April 16, 2015

Dear Westboro “Baptist”

by Jesse Johnson

Last week I was notified by local law-enforcement that you (Westboro Baptist) were planning on visiting the church I pastor. They told me you had a track-record of not showing up for your protests, that we shouldn’t worry about it or do anything differently, and that if you did show up, they would ensure your right to be heard while maintaining order at our church.

I quickly found your website that lists your protest schedule, which conveniently also listed why you were protesting. You said you would be at our church because we are not active in street evangelism, as evidenced by the fact that we were meeting together in a building. I sent you an email asking if you were familiar with all of the evangelism and outreach our church does do, but never heard back.

Anyway, our plan was to simply ignore you while you were here. The irony that you were protesting us simply because we were meeting in a church on Sunday morning was not lost on us, so my personal intent was to not even comment on your presence here. But then I saw the sign: “Your pastors are whores.”

So with that, I went out on the street to meet you, and find out exactly why you would say that. I’ll be honest—this was entirely against my better judgement. But other elders at my church had told me that I should be willing to listen to any criticism you have of us, and see if there is any truth to it. I felt like the unanswered email fulfilled my duty in that, but then the sign showed up, so out I went.

I eyed the protest for a few minutes—and (for those that are reading this) by “protest” I mean six people with 25 signs. I mean, there were more law enforcement than protesters. But anyway, I eyed the six of you, then went up to the one with the sign to introduce myself.

She wouldn’t talk to me, and it was clear she didn’t recognize me as the pastor. I found that odd—after all, she was waving a sign about me!

And then it dawned on me. You don’t really care about convincing people. You are not really after showing me how we could be doing more for evangelism. I mean, you were literally outside my church, protesting and waving a sign about me, and out I came to ask “what can I do?” and you wouldn’t talk to me.

Jordan (who made the video above), explained it to me this way—you are just like Jonah. It was as if your worst case scenario for your protest would be that somebody actually listen to you.

The real damage you do is, of course, to the name of Christ. People see you, and think you speak for the Lord, and that is just obviously not true. The Lord wants people to repent and turn from their wicked ways, while you do not. The Lord does not delight in the death of the wicked, while you do.

I’m posting this letter here for two reasons—one is simply because you didn’t respond to my email and you refused to talk to me in person. The second is to spare others the time. I want other churches to know if you go there, your goal is not anybody’s repentance. Your goal is simply to cause a scene, hopefully win a lawsuit, and root for fire from heaven. I pray God silences you by converting you to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you watch the video above, and take Jordan’s words to heart.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Duncan Idaho

    “I pray God silences you by converting you to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
    Brilliant and graceful. God bless you, Pastor.

  • MR

    Perfect follow up to yesterday’s post. The most heartbreaking thing in the video, was seeing the children.

  • Tony Casson

    The video is very well done, moving, and thoughtful. Westboro represents an obstacle in the path of many who might be saved. We can only pray that the message of this video speaks louder than the message of those hateful signs held in the hands of misguided individuals who mistakenly believe they are following God, but are, in reality, playing right into the hands of Satan.

  • Mary

    Westboro does not speak with a voice for Christians. They are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. May God pierce the darkness of their hearts.

  • GinaRD

    It has been obvious for YEARS that Westboro doesn’t care about people or evangelism. They don’t want anything but to make a scene. You have only to look up their history to know that. I mean, they protest military funerals! What could possibly be gained by that??

    • Yeah, they have no credibility. But what is interesting is how often their name gets thrown at Chrsitians in political conversations–ie., “you should be opposed to RFRAs because what about Westboro!”

  • Austin

    BBC recently did a documentary on Westboro. It is an hour or so long but here it is and its absolutely heart breaking:

    http://theblazingcenter.com/2015/03/a-fascinating-and-disturbing-look-into-westboro-baptist-church.html

  • Ray Adams

    Thanks for sharing this. Enlightening wake-up call. Tragic mind-set at Westboro met by biblical love which turned a message of hate into an opportunity for the gospel!

  • Excellent. I shared on FB.

  • 072591

    I have a theory about Westboro, and your interaction with them confirms it; it’s all a ruse.

    Just like back in the ’60s, when the US government was paying some prominent black speakers to act crazy in order to discredit the civil rights movement, I think they are paying Westboro to act crazy in order to discredit Christians. After all, they seem to go out of their way to tell the media their claims, but this small “church” is everywhere protesting almost every issue. Someone with deep pockets is bankrolling them, and only those who want to shut out Christians from the public sector are benefitting from this.

