Last week I took part in a protest against Westboro Baptist Church.
Westboro are of course infamous for their hateful picketing and proclamations that God has doomed America. Every dead soldier, every teen who commits suicide, even the tragic events of the eleventh of September 2001 are occasions to thank and praise God.
This cult decided to come to Fort Meade, a large military base in Maryland, to protest outside one of the local High Schools, apparently because they had a larger proportion of homosexual students than average. They wanted to share their disgust at this with the parents and students, helpfully informing them that their actions meant that God was killing their soldiers in Afghanistan.
Naturally, when people found out Westboro were going to be gracing their community they quickly organising counter-protests.
I was one of those organisers.
Atheists, LGBT advocates, concerned parents, veterans, press. I was one voice among many.
I did not presume I could change anyone’s mind, least of all Westboro’s.
But I did take offense that someone was going to tell God’s story in such a way that his name would be a curse and a profanity before the people.
So, under the leadership of my boss and a few other believers, we set about to rally Christians together to tell a different story.
This story is one of love and forgiveness and peace. It invites us to turn away from evil and hate and to find love in Christ.
At 6:45 on Thursday the fourteenth of April we began. Dressed in matching T-Shirts, with ‘HATE’ displayed boldly on our chests we sang at the top of our lungs:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see
We looked at the pitiful souls over the road. There were five of them, merrily waving their signs.
Turning our backs on them, we showed ‘LOVE’ boldly on our backs. We turned from hate.
We bowed our knees and begged God for forgiveness. We prayed God’s grace over Westboro and over ourselves. We know we are sinners. We know we fall short. We know there is only one name under heaven by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12).
That ancient story is our story, and we tried our best to tell it to as many as would hear and see.
Because God will not judge America, or England, or any other country because they allowed homosexual couples to get married.
No, all are condemned for their unbelief (John 3:18).
I am condemned because of my unbelief (John 3:18), because I love darkness and hate the night (John 3:19). I am afraid of being found (John 3:20).
It is my hope and prayer that our collective act of protest, as brief as it was with so many other voices drowning us out, was an act of truth. It is my desire to be in the light, to be found in God (John 3:21).
You see, I have no right to stand before anyone and tell them anything. But because of what God did, I can stand in the light unashamed. And so, someone there on that cold Thursday morning might see God’s hand in each of us and over all of us.
That’s my hope, at least.