning of abandoning my heart, because, as we can all relate to, our hearts are always trying to do a lot.

Our hearts are the sources of our desires, our fears, our pain, our will, and we hold so many secrets in our hearts. Everyone has one of the above they don't share with people, out of fear at that, because of what other people might think. Other people won't understand. Unfortunately, this fear is very rational, as people never seem to do a good job of understanding.
Our hearts point us in all sorts of directions and rarely do we have the fortune of our hearts giving us one direction at a time. And often times, these directions are to places where we know we don't want to be.
But our hearts also love passionately. When we fall in love with something, nothing can take it away. What we love is the most important thing in our lives. Our love can lead us on noble and selfless ventures.

I asked myself this: How often does my heart really seek after God?
Somewhere between my love of music, fear of loneliness, pain of broken dreams, and my will to get what I set my eyes on, God gets shoved into a category infamously titled my "heart for God."
I desire so much for myself. I place boundaries on what I want to "honor" God, but is that what God wants for us? Are we doomed to live in a world of boundaries?
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of abandoning my heart is to forget about all the things my heart wants so it doesn't get in the way of my relationship with God.
I don't know about you, but I don't typically give things to people by locking them up somewhere we both can't get to. I don't think abandoning our hearts means hiding them.

Lets look at this from a different perspective.
God calls David a man after His own heart. That sentence seems to suggest that God has a heart of His own. If David's heart is like God's, lets look at David's heart.
David is clearly a very emotional character. In Psalm 22, David laments the agony and pain of being abandoned and lonely. In Psalm 109, David cries out to God to retaliate against his enemies. He begs to see justice served. The Psalms are full of David's emotions and desires, even when they desire vengeful, hurtful, and selfish things.
There is also a passage in Psalms that says "Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Some people think that means if you follow God, you will get what you want.
I would suggest otherwise. I would suggest that David is saying that God will give you specific desires when delighting in Him. That God's desires become your desires.
Wouldn't that mean abandoning our old desires? Wouldn't that mean that my heart's desires, because they can't co-exist with God's desires, need to be abandoned?
Wouldn't that mean that I need to abandon my heart so God can give me a heart that delights in Him?
Maybe I'm alone in this, but that doesn't seem possible. How can I delight so much in God that my desires all change, or are abandoned, so my desire for Him can be given to me? I don't want to stop loving some of the things of this world. Who really does? We all want things in this life.
Clearly, my desires are not things I have control over. But God does. And when I think about it, to desire what God wants for me sounds a lot better than what I want, even though I can't imagine anything better than what I want. I believe it though, so I pray that my desires be God's desires as I wait for God to help me abandon my heart to let Him transform me.
I hope this gave you something to think about, thanks for reading.