Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr., pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, died this past week on March 19. He and his congregation had become infamous for their avowed hatred of homosexuals, and picketing the funerals of those servicemen who died in combat. Phelps believed those who fell in battle suffered their misfortune because they defended America and its tolerance of homosexuals.
He and his followers (mostly family members) earned a reputation for being outrageously offensive to those who did not hold to their specific brand of hatred. They condemned those Christians who believed homosexuality was a sin, but reached out to the LGBT community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When Jerry Falwell died they picketed his funeral.
To say Westboro Baptist Church’s pastor and members are a grotesque caricature of Christianity would be wrong. There was nothing remotely Christian about their actions. I am sure the community of Westboro, Baptists everywhere, and all churches cringe when this group manages to make the news. Their demonstrations were an embarrassment to genuine Christians.
The only thing they seemed to love more than hating homosexuals is the media attention they garnered wherever they went. They would target politicians and celebrities with their protests showing no concern or respect for any who disagreed with them. The irony in all of this is it may have proved to be counterproductive.
Cathy Renna who has been a consultant to LGBT organizations over the years said, “The world lost someone who did a whole lot more for the LGBT community than we realize or understand. He has brought along allies who are horrified by hate. So his legacy will be exactly the opposite of what he dreamed.” Director of the LGBT Project for the American Civil Liberties Union James Esseks agrees, “people in the middle [of the issue] would think, ‘If that’s what it means to be anti-gay, I want no part of it.’”
But while their manners and methods were wrong, and did unimaginable damage to the very cause they claimed to represent, Fred and his followers were right about homosexuality. Amid the senseless demonstrations, and mean-spirited name-calling, and vulgarity of this hate group, the stark scriptural truth about homosexuality is undeniable and incontrovertible. It is a sin, no different in its effect, no different in its penalty than any other sin.
In His love the Father warns us, “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. When we die the next scheduled event on God’s calendar is judgment. It is both inexorable and inescapable. No matter what we think or how we feel will alter what He has declared and from that Tribunal there will be no appeal. Are you ready?