Every Christian should be troubled by a story on the front page of Friday’s North Texas Daily.
The University of North Texas-of which the Daily is the student newspaper-is the focus of controversy as its theatre department stages The Laramie Project, a play depicting the life of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual college student who was beaten and killed in 1998.
The controversy, however, is being created by the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. The church is sending 10 demonstrators to protest the play and protest four churches that have decided not to cry out against the play.
The Daily quotes the daughter of Fred Phelps, the church’s pastor as saying, “The message is: there is a God, there is a day of judgment, God hates fags and just simply that he will send them to hell.”
This is nothing new. Across the South and Midwest, a radical, knee-jerk Christianity has arisen in response to America’s perceived drift from her supposed roots. This version of Christianity says, “God hates fags,” it advocates shooting abortionists and sees signs of judgment in Sept. 11 and the Columbia disaster.
Most of us wish that such a vile, pharisaical sect could be stamped out, but as long as a viewpoint is held, others will hijack it. When heaven and hell swing in the balance, this kind of radicalism seems especially perverse.
The viewpoint that God hates homosexuality is biblically based and accurate. However, God, whose persona is the ideal of love, does not hate any person, a reminder especially relevant for this upcoming weekend.
The sacrifice of the cross defeats the notion that God was selective about who could receive his gift. And what’s more, a hierarchy of sins is nowhere to be found in the Bible. One thing that is found, however, is Christ’s harsh opposition of and challenge to the Pharasees’ judgmental and often hypocritical attitude toward society’s “worst sinners.”
While convenience may relish a God that sent his son to die for our sins and not other people’s down the road, the harsh reality is that all are called to saving grace, and the Christian’s job is to help as many to hear that message as possible.
That job is tough in a society of wealth, comfort and apathy. It has gotten tougher, thanks to ignorance, intolerance and a fundamental misunderstanding of what Christianity is all about.
And on top of all that, the world’s misconception of what the title “Christian” means is further supported by groups like Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church-a church so skewed and bent on condemnation that its two Web sites are www.godhatesfags.com and www.godhatesamerica.com.
The views and words of this small group are hateful and disgusting. They do little more than give the rest of us a bad name.
But they should serve as an example of what can grow from the smallest seed of judgment or hate and motivate us to restore in people a view of a God who loved this sinful world so much, that he died for it.