Monday, December 17, 2012

A Word for Westboro

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Westboro Baptist Church has picketed the Newtown area in light of last week's horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. These yahoos (who should never be confused with real Baptists or a real church) seem to have the same motive of troubled killers: to make a name for themselves by defaming others in an attention-grabbing stunt.

Based on the few picket signs I could bear to read before nearing a vomitous reaction, the Westboro folks trumpet a clear line of reasoning; a horrible event happened to Newtown, and therefore, God must be judging the town (and America, by extension) for their sin. Sadly, it's a mistaken line of reasoning that many adhere to in a less heinous manner.

I wish Jesus addressed this issue directly somewhere. Oh wait, he did! Luke 13:1-3 recounts this unique encounter,

"There were some present at that very time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'"

Here, in this passage, we hear of an event where Pilate "mingled" the blood of some Galileans with that of their sacrifices. In short, he killed them unjustly, just like the Sandy Hook shootings. And yet Jesus asks his audience, "Did this happen because those victims were worse than the rest of you?! Was this God's brutal judgment?" In the words of Westboro's picket sign, did God send the shooter?

Jesus' words are clear and telling for horrible and unjust tragedies like this. "No, I tell you." This did not happen as judgment because the victims were worse than you, or worse than any other survivors. This happened to remind us to always repent, to stay right with God, and to continually check our hearts before the Lord, lest we perish apart from him.

Sorry, Westboro. According to Jesus, the shootings (and other such tragedies) were not God's retribution of hate, but his reminder of love.