Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
It is clear from the discussion of Dr. Thomas White’s post, that we all agree with this proposition: The Westboro group is not Christian, not Baptist and not even a church. They are false – publicity hounds who preach a message of hate that twists God’s Word and gives the church a black eye in the process. The discussion was odd, because we had people who normally argue about just about everything who were uniting to condemn the Westboro Cult.
So, we all agree that they are evil. The question is this: what should we do about them? Should we ignore them and hope they go away? Should we confront them and “fight fire with fire”? We all agree on the basic premise. We do not agree about the solution.
I have a proposal to advance, based on an experience I had in Cedar Rapids. I will share the story, advance my proposal, then let you decide just how big an idiot I really am.
Several years ago, the nation was up in arms about the moral degradation being perpetrated on society by a bizarre musician who goes by the name Marilyn Manson. Having grown up in the church, he went the other direction as he grew up. He is, I’ve been told, vile, profane, even blasphemous.
In city after city, Christians were turning out to protest the concerts he was giving. Concert-goers had to run a gauntlet of Baptists and Pentecostals united to inform them that a Marilyn Manson concert was the first stop on the Hellfire Express. The protests seemed to energize the Manson fans. He kept getting bigger and bigger.
Then, he announced a concert at the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids. My pastor’s prayer group discussed this. I have to tell you, I never got that upset about it. I didn’t plan to attend and neither did my kids, so it was never a big deal to me. But for some of the pastors, it was a huge thing. They felt that Manson was connected in the demonic Cosa Nostra and something needed to be done about it.
Someone came up with an idea that I really liked. First, we prayed – a lot. Can’t really go wrong seeking God, can we? Then, they tried something counterintuitive to the protests that had been going on in so many places. The concert was in the heat of summer. So, the churches of Cedar Rapids banded together and met the concertgoers on the way to the stadium.
No, they did not hear protests. They received water, pop (that’s what we call cola here), and even pizza. Church people met them with a smile, blessed them with refreshments, and prayed for them as they went in. That was a real shocker to the Manson crowd used to being assaulted by Christian people on the way to their concerts.
And an amazing thing happened that night. Marilyn Manson came on stage and a couple of songs into his set, he got mad at the sound technicians because something wasn’t to his liking. He threw a tantrum and walked off the stage.
Are those two events related? I don’t know. Only eternity will tell and we’ll probably have bigger things to think about in the presence of the Savior. But I can tell you this. In Cedar Rapids, Christians gathered together to bless Manson’s fans instead of yelling at them. And something weird happened out of the blue which led Manson himself to end his concert.
You make the call.
The principle spelled out in Romans 12:19 is largely ignored. We are told not to seek vengeance, but to step back and leave room for the just wrath of God to take care of things. It seems to me that the implication of that passage is that our attempts to balance the books of justice may hinder the workings of God’s perfect justice.
There are two things that are clearly affirmed in this passage. First, vengeance belongs to God and God alone. Whenever I attempt to balance the books and seek justice, I am usurping a right that belongs to God alone. Second, God promises to enforce perfect justice. He asks us to get out of the way and leave the justice to him. Sometimes, he does it here on earth. Sometimes it happens quickly, but usually it takes time. In eternity, perfect justice is enforced on all creation.
Is it possible that the Marilyn Manson treatment might work on the Westboro Cult? Here’s what I’m talking about. Whenever we hear that the Westboro Cult is coming to town, the churches take responsibility for dealing with these false brethren.
I am not talking about protests or trying to out-shout the Westboro bunch. Why not surround them with Christian love? Christian people gather, encircle the Westboro protesters, and engage them with cordiality, not insults. In doing this, the Christians (and others) would shield those the Westboro Cult is trying to insult. Their signs would be blocked. Perhaps, as we engage them with kindness, Proverbs 15:1 would be put into effect, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”
While we all agree that Westboro is not a Christian group, or a church, they identify themselves as a Baptist church. We disavow them, as we should. But because they identify themselves as part of the Baptist world, perhaps it would be well for us to devise a strategy of engagement to deal with them. And perhaps we would remember that the weapons of our warfare are not earthly. We do not fight the way the world fights.
We fight with the power of God’s love. We fight with spiritual weapons that have the power to do tear down the strongholds of evil. Maybe we should take up those spiritual weapons and face this evil group down.
Here’s what I’m suggesting.
1) Baptists and other evangelicals accept the responsibility to deal with the hate-merchants from Westboro.
2) When they announce their plans to come to a place, we gather together to “surround them with love.”
3) We get a group of people to stand around the Westboro folks, to behave in relentless cordiality as we surround them. We speak kindly to them. Offer them something to drink if they need it. Sing hymns. Pray. We just get enough people out there to encircle the Westboro people.
That protects the grieving family from the vile insults they would receive. We try to “kill them with kindness.”
I wonder what would happen if everywhere the Westboro Cult appears they are surrounded by kind and loving Christians who treat them cordially but prevent them from getting their message across? Would they eventually give up? Would God repay their evil?
It might be worth a try.