By Daniel Johnson
If one watches the antics of the group known as Westboro Baptist Church you come away with a few conclusions: (1) They are a bunch of religious nuts. (2) There must be people who agree with them. (3) They must be Republicans.
The fact of the matter is that this church could not be much farther from the beliefs and practices of the Jesus within the Bible than the Pharisees were. In fact, their antics closely resemble those of the Pharisees whom Jesus famously referred to as white washed tombs, dead and rotting on the inside but giving off an appearance of cleanliness.
Their most recent debacle, attempting to picket and disrupt the funeral of the illustrious Maya Angelou; making claims that she was a “sin enabler” and a “fresh inhabitant of Hell” reminds me of the circumstances that lead Jesus to speak in Matthew 7 regarding how we are not to attempt to determine the eternal resting place of others unless we are ready and willing to accept that same merciless or merciful judgment from God when comes our time to stand in His final judgment of our souls. They have a history of alienating people, both believers and nonbelievers alike. They have memorably held up signs that read “God Hates Gays” outside of the attempted marriages of same sex couples that serves to subvert the mission of Christianity if we are indeed called to a ministry of reconciliation as it is impossible to reconcile some one to someone who it is assumed that the party that is to be reconciled to hates you.
The goals of the Westboro Baptist Church and the goals of the Religious Right seek to monopolize religion, at least as far as it considers the tenets of Christianity. Unless you are a conservative, you cannot possibly be a true Christian, because only conservatives care about the values that Christianity espouses; when the truth of the matter is that Christianity cannot be boxed into a political ideology, it is much bigger than that box we label Republican, Democrat, Independent, Liberal, Moderate, or Conservative.
In all actuality, good Christian people can be found on both sides of the aisle in all political leanings. Republicans do not have a monopoly on Jesus, nor do conservatives, nor are all liberals avowed destroyers of our sacred culture and history as we know them. Watching the “Religious Right” and “Westboro Baptist Church” in this kind of battle royale on those who oppose their views and basically demonizing them as either anti-God or depraved sinners lends to the idea that is perpetuated of Christians as being inflexible and or intolerable of those who differ from them. The reality is that I can both disagree with what you do and your position and I can still show you love without bashing your point of view. I think that when people see both Westboro Baptist and the Religious Right’s antics, people see Christians in general behaving badly and are thus less likely to want to hear what we have to say, because they will not hear from those who they assume to be giving a hate-speech.
The thing that often would stop some of this blanket stereotypical association is most likely if others would be a little more vocal about their Christian faith when defending their positions, for example a senator defending welfare could open his rebuttal of an appeal to the Biblical idea that every person should work and not be a hindrance to others with the equally Biblical idea that the poor should not starve while the rich have plenty. It is my personal belief that people believe that Christianity and by extension God is only represented on one side because the other side rarely, if ever, mentions any idea of the Christian belief system from their viewpoints; thus we have a one sided God debate and an illusion in the media that there are no liberal or democratic Christians, only good conservative ones. Jesus has not, nor will ever subscribe to any political leanings, we would do well to remember this as we engage each other in political conversations where our beliefs in God are approached and we should also remember not to presume that one party has a monopoly on God as God is not our property to be manipulated in order to pave a path for our particular policy.
There are several occasions when Jesus reminded his followers that they would have to serve others and not themselves, so why do our public servants feel as though God must serve their ends versus the other way around? This illusion must be laid to rest. God does not serve any political party, yet political parties would be wise to serve God by keeping the interests of the people they are supposed to represent in mind. Government is supposed to serve the people, not itself. Let us leave this illusion to choke on its own lies.
Daniel Johnson is a poet and short story writer from Huntsville, a town close to Houston. The views expressed in this post are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.