Westboro Baptist Hates America

The Rev. Billy Graham is a Baptist and so is Bill Clinton.

The Rev. Rick "Purpose Driven Life" Warren is a Baptist and so is the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The Rev. Bob Jones III of Greenville, S.C., is a Baptist and so is the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jr., of New York. The Rev. Bill Moyers is a Baptist, or used to be, and that's also true for the Rev. Pat Robertson.

There are all kinds of Baptists, so saying people are "Baptists" may do little to clarify what they actually believe.

 But two things are clear. The first is that the Rev. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., is a Baptist. The second is that millions of other Baptists wish Phelps and his infamous flock would stop calling themselves "Baptists."

"It does make you cringe when you read about Phelps and Westboro, because you rarely see anyone stress that these people have no connections to Southern Baptists or to American Baptists or to anybody else," said Greg Warner, editor of the Associated Baptist Press, one of two news agencies that cover Baptist life.

"This is just some of the baggage that comes with being Baptist. It goes with the territory."

Phelps and his followers make keep making headlines because of their protests at military funerals, featuring signs with shocking slogans — such as "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." The church has about 60 members, most of them related to Phelps, and teaches that God is punishing America because of this culture's growing acceptance of homosexuality. A jury in Baltimore recently handed down a $10.9 million verdict against Westboro because of its ugly protests at the March 2006 funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, who died in Iraq.

At its website — GodhatesAmerica.com — the church offers this history:

"Established in 1955 by Pastor Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas still exists today as an Old School (or Primitive) Baptist Church. … We adhere to the teachings of the Bible, preach against all form of sin (e.g., fornication, adultery, sodomy), and insist that the doctrines of grace be taught publicly to all men. These doctrines of grace were well summed up by John Calvin in his 5 points of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Although these doctrines are almost universally hated today, they were once loved and believed."

The church does not, however, appear to be part of the National Primitive Baptist Convention of the U.S.A. Then again, it isn't linked to the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Baptist Churches, the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., the Conservative Baptist Association of America, the American Baptist Association (Landmark Baptists), the Regular Baptist Churches, Reformed Baptist Churches, Free Will Baptist Churches, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Evangelical Life and Soul Saving Assembly of the U.S.A., the Independent, Fundamental Baptist Churches or any other known Baptist group.

Obviously, it's hard for Baptists to agree on a common definition of what "Baptist" means. One online definition states: "A member of an evangelical Protestant church of congregational polity, following the reformed tradition in worship and believing in individual freedom, in the separation of church and state, and in baptism of voluntary, conscious believers."

However, various streams of Baptist life predate the birth of the modern "evangelical" movement. And would Baptists agree they are "reformed" churches or "Reformed," as in rooted in Calvinist teachings? Do Baptists today share a common understanding of the "separation of church and state"? Of course not.

All Baptists would, however, stress a congregational approach to church government and the autonomy of each local congregation. This means that it's all but impossible for any Baptist flock to tell another flock what to do — unless they're part of a larger voluntarily association or convention.

"Just about anyone can get themselves ordained and then say that they've started a church," said Will Hall, head of the 16.4-million-member Southern Baptist Convention's official Baptist Press news agency.

But in the case of Westboro Baptist, he said, it isn't even enough "to call them an independent Baptist church, because they're not typical of the many independent Baptist churches and missionary Baptist churches out there across America. This is a tiny church that's out there all by itself and that's the way they want it."

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  • Guest

    I'm a Roman Catholic priest and when I was in the seminary at St. Meinrad in Indiana, a group of us used to travel frequently to the abortion mill in Louisville, KY to pray the Rosary for the victims and perpetrators of abortion. On one occasion, some Westboro followers were there with their picket signs saying "God hates fags" and "God hates the Catholic Church", among other things. One fellow was carrying a picket sign that simply said "God hates…". (He obviously forgot to insert a target there). His incomplete sign spoke volumes of the "god" they worship. It made me realize that this misguided flock needs our prayers as much as those involved in abortion. Pray for them! Luke 6:27.

  • Guest

    Well, I for one as a Southern Baptist, would never associate with this group but I do understand their Primitive Baptist connection.  Problem is that many of those beleivers do not have the first idea of how the Bible came into play and as such skip over a 1000 years of history, church or otherwise. 

     

    Regarding being a Baptist, the emphasis of local church autonomy and priesthood of the believer are key to being a Baptist.  I know that such a statement will come off as offensive to the Catholic believers on this site but it is only meant as information, please do not take it otherwise.

     

    It is extraordinary that this group has garnered so much attention when one considers how small that they are and the fact that few mainline Baptists have denounced them.  Yet, here they are offering their claim as being the voice of God and announcing that retribution is at hand for what they state are the sins of America.  What are those sins?  Homosexuality first and then to some extent abortion but mainly the sin of homosexuality.  You know what is scary?  The fact that Catholics and Protestants agree that homosexuality is a sin so do we find ourselves silenced like a bunch of Muslims not speaking out against the criminal acts of other Muslims or defending our faith against such abuses?

     

    Joseph Bailey

  • Guest

    Honestly, I have been rather heartened by the collective outrage I've seen expressed by all Christians against Phelps. I have't seen Christians be silent about Phelps…every forum I've seen I see all sorts of Christians denounce him soundly….as well we should. But that doesn't seem to matter in the media because in spite of this the media still describes them as merely 'Baptist' as if they are typical of all Baptist.

    The media likes to call Guiliani, Senator's Kerry, Pelosi, Boxer, and 'Catholics for free choice' president Francis Kissling all faithful Catholics too.

    eh…Well…the Baptists have 'Rev." Phelps, the Catholics have 'Catholics for free choice' etc.

    Jesus had Judas.

    Welcome to being 'Blessed'.

    "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

    I forget what verse and book thats from…I just know my dear Baptist brethren know it.

    Matthew…right?

    Don't worry…no one really mistakes Phelps for a real Baptist.

    Not fellow Christians anyway.Wink

    God bless,

    Madeline

  • Guest

    kc

     

    Joseph, it strikes me as odd to say that you know the issues of church autonomy and priesthood of the believer will offend Catholics.  I guess it could offend the ignorant ones who are sensitive or something.  I don't know why the indifferent ones would care.  But Catholics who know and care about their faith will disagree with your understanding of church and priesthood of believers, but knowing that you are wrong about it doesn't offend us.  There is nothing offensive about stating what you believe, unless you attach name-calling or something to it. 

    Catholics share in the priesthood of Christ, all of us, (women, too) But, you're right: we do not have the Baptist understanding of what that means.  That, Joseph, is great grounds for discussion (elsewhere), but little grounds for being offended. 

     I think it's dandy people speak out about Phelps, and people who are even a little educated/open-minded do not mix this guy up with decent, God-fearing and God-loving Baptists.  I just wish people would be as vocal about the importance of not embracing sodomy as normal and morally neutral while affirming God's love for and the dignity of the person who struggles with same-sex attraction.  Sometimes, I think many people don't want to hear the difference between the two.  They like neat little categories: loves diversity/hates it.  Once I categorize you; I dismiss you.  I think Phelps and gay activists really have a lot in common, ironically enough.

  • Guest

    Primitive Baptist is right. We've all heard of the lost sheep, well this is the lost flock. Unless Jesus finds them soon, we will read about how the wolves have devoured them.

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