TMT#8 POLITICS (1): Lessons From Westboro

Westboro Baptist Church is known for hate. Know this: their beliefs are very far removed from what the Bible teaches. That’s important to recognise.

However, the focus of the next few posts isn’t the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s politics.

At a New York TED Talk in 2017, Megan Phelps-Roper discussed why she left the Westboro church; in doing so, she made some profound remarks (emphasis added):

“This has been at the front of my mind lately, because I can’t help but see in our public discourse so many of the same destructive impulses that ruled my former church. We celebrate tolerance and diversity more than at any other time in memory, and still we grow more and more divided. We want good things — justice, equality, freedom, dignity, prosperity — but the path we’ve chosen looks so much like the one I walked away from four years ago. We’ve broken the world into us and them, only emerging from our bunkers long enough to lob rhetorical grenades at the other camp. We write off half the country as out-of-touch liberal elites or racist misogynist bullies. No nuance, no complexity, no humanity. Even when someone does call for empathy and understanding for the other side, the conversation nearly always devolves into a debate about who deserves more empathy. And just as I learned to do, we routinely refuse to acknowledge the flaws in our positions or the merits in our opponent’s. Compromise is anathema. We even target people on our own side when they dare to question the party line. This path has brought us cruel, sniping, deepening polarization, and even outbreaks of violence. I remember this path. It will not take us where we want to go.”

We have to talk and listen to people we disagree with. It’s hard because we often can’t fathom how the other side came to their positions.”

The political climate of the Western world is becoming increasingly divisive. When we truly process the vitriol spilling out into political discussion, it’s obvious that something is going badly wrong.

It’s a straight battle between the goodest of good vs the evilest of evil.

No nuance. No love. No discussion.

It’s not right.

Phelps-Roper discussed four helpful principles that help make “real conversation” possible:

  1. Don’t assume bad intent
  2. Ask questions
  3. Stay calm
  4. Make the argument (i.e., don’t think that your opinion is “obvious”)

These should be self-explanatory, shouldn’t they? Right now, they don’t seem to be.

Is productive political conversation possible any more?

I hope so.

4 thoughts on “TMT#8 POLITICS (1): Lessons From Westboro

  1. Phelps and his Westboro Church have been a major cause of LGBT’s hatred of God for many years and as a result, in America especially, it’s virtually impossible to bring a homosexual to Christ.

    1. A cause, yes. A major cause? I’m not sure.

      I think a huge component of the issue has been our inability as ‘the (global) Church’ to show the kind of love that Jesus called us to (and displayed himself). The type of love that recognises that without Christ shouldering the punishment that we deserve for our sinfulness, we are ALL slaves to our sin, regardless of sexual orientation.

      In our 21st Century Western and highly individualistic culture, I think we place far too much emphasis on orientation DEFINING our identity when in reality, it’s just an aspect of it. Let’s focus on the core issue, which is, *first and foremost*, not sexuality, but the transformational good news of Jesus!

      With that in mind, might I suggest, more broadly, that the Westboro Church has been a major cause of hatred for many people who wouldn’t describe themselves as Christian? And perhaps we can recognise, more broadly, that it doesn’t faithfully represent how God truly teaches us to live – to anyone, regardless of orientation.

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