“Are you looking for a sign from God? This is it.”
— seen on too many church signs
In the popular imagination, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist “Church” probably deserve their status as the archetypal hateful ultra-fundamentalist spiritual abusers. (They’re the ones who popularized the infamous slogan, “God hates [anti-homosexual slur redacted]s.”) For reasons unfathomable to the rational mind of man, they recently decided to bring one of their hateful protests to the corporate headquarters of Twitter in downtown San Francisco. (The gay pride parade I can see, but Twitter?)
How would you respond if someone brought this kind of message of hatred–really of spiritual abuse, because it’s in the name of God–to your neighborhood? I’ve seen lots of responses on various occasions reported in the news, but this one takes the cake, the pie, and the cookies with a great big cherry on top. As gleefully reported on LaughingSquid.com, Phelps and his minions “…found themselves severely outnumbered by a crowd of absurdist pranksters…WBC’s hate-promoting signs were answered by multiple signs of randomness, nonsensical yelling, and even a unicorn.”
“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26:5)
The best one, not pictured but mentioned in the comments, was “God hates #tags.”
My hat’s off to the brilliance of these counter-protesters in using absurdist performance art to skewer the Phelpsians at their own game. I think that, intentionally or not, they’ve stumbled on an amazing (and actually, deeply spiritual) response to this kind of abuse. See, many people, on seeing this brand of hate and abuse propagated in the name of God, would be likely to respond with an equal bitterness, anger, sadness, rage, sarcasm, cynicism, what have you. That’s understandable; it bites close to the heart when you hear anybody say that, for whatever reason, you’re not loved.
But you know what? To bring a message of hatred and rejection in the name of Jesus–whose message includes the facts that “God loves the world” and that you should “love your neighbor”–is nothing other than sheer raving nonsense. For any practical purpose, the spiritual abusers’ signs stating “God hates ***s” are no more sensible than a prankster’s sign saying “Build prisons on the moon.” God is love. God loves you. To say otherwise is to say something so untrue, it may as well be nonsense. Nonsense never hurt anyone; in fact, it’s pretty funny. You don’t get mad when you see someone with a sign that says “Rabbits are made of cheese.” You laugh, and maybe even go away feeling a bit better, knowing that it isn’t true–it isn’t even sane.
When you know the truth, the lies don’t hurt as much–they can’t hurt as much. The truth is that, whatever else you can say even on a contentious issue, God loves you. God loves straights. God loves gays (read the article at that link if you need some convincing, or encouragement). God loves your enemies. God loves you. Heck, God even loves people who rail and hate and lie in His name–God even loves Fred Phelps.
The epilogue is a perfect ending touch– after the absurdist counter-assault of nonsense at Twitter, the WBC folks apparently had had enough, and actually canceled their planned appearance later that day outside the theater playing Fiddler on the Roof. (Again, presumably for reasons beyond the ken of human sanity.) The nonsense protesters showed up anyway, to the bemusement of the theatergoers. Hey, freedom of speech includes the right to say silly things, right? Maybe there’s a lesson here too: when we don’t treat spiritual abusers as so deadly serious, when we laugh at their lies and make fun of their attitudes–not out of spite but because frankly it is a bit funny–sometimes they’ll just shut up and go away.
The protesters even managed to find some spiritual truths in a rickroll: