By James J. Jackson
The framers of the U.S. Constitution believed that certain rights are bestowed-not by the Constitution or by man-made laws, but, rather, by God, and that those rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
From that declaration, people have fought to expand that definition, to include rights in the list that are sometimes self-serving, or to withhold certain rights from those they believe are undeserving, etc. We have expanded the Constitutional list to include a right to privacy, a right to decide whether another human should be born etc. Sadly, we humans often do the same with the Bible, but we do so at our peril.
One Topeka, Kansas church, Westboro Baptist, believes it has a right, in fact, a responsibility to loudly protest at the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers. As Christians, they should be more concerned about their witness to others than exercising their ’rights’.
The church members travel around the country with the sole purpose of disturbing the sanctity and dignity of soldier’s funerals, shouting that God is punishing our soldiers because of homosexuality activity in America, and carrying signs stating such insults as, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, “God Blew up the Troops” and other hurtful phrases and insults.
One Marine’s family won a $5 million judgment from the protesters, which lower courts overturned. The case is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. The church, led by pastor Fred Phelps, believes God is punishing the United States for “the sin of homosexuality” through events such as soldiers’ deaths, and that it is within their free speech rights to demonstrate, however disturbing and provocative their message.
The court will determine whether private entities such as cemeteries and churches can justify picket-free zones and the use of “floating buffers” to silence or restrict speech or movements of demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights in a funeral setting. God has already spoken about how He feels about an in-your-face approach to the sin of others.
While many Christians agree that it is our responsibility to speak out against obvious sin, there is a grave danger in elevating certain sins above others, and then appointing oneself to mete out punishment for it. The Bible clearly speaks against homosexual activity. But, it does not say that God punishes soldiers or anyone else because a particular sin is practiced in a nation.
The Bible is full of examples of people elevating someone else’s sin while minimizing their own. Jesus said, in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
God tells us that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. One should be careful not to try to do God’s job for Him. Only God can punish sin. No human is righteous enough to declare someone else’s sin condition to be worse than his or hers, and to do so is to open one’s self to deadly deception.
But, most importantly, the Christ that Westboro Baptist Church purports to serve and worship clearly told us, in John 13: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
True followers of Christ should always be aware of the witness they are putting forth. Do others know the Westboro church members are Christian by their demonstration of love, or do hateful signs and shouts express a lack of love? The answer is obvious.