Every church has its problems. There are no perfect churches. But there are some churches that are so bad that they make atheism look appealing. Anyone compiling a list of worst churches in the world would need to consider, as a top candidate, the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.
Founded in 1955 the church began with promising doctrinal standards. They called themselves Christian, Biblical, Baptist, and even Calvinistic. They took a strong view on inerrancy, the need for repentance, and the Lordship of Christ. But it soon became evident that the church lacked one virtue vital for anyone who bears the name of Christ: the church has no love. I realize that’s my opinion, but let the evidence help you decide if they show love.
WBC has been officially categorized by a number of organizations as a hate group. They are most known for the abrasive slogans used when protesting homosexualty. The members picket funerals of homosexuals with signs declaring “God hates fags,” God hates you,” “God hates America,” and “You are going to hell.”
They don’t only hate homosexuals. They also vocally express hatred for Jews, Catholics, Nelson Mandela, the US Army, the Swedish, and countless politicians. And just to toss their wet blanket of prejudice over billion or so more, they host a website called GodHatesIndia(dot)com.
I’m not saying they express disagreement with these groups. I’m saying they express hate.
In an investigative documentary the interviewer asked Shirley Phelps-Roper (the founding pastor’s daughter) if she thought this technique might put people off the gospel. Her response: You think our job is to win souls to Christ. All we do, by getting in their face and putting these signs in front of them and these plain words, is make what’s already in their heart come out of their mouth. She admitted that the money they spend flying to funerals is spent “to spread God’s hate.”
Every major denomination has denounced them, including the Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Anyone known for hate rather than love doesn’t deserve to be called a Baptist or a Church.
Ps 15:4 …In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord…
We all agree that God hates sin and that believers should hate sin (Prov 8:13). The question is, whether it is acceptable to hate the sinners who commit the sins? Advocates of this view may cite the rare verses that seem to legitimize hating sinful people (e.g. Ps 15:4). Most notably, David’s declaration of fealty to God’s cause in Ps 139:21-22 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
Bear in mind David was a king anointed by God’s decree, given prophetic capabilities, and a divine military commission to wage war against Israel’s enemies. If that’s you, perhaps you could make a case for stirring up a bloodlust to fuel your grim responsibility to kill the men of war God instructed you to exterminate. (There isn’t really a loving way to disembowel a guy with a sword on a battlefield).
But we are not told anywhere to be like David. We are called to imitate Christ’s example (1 Cor 11:1).
Jesus never expressed hatred for sinners. He ate with tax collectors and other moral bottom feeders. He told the woman caught in adultery that he didn’t condemn her. He allowed a prostitute to publically wash his feet (Luke 7:37-38). He prayed that God forgive his murderers (Luke 23:34). He taught explicitly that God loves the world (yes, including the sinners in it; John 3:16). He modeled grace, mercy, and compassion for those who were wicked. The sternest words in Christ’s repertoire were always reserved for religious unbelieving hypocrites; but even then he targeted their deeds and attitudes.
So what does it look like to love the sinner and hate the sin? How could Westboro Baptist show love for homosexuals without condoning the sin of homosexuality? Ask Ray Comfort. That’s what the Kleins did.
Melissa and Aaron Klein, bakers from Oregon, declined to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. And they were successfully sued for discrimination. The case is being appealed, but in the meantime the Kleins approached famed evangelist Ray Comfort who has shed a beam of solace on the situation. At his suggestion the couple baked and sent cakes to ten gay rights organizations. They included a gift certificate, a gospel message, and decorated the cakes with the words “We really do love you.”
No one could misconstrue the Klein’s gesture as approving of homosexuality. And yet no one can dispute that the Kleins are doing a better job at showing love to homosexual people than Westboro is.
I try remind myself that God loved me while I was still his enemy. He didn’t love what I would one day become when I repented. He loved me first. And that love changed me.
Rom 5:8,10 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son …
It is my prayer for our flock at Hillcrest Baptist Church that we never derail into a dissonant congregation of clanging cymbals. I hope we build a reputation in our community of people who love the truth and sinners, but hate sin. And hatred.
PS. you should really check out Jesse’s encounter with the picketers at his church in DC. It’s worth the price of admission.