Another one of our boys was laid to rest today. PFC Justin Whitmire, an army combat medic and 2010 graduate of nearby Hillcrest High School, was ushered to his final resting place by the combined populations of Simpsonville, Fountain Inn, and several surrounding hamlets and villages. Driving downtown today as the human wall started to form, I couldn’t help but get choked up. Here was a young man who went off to war to do the duty his country assigned him and he fell in the honorable performance of that duty. His family and friends are justifiably proud of him and, judging from the attendance at his send-off, so were a whole lot of other people.
Conspicuously absent from the crowd today, despite dire warnings of their imminent arrival, were any protestors from the notorious Westboro Baptist “Church” of Topeka, KS. Now for those who don’t know, Westboro Baptist (hereafter to be called WBC) is a tiny Fundamentalist church out in Kansas. The pastor is an octogenarian disbarred lawyer named Fred Phelps. The vast majority of the massive 50 member congregation are Phelps’ children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and anyone unfortunate or stupid enough to marry into this sorry bunch of lunatic fanatics.
The church slithered onto the national scene in 1998 when members protested and picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a 19-year-old Wyoming University student who was tortured and beaten to death after he allegedly “made a pass” at another man in a bar. WBC doesn’t like gay people. The church’s home page URL is http://www.godhatesfags.com. Since then, members of the church / Phelps family have taken to protesting funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They claim the soldiers’ deaths are the result of God’s wrath upon America. Oh, and incidentally, they are insanely happy about the 9-11-2001 World Trade Center attacks. If you haven’t figured it out by now, these people are “out there.” I would say they are the fuzzy endmost strands of material on the far end of the lunatic fringe. They hate everybody — homosexuals, military, Muslims, the list goes on and on.
This is funny. How do you know when you are too far over the line? Well, several counter-protests targeting WBC have included members of the Ku-Klux-Klan. True story. You read that correctly. The Klan joined with other regular people to protest WBC. Try to ask yourself this, “just how big of an asshole do you have to be for the freaking KKK to consider you a hate group?” Hard to fathom, ain’t it?
Now, to be honest, I wouldn’t care about a bunch of homophobic nut jobs carrying cheap posterboard signs around if it wasn’t for the fact that these particular homophobic sign carrying nut jobs claim to 1) be Christians and 2) speak for God. That bothers me. It bothers me because they are such vitriolic hate mongers and media whores that they are guaranteed to boost newscast ratings. As a result, anytime they show up they get tons of attention they don’t really deserve. Then, non-believers see them and realize they are nuttier than a can of Planter’s and form the mistaken opinion that “kooky homophobic media whores” equal “Christian.” In the eyes of way too many people, these loons are what Christianity is all about.
That saddens me greatly.
I wish that instead of WBC getting so much press, the news could interview the staff of the church I attend so the world could hear about the Osbornes. This couple took their three preschool aged children with them to the mission field in Papua New Guinea. If you’ve never heard of Papua New Guinea, don’t fret. Most people haven’t. Suffice it to say it’s a 22 hour plane ride from LAX and some tribes on the island still practice head hunting and cannibalism. These lily-white yuppie Americans left behind a nice cushy life to take the Gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. They will be gone from the USA for at least 20 years.
That is what Christianity is all about. Not the putrescence Fred Phelps and his brood spew on a daily basis.
I don’t expect most of the folks reading this to be mighty theological scholars, but I’m pretty sure most of you know that the Holy Bible has an Old Testament and a New Testament. Apparently, Fred doesn’t. The entire misanthropic website is laden with Old Testament polemics from the always cheery book of Leviticus or dire threats of doom and gloom from the minor prophets. Almost nothing from the New Testament. No Gospel quotes and very little Pauline writing. If I could sit down with Fred and his clan, I’d like to start the conversation by saying, “Fred, you ever hear of this guy in the Bible named Jesus Christ? You may not know it, Fred, but Jesus was a pretty big deal.”
I doubt Fred’s ever seen Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story though so he wouldn’t get it at all.
Happily though, despite claims by one of the Phelps Phanatics that “six members of the congregation flew to South Carolina to protest” not a peep came from their mouths, if indeed they ever did show up. Of course, that is probably for the best, considering the appearance of some of the rougher looking members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group who showed up to form a human shield between the family and any WBC protesters. The “Member of the 1%” on a few of those guy’s riding jackets means something totally different than the Occupy people talk about.
So poor Simpsonville will go unedified by the Gospel according to hate monger Fred at least until our next brave soldier comes home in a flag draped coffin. Should that happen, though, the Patriot Guard and the good people of the Upstate will be here in force one more time.
Love y’all and remember to love each other and keep those feet clean.