By Scott Tibbs.
Published by the Herald-Times, December 12, 2005.
This area saw two rabidly anti-homosexual protests within the last few months. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church came to Martinsville to protest the funeral of an American soldier who (try to follow this logic) died in Iraq as God's judgment on a nation that harbors homosexuals. Later, the folks from the Old Paths Baptist Church in Campbellsburg came to Bloomington to protest a business owned by an openly homosexual man and burned a "new glory" flag. (The flag replaces the traditional colors on the American flag with rainbow colors.)
In response to WBC's protest, State Sen. Brent Steele advocated legislation to more harshly punish disorderly conduct at military funerals. Steele was criticized for not including all funerals, and promised to introduce a bill to do just that in the next legislative session.
It seems that WBC needed attention, and picketing funerals of homosexuals (as they did in 1998 with Matthew Shepard) was not getting the attention it used to. I question how much Phelps and his followers (or the Campbellsburg folks for that matter) believe their own rhetoric, and how much their protests represent a desire to get attention.
Both WBC and OPBC take an un-biblical approach to their protests. WBC's Web site indicates a very works-based approach to salvation. WBC claims that Reggie White and Ronald Reagan are both in hell for not speaking out against homosexuality. Keep in mind that White was an active supporter of ministries for people trying to leave homosexuality. Does WBC believe that the blood of Jesus Christ is not enough to atone for sin, and that human beings must augment Christ's death on the cross?
WBC and OPBC both claim to warn people of their sin, but go about it in a very prideful way, proclaiming their own righteousness while condemning homosexuality. They are not much different from the Pharisees who Jesus strongly rebuked.
Theological differences aside, there are two things that we should conclude about the twin protests. First, while picketing funerals is reprehensible, WBC is acting within their First Amendment rights. I question the need to pass yet another law specifically to deal with this protest. If those picketing funerals break the law, they should be punished to the fullest extent of existing law, but do we need government to step in with more laws? Is not the whole point of free speech protecting speech that most people find universally repulsive?
Second, while both WBC and OPBC are (to use a charitable term) misguided, the Bible is clear on the sinfulness of same-sex intimacy. This is prevalent in the law given to the Israelites, and is reinforced by the apostle Paul in the New Testament in letters to the Roman and Corinthian churches. While we do not have a recorded instance of Jesus condemning homosexuality, his followers certainly did. If you believe the Bible, Paul was personally recruited by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus.
It is easy to be blinded to the sinfulness of homosexuality in a "tolerant" place like Bloomington, Indiana. It is easy to dismiss the WBC and OPBC protesters as fringe kooks. But their tactics should not dissuade Christians from proclaiming the sinfulness of same-sex intimacy. This is not because Christians are any better than anyone else ("for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23) but because we have been called to free those enslaved by sin. Warning of the danger posed by sin and impending judgment for sin not covered by the blood of Christ is not an act of hate or intolerance, but an act of love.