    • Mark

      Just an FYI. The “church” is comprised of a few lawyers who, if the protesters are hit or pushed, file a lawsuit against the pusher and Win, bankrolling their trips.

      • Yeah. Their MO is to announce their protest schedule, hoping some groups try to block them, then go their, sue, win, and fly again!

  • calebkolstad

    Westboro Baptist is neither Christian or Baptist. They are unbiblical- Bible thumpers! The worst kind of false church

  • jeff

    Perhaps I am ignorant but aren’t they hyper-calvinists? I thought hyper-calvinists didn’t evangelize.

    • I”m not sure theology is necessarily their thing.

      • jeff

        true

  • Jesse, thank you for your faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ, His gospel and His bride, the church.

  • Craig Giddens

    I’ve always had a theory that they are funded by some kind of anti-Christian group (i.e. Lesbian-Gay organization) to pretend they are a church and thus give Christianity a negative view from the media.

    • Well, not likely. Their historic roots go back to the civil rights era, when they certainly were not funded by that movement.

      • Craig Giddens

        You are probably correct, but if you’ve ever studied the intelligence community and their covert tactics it would not be surprising to find out they are supported by an anti-Christian organization.

  • Eloquent and to the point. This group is an Pharisaical sect that has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s grace toward sinners who repent and believe.

    The body of Christ must be better equipped to articulate exactly why these folks are unBiblical in their theology and evangelistic approach.

    • Thats true. Thanks for reading, and i love your disqus name.

  • James

    Great post Jesse!!! I’m with you. They were never interested in dialogue. I thank God for your patience. Maybe I missed it but do you know how they go about selecting churches to protest? Anyway, take it from someone who pastors in the heart of the inner city and who has a majority of members and skeptics who attend who are still either struggling or engaging in activities that are improper for a community. For Westboro sake, one day they will show up at the wrong church and won’t like what they get. I hope that day never comes for the sake of Christ name. But it is strong possibility. However, Jesse, it does commend you and your church. These cowards protest because at the end of the day they trust your patience, self-control and compassion

    • I think they came here simply because we lead Bible studies at the Pentagon, and so that fits in their anti-military motif. But who knows?

  • fundamentals

    Evil takes many forms, but false Christians and pseudo-churches are especially odious. These Westboro people’s darkness is very great.

    “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
    (Galatians 6:7 ESV)

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  • Phil Andrukaitis

    Well said Pastor Jesse. I too will share this video on my FB page. May God open their spiritual eyes, their hearts, and the Scripture because apart from the Spirit’s work of regeneration, they will never know true love. We love because He first loved us. May Jesus Christ continue to lead and inspire you and your church family.

  • KLH

    I was at St. Christopher’s that morning. The protesters came between services so there were only a few of us there, but we prayed while they shouted–all 7 of them. Our mistake was believing they had an actual agenda. What we should have done was take them out for breakfast.

    • Right. That was the biggest thing I learned. They don’t actually have any clue why they are protesting. My best guess is what others have said: they are shopping for law suits, looking for a place that my try to confront them or keep them away, sue, win, and fund their next six trips. Win one or two law suits a year, and they can keep their operation funded.

  • klh

    I should have said a “rational” agenda, because they don’t have one.

  • Jason

    I remember when they came to protest during a vigil for some students who had died in a house fire held on the college campus I was attending.

    The chancellor sent out an email before telling people to avoid contact with them because they were looking for trouble. People still spent the night shouting at them and I heard about people being charged with various things (like taking their signs away).

    Your response will ultimately go much further. If the church can react maturely (as was done here) when these people show up at our doorstep, in the face of all the slander and insensitivity, it goes a long way toward putting this behavior to shame (1 Peter 3:16).

  • I praise the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for sending WB to YOU, Jesse, and your church so that an article like this and a video like this would be published.

    How many people harmed by this cult will find your video on YouTube and this article and be saved by the Gospel therein? Only God knows. Well done.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    WBC is taking Scriptural truths, which are undeniable, giving them a severe twist, and coming off looking like lunatics. It’s an easy trap to fall into, even to a lesser degree: Many of us do something similar in other contexts, making the christian community appear somewhat out of touch at times. There are extreme approaches and beliefs among christians, and what is extreme to one is the only “godly” choice for another. I’m sure there are those who think any christian who owns a television set isn’t even in the starting blocks for sanctification, and one who shops on Sunday is hell bound for sure.

