I hate these guys. I really do. The reaction I have to the Westboro Baptist Church is among the most visceral reactions I have to anything. I feel my heart rate climb, my blood pressure rise. It becomes harder to type without digging into the keyboard as my fingers attempt to punch their way through into some semblance of truth.
God, how I hate the way they portray my faith. How I rage against their narrow-mindedness, their intolerance, their limited vision. How they embarrass me and blaspheme the church. How I see them pervert and misquote Scripture. How they demean and blaspheme God, reducing God to a petty, hateful bigot—remaking God in their own image instead of the other way around. Would that I had the ability of Elijah to rain down fire and brimstone from heaven on that abominable fellowship, preventing them once and for all from twisting any more hearts with hate and bile.
Well, I am human, after all. I will feel what I feel. Little can be done about that, I suppose. Emotions cannot be chosen. That is an all too often experienced fact of our existence. We cannot choose what we feel. We can, however, choose how we will act.
Often overlooked in our religious conversation is the fact that love is not an emotion. Love is a behavior. It is a way of living. That’s a good thing—meaning that it is not outside the realm of our choosing. We can, in spite of how we might feel, choose to love. Somewhere deep down in my animal nature, I am not happy about that. But my higher nature calls me to something else. That much tarnished image of God with which I was made still has enough luster now and then to remind me of what I am called to do.
And so, I’ll love. It won’t be easy, but the Gospel rarely is. When the WBC shows up on campus (technically, on the sidewalk just off campus), I want to respond with love. Not by shouting slogans. Not by throwing things or hurling insults. But, maybe by bringing them some hot chocolate. Maybe offer them some donuts. Sing them some old hymns. Pray for them. Really, really pray for them.
Hate begets hate and anger begets anger. And from my observation that system has not served the world well. Let hate beget love; let charity be born in us, if it will not be given to us by those who hate. Let love win the day. It was martyred archbishop Oscar Romero who said it best:
Let us not tire of preaching love,
it is the force that will overcome the world.
Let us not tire of preaching love.
Though we see that waves of violence
succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love,
love must win out; it is the only thing that can.
Rev. Mark Schaefer
United Methodist Chaplain
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not necessarily the opinions of the AU United Methodist Community or The United Methodist Church.