God hates Westboro Baptists (they're fags!)By now you’ve probably heard that the US Supreme Court has decided that the Westboro Baptist Church … which is, essentially, just the family of ordained Baptist preacher Fred Phelps … can protest at military funerals. CNN reported on this decision in Snyder v. Phelps (WebCite cached article):

A Kansas church that attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members has won its appeal at the Supreme Court, an issue testing the competing constitutional rights of free speech and privacy.

The justices, by an 8-1 vote, said Wednesday that members of Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars. The father of a fallen Marine had sued the small church, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

While I’m not in favor of hyperreligious lunatics broadcasting hatred wherever they can, I can’t disagree that the Phelps clan has the right to say what it wants to, in a public place.

The real issue here … which is (conveniently) being dodged by a lot of folks, is: What is it about religion that gives sanctuary to hateful people like the Phelpses, so that they can justify their horrific “message”?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just about the Phelpses. Religiously-inspired bigotry and hate is nothing new. Through most of its history, Christianity has worked to foster a certain amount of anti-Semitism; even now, hatred of Jews still exists among Christians, and is even more pronounced in the Islamic world. White supremacy also has a Christian orientation.

I understand most Christians are not hateful pricks like Fred Phelps, Hutton Gibson, and Wesley Swift, to name just a few. I get that. The problem is, if Christianity means something … and if that meaning is both plain and not the hateful one that people like the Westboro Baptists claim … then it should not be possible for anyone to use Christianity as a “safe harbor” to justify their hatred. That Christianity — or any other religion — can be used as a rationale for hatred, is not to its credit.

It means its message is — by definition — less than clear, and easily muddled by external considerations. It means that religion can be twisted into something it had never been intended to be, and say things it had never been intended to say. It means that, in the name of doing good, people of that religion can — ironically — promote a lot of evil.

If there are any Christians out there who truly think their religion has a definite meaning which is not what the disgusting Phelps clan trumpets all over the place, I must ask you: What are you doing about them? How, exactly, do you plan to prevent them from absconding with your religion? If you aren’t willing to do anything, then how is any objective, outside observer of Christianity supposed to know that Christianity’s message is not what the Phelpses say it is?

Think about the message you send to others, about your own religion, in your dealings with Fred Phelps and his clan.

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