    There is no denying that God “is opposed to [“hates”, for WBC] the proud [who can deny that gays are proud–even boastful?], but gives grace to the humble.” No believer would posit that God is pleased with the homosexual’s lifestyle; He’s not. But to single out that particular sin as somehow more deserving of hell than lying or jealousy–or just our basic sin nature–is to deceive ourselves.

    And responsible preachers, even including John MacArthur, are of the view that America is under God’s judgment because we have largely turned from Him as a nation over the last several decades. This is essentially WBC’s view, too, although they attribute the decline to one issue alone and are a lot more offensively vocal about it. The reason they came to IBC was, reportedly, that we weren’t as “in your face” about sin as they are. To each his own, I guess.

    Still, it’s preferable to show christian compassion than to employ vitriol masquerading as Godliness.

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  • Heather

    Oh my, my heart aches for these people. People say they are the most hated family in America, but I think they are the most hurting family in America. The children have no friends at school or anything because they are so hated by everyone, and the young adults of the family have lived like that since they have been children. Imagine how you would feel if you were hated by everyone around you your whole life? My heart especially aches for the young women of the family, whom you can tell want to marry, but try to keep a stiff upper lip about it and say they just “want” to serve God in this way their whole life instead of being “distracted” with marriage 🙁
    It doesn’t take much of watching them to see they have built tall thick walls around themselves to prevent themselves from feeling. I think they fear feelings of guilt, shame, or regret, so they cut out even the possibility of feeling it by avoiding talking to people or interacting with other Christians. When someone points out a flaw in the way they do things, their immediate defense mechanism is to write it off, physically walk away, ignore it, laugh it off, or yell it off. It’s like they panic at the idea of feeling even a twinge of doubt, guilt, or shame, so they cut off the situation before they ever have a chance to feel anything. And if, later on, they feel regret or guilt, they dare not tell anyone else in the church about it because they are so ashamed at their own “wicked” and “evil” thoughts. They must constantly carry around unbelievable fear and pain within themselves. Oh, the liberty, weightlessness, and joy of being in Christ Jesus!!!
    What’s sad is that, as Christians, we are to listen and be attentive to the quiet and gentle leading of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t even think they are capable of that because of the walls they have built around their hearts. It is the Holy Spirit, and not us as Christians, that will convict the hearts of people…”And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8.
    You know, one time when I was going door to door sharing the Gospel (I’m not a JW lol I go to a Evangelical Non-Denominational church), we came to this house with a nice young man whom we found out was a homosexual. He shared his story with us and said his life had gotten rock bottom and he even considered suicide, but one morning he woke up and knew he needed to stop practicing homosexuality if he wanted to get his life together. No Christian ever told him that, and he never read the Bible before. It was clearly the Holy Spirit convicting him of his sin and showing him the path to get to Christ. Then this guy told us maybe it was God who was reaching out to him and sent us to his door to share with him the knowledge of the vast love and grace that the Lord Jesus Christ has for him. We must have talked with him for an hour about the Gospel, and at the end he thanked us profusely for coming and took a Bible from us. My point is, the living work of the Holy Spirit is so much more powerful, loving, wholesome, healing, and life-giving, than humans holding hateful, mean, unloving signs. Those signs will never convict people of anything, it only spreads hatred into their own hearts and into the hearts of others. What I fear most for these Westboro people, is that when they eventually die and face the Lord Jesus Christ, they will excitedly run to him, but He will look at them and say, “I never knew you; depart from Me.” Mt 7:21-23.

    “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” Acts 16:31.

    • 4Commencefiring4

      You realize, of course, that they believe the same about us: that we will face Christ and hear those very words ourselves because we failed to sound the same warning to our fellow man that they did. There’s no telling them otherwise. If you’ve encountered their sort online, or even those who hold their coats, I don’t have to tell you.

      Well, pray for them just the same. There is some talk that Fred Phelps, the WBC founder, underwent some sort of “change of heart” before dying, but that may be just an internet rumor…likely is. He was pretty well entrenched in his hatred, so it would be shocking to cross paths with him in Glory some day–assuming we’ll even recognize people we knew.

  • rdrift1879

    “But other elders at my church had told me that I should be willing to listen to any criticism you have of us, and see if there is any truth to it.”

    They really said that? About Westboro Baptist folks?

    • I think they meant it more as a matter of principle: if someone has a criticism, you should listen to it. No harm in meeting.

  • Guest

    FYI, I tried playing the video, but it says it’s unavailable.

    ???

    • It is up and running. Maybe your browser needs updating, or if you are on an ipad maybe your app has a glitch in it. If so, update the app, or try it on a computer.

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