The Provocateurs of Westboro Baptist So-called Church

Some of the folks from Westboro Baptist So-called Church in Topeka, Kan., were in Lakeland last weekend, picketing high school graduation ceremonies at The Lakeland Center and about seven local churches, according to reports here and here from The Ledger. For those outside the loop, this is the tiny so-called church whose website URL is and who has gained way more notoriety than they deserve by picketing everything from religious conventions to the funerals of military men on the grounds that America has tolerated homosexuality and therefore God has condemned the nation. Westboro has appointed itself as the purveyor of this message and has done so in, shall we say, attention-getting ways.

I first encountered these people at a Southern Baptist Convention about 10 years ago. Now you would think that if there’s a religious group that would be sympathetic to the notion that homosexuality is a sin, it would be the Southern Baptists, but the Westboro Baptist So-called Church says they’re not outspoken enough about it and ought to be ashamed of themselves for letting Americans go to hell. Or something like that. Sure enough, they are scheduled to picket the Southern Baptist Convention again next week in Houston.

Basically, these folks are terrorists. If all they were really interested in was speaking out against homosexuality, there are plenty of ways they could do it in less spectacular fashion. What I saw at that convention 10 years ago was shock and awe tactics, conceived for no other purpose than to provoke and incite fear and revulsion. Some of the signs they held were near-pornographic. Westboro has perfected the art of provocation, and unfortunately, they usually succeed in arousing in others the hatred that they themselves promote. Make no mistake, this so-called church is interested really in one thing only, and that is making a name for themselves. That they may actually believe what they say is almost beside the point. As Marshall McLuhan once said, the medium is the message.

These folks do get around. Sometime I’d like to see an investigative report about where they get their money. The so-called church has all of about 40 members, or something like that, and they must spend a fortune on travel. I suppose they get contributions from people who don’t mind supporting a bunch of self-aggrandizers.

I say that Westboro is a so-called church because from a Christian point of view they are heretics in several ways. Their particular brand of apocalyptic theology was pronounced faulty by at least one American denomination years ago, and their overall message simply doesn’t square with the Bible on numerous crucial points. They have been called a cult, and that’s as good a way of describing them as any.

If there’s a silver lining in their appearance in Lakeland, maybe it’s that it will likely be a long while before they get around to visiting us again.


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