Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Westboro Baptist Church

You all know these wackos. They're the ones who've gotten an undue amount of press because of their picketing of soldiers' funerals. The membership of the Westboro Baptist Church is under 100 people, and most of those are members of the family of Fred Phelps, the church's founder.

This group of lunatics has absolutely no association with any mainstream church, and the main thrust of their beliefs, or at least what they're choosing to highlight at present, is that God is passing righteous judgment on the United States for being too accepting of homosexuality. That's what the picketing is about. They claim that United States soldiers are being killed in Iraq because their country is too tolerant of homosexuality. These people are disgusting, delusional, and dangerous.

But think about this: but for the focus of their enmity, how do they substantively differ from such influential mainstream nutjobs as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson? Both of those men said, in the wake of September 11, that the terrorist attacks were a righteous judgment from God on a country that was too tolerant of, among other things, what they viewed as sexual lewdness. Same goes for Hurricane Katrina. My point is this: the Westboro Baptist Church's beliefs differ from those of Falwell and Robertson only in degree, not in kind.

Some might take issue with my citation of Falwell and Robertson as mainstream. I'd disagree, but for the sake of argument let's leave them aside. Let's look at the platform of the Republican Party, and in particular, the push for a Federal Marriage Amendment. These are people who believe that allowing homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals will cause society to crumble. In other words, they believe that there will be direct negative consequences visited on America for too much tolerance of homosexuality.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

The Westboro Baptist Church isn't directly dangerous. They number too few, and they're crazy. They have no support for their insane views. The true danger of the Westboro Baptist Church, though, is that it creates a foil for those who fundamentally believe the same things as they do about homosexuals. Republicans get to support troops, get credit for opposing an anti-gay group, and then still turn around and vote to restrict gay rights. The Westboro Baptist Church is nothing but a distraction. They're a group that is so extreme that it allows people to imagine that they're being tolerant while they let themselves turn a blind eye to (and legitimize) their own prejudices.