Normally, I don’t comment much on controversial news items, but after watching the 11 o’clock news on Friday night, I couldn’t help myself. It seems that Uxbridge Secondary School is staging several performances of “The Laramie Project”, a theatrical presentation that decries the senseless death of Mathew Shepard, a young man who was killed in Laramie, Wyoming, some ten years ago simply because he professed to be homosexual in orientation. The production (which I have not seen) seeks to discourage people from hating others, particularly based on their sexual orientation.
This would not be newsworthy in Canada, except that the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, made (in)famous by its outspoken pastor, Fred Phelps, has decided to do a little cross-border picketing: according to this proclamation, people from this rather unique congregation are ferrying themselves into rural Ontario from the Breadbasket of the Midwest to tell the people of Uxbridge that they are on their way to hell (in a breadbasket, perhaps?!) because of the staging of “The Laramie Project” at Uxbridge Secondary School.
Now, I don’t happen to believe that, according to Scripture, it is God’s will for a person to live a homosexual lifestyle. However, I also don’t happen to believe that Westboro Baptist Church’s approach to discouraging such a lifestyle choice is in any way helpful or even godly. If anything, saying that “God hates fags” – and by association that “God hates the Uxbridge Secondary School” – is among the most ungodly things one could ever say. It is presumptuous to believe that one has such a firm grasp on the will of God that one could aver that God “hates” anyone, or anything except sin! To tell the people of Uxbridge – a community that I know has a large number of exceptionally mature followers of Christ – that they are on their way to hell simply because their high school wants to discourage hatred is beyond comprehension.
God loves all people – even those who engage in intentional sin, whatever that sin may be; God so loves us that he yearns to see us grow out of intentional sin. Jesus died for all who sin – people like me. The Holy Spirit leaves open the door that Westboro Baptist Church has sought to shut tight. Any repentant sinner is welcomed into the family of faith when she or he chooses to trust Jesus as Saviour and Lord and seeks to walk in a way that pleases God. To engage in the degree of vitriol and rhetoric that Westboro Baptist Church does actually discourages people who may consider turning away from an ungodly lifestyle. In short, the kind of actions shown by Westboro Baptist Church are, in my opinion, intentionally seeking to thwart the work of the Spirit in bringing about genuine conversion, and attempting to portray to people something the Bible does not: that one sin is worse than another.
The glorification of the homosexual lifestyle and any attempt to make it appear acceptable from a biblical standpoint are likewise not helpful to the cause of the gospel. Deception in one direction is no better than deception in another! But, if I read Scripture correctly, the language of love is much more likely to convince us of our sinfulness, and lead us into a relationship with our Creator, than the language of hate.
Mr. Phelps, and Westboro Baptist Church, you are not helping build the church of Jesus Christ. You are turning people away from it. May God have more mercy on you than you expect he will have on those who disagree with you!
And to the people of Uxbridge, and the students at USS: please know that Westboro Baptist Church does not speak for the church universal. Christians don’t all agree on the issue of sexual orientation, but those who truly follow Jesus do agree that God loves all people and that he longs to have a personal relationship with each of us through Jesus – a relationship that changes us from the inside out, making us more like Jesus with every breath we take and every step we make.