The folks from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka KS are coming to Richmond this Sunday. They will bring their message of “God Hates Fags” . . . . and Jews and Muslims and Catholics . . . . and families of dead soldiers . . . . and now Protestant churches.
Three churches in Richmond–West End Assembly of God, St. Paul’s Baptist Church, and Trinity Baptist Church–are on their picket schedule. I wrote to the pastors of these churches, expressing sympathy and support. Two of them responded, thanking me. One wrote that he considered it sort of “a badge of honor–to be targeted by the Westboro hate group for preaching the offensive message that ‘God loves everyone.’”
The churches are planning no direct response; they will simply go and come from worship, studiously ignoring the hate, focusing on God’s love. The response is understandable. I, for one, will honor their plan. I encourage others to do so.
And yet, clearly our community is being invaded by people who, for reasons I do not understand at all, believe–BELIEVE–that God is a God of hate, retribution, and violence. It feels like a violation of everyone in Richmond.
Their planned picket of VCU has been replaced by a debate between their attorney (and member) and a local attorney. Their topic: the case currently before the Supreme Court about WBC’s constitutional right to picket military funerals. The event is at VCU, 4:00 – 5:30 pm. More details are at http://www.firstfreedom.org/
Legal and constitutional questions are important in our life together. But so are moral and spiritual concerns. Which is why I pray for the well-being of the Rev. Fred Phelps and the members of Westboro Baptist Church.
Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline is President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, an interfaith organization of gay and straight clergy and lay people working for equality for LGBT Virginians. Read more of his thoughts on faith and spirituality on his personal blog.