Westboro, led by Fred Phelps, is actually more of a dysfunctional family than a church (see the documentary Fall From Grace, if you haven’t already – the “church” is almost exclusively Phelps’ family members) has gained notoriety over the years for brandishing such God-exalting signs as “God Hates Fags,” “AIDS Cures Fags” and “Thank God For Dead Soldiers.”
Their rationale is a perverted version of Calvinism (what Mark Driscoll calls “crazy Calvinism“) in which the doctrine of election is taken to mean simply that, if you’re not “elect,” then God hates you and that the only message of the Cross is judgment and, since we don’t know who is elect and who is not, is is not only wrong but sinful to claim that God loves everyone.
Westboro’s explanation of why they will be picketing Mars Hill is as follows:
“To picket the false prophet and blind lemmings at Mars Hill Whore House where they teach the lies that God love [sic] everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind. You have caused the people to trust in lies to their destruction, and to your damnation. Shame on you for calling yourself the Mars Hill Church! False advertising doesn’t come close! Paul would turn over in his grave at your God-hating, Christ-rejecting lies! You have a form of godliness, but you deny the power thereof…WBC will speak the truth to you in love—as God defines ‘love’. We will tell you that, in fact, there is a standard God has set in this earth that He commands you obey. Your disobedient sin is taking you to hell, and you must repent and mourn for your sins. God does not love everyone—in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die. You would know these things if you would pick up a Bible and actually READ THE WORDS!”
Now, as someone who does hold to reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), I am offended and disgusted by their vitriol and perplexed by their reading of Scripture. Not only that, based on Scripture, we must be skeptical about whether or not these people are even Christians at all. Now, before you go all nit-picky and say that I’m guilty of the same thing as the people of Westboro, let’s consider some Scripture. While we could certainly consider Scriptures promoting the preaching of the idea that God loves all (John 1:29, John 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, etc.), I actually want to focus on another emphasis of Scripture.
Matthew 5:44 says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” 1 John 4:8 not only tells us that “God is love,” but that “Anyone who does not love does not know God.” Let’s be clear, Westboro claims that they are Christians, but here they are picketing another church. John 13:35 says that it is by our love for one another that the world will know that we belong to Jesus and 1 John 4:20 goes so far as to say: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Westboro’s version of “love” is to proclaim hatred and spew vitriol. This is not only bad doctrine, it is evil and anti-Christian.
Our prayers this weekend are with our family at Mars Hill Church. What a great opportunity for them to demonstrate love and humility to the people of Westboro. After all, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20).