For anyone unfamiliar with the bizarre spectacle of Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church (they’re the ones who show up at the funerals of AIDS victims holding “God Hates Fags” signs), here’s a write-up from their website’s protest schedule describing an upcoming picket:
“Temple University - WBC to picket the Laramie Project where they hate their brother in Filthydelphia. Yes, that is what this nation needs, more pushy loud-mouthed professors yip-yapping lies about Matthew Shepard. What part of SHUT UP do you silly wise (wo)men NOT understand? Listen up false prophets, if not for you Matt would not be in hell - right now! You did that, and instead of being ashamed, you sin more and more behind it. Our message for Filthydelphia, and DOOMED american theatre troops is this: Matt Is In Hell! God Hates Fags! God Hates Fag Enablers! You will eat your babies! Bloody Obama!”
The complete entry includes a Bible quote, as do all of their protest notices, which only slightly tempers the impression of these things being delivered like a professional wrestler vamping for the camera.
Here’s another one from the same schedule:
“Today's youth have been raised on a steady diet of ‘God loves everyone’ and ‘it is okay to be gay’ -- both loud lies from the pit of hell.... God does not love all willy-nilly. He loves His own -- those who keep His commandments. De 7:9 - ‘Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations’... You do not know His commandments and you do not keep them -- that is why God Hates You!”
This is a good example of ethnocentrism taken to extremes, in this case inflamed by the worldcentric message “God loves everyone”. Ann Coulter expresses a similar view in her blog post The Passion of the Liberal: “According to liberals, the message of Jesus, which somehow [Mel] Gibson missed, is something along the lines of ‘be nice to people.’ ...In fact, Jesus’ distinctive ‘message’ was: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this your lucky day because I’m here to redeem you even though you don’t deserve it and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it. That is the reason He is called ‘Christ the Redeemer’ rather than ‘Christ the Moron Driving Around in a Volvo with a “Be Nice to People” Bumper Sticker on It.’
It’s interesting to me how these brands of extreme ethnocentrism are so offended by worldcentrism. Maybe it’s more satisfying to fight an opponent who says “your god is false” than one who says “your greatest spiritual figure said ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you’ (Luke 6:27) and ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ (Matthew 5:9).”
A group of University of Chicago students recently counter-protested a WBC picket by holding up signs saying “God Loves Everybody,” “Thank God for Love” and “Free Hugs”. But this group wasn’t as worldcentric as it might seem. Other signs said: “I’m Laughing So Hard I Just Turned Gay,” “I Love Donuts” and “Thank God for Porn,” their mocking tone reminiscent of the time Michael Moore had a busload of gay men sing and dance at WBC picketers - entertaining to Moore’s audience, but probably giving a real boost to the protestors’ sense of righteousness.
One UIC student (Jason Connell, by name) voiced his disagreement with the counter-protest in an interview posted on youtube, saying “I really don’t agree with this standing across the street and yelling, because that doesn’t have the power to change or accomplish anything... a lot of people have said don’t pay any attention to them, ignore them, but nothing ever changes that way either.” Instead he solicited donations from passers-by for charities the WBC specifically targets: the Human Rights Campaign, the International AIDS Foundation, and Jerusalem Open House. Thank you cards were then mailed to Rev. Phelps.
In a follow up video Connell admits that even though he only raised two hundred dollars, word seems to be spreading (the original video has logged close to 300 000 hits so far). He encourages others to capitalize on the negative publicity the WBC is going to bring anyway. I admire his strategy. If the WBC’s protests consistently raise funds for their targets, it might curb their appetite for abusive picketing. This could especially be the case if the people raising these funds do it without rancor, without arguing or mocking but display a spirit of humble service, allowing anyone to be who they are and believe what they believe while quietly doing what they can to turn lemons into lemonade.
Ethnocentrism is defined by wikipedia as “the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own”. One can define one’s group in any number of ways: family, religion, city, country, ethnic background. In this case the WBC swear fealty to their own sect of the Baptist church. Here’s a quote about other branches of Christianity: “Like the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, et al., the so-called Christian Church-Disciples of Christ (generally, Congregational Churches) are sodomite churches. They are not true churches of Jesus Christ.” -- Filthy Fags Own Australia, WBC News Release, October 14, 1996
An ethnocentric group could have any number of attitudes towards others, ranging from indifference to avoidance to the feeling that it’s virtuous to wipe all others out of existence. The WBC is blatantly antagonistic to the US government. The first Jason Connell youtube clip shows the WBC picketers letting a US flag hang on the ground and routinely stepping on it. TheWBC’s official website has an upside down US flag as its icon. “America is doomed. U.S.A.=Iraq=Babylon… Thank God for 4 more dead troops. We wish it were 4,000.”-- WBC flier, April 23, 2006