I cringe when I see the Westboro Baptist picketers with their signs declaring God’s hate. When I first moved to Topeka, I was appalled that they would call themselves “Baptist” and the negative connotation that was associated with the denomination in our community. How could someone declare a God who hates people or America or a God who loves 9/11? It was not an easy to explain these people to my children when we drove past them and their signs around town.
Lauren Drain, a former Westoboro Baptist cult member, tells her personal story of her teen years in her book Banished, and helped me understand. Here are some of my thoughts after reading her memoir:
1. The whole Bible is God’s Words to us. If you take one passage, or pick sets of verses you like the best and ignore the others, what you know about God is skewed. God’s Word does not contradict itself. Use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Read verses in context - context in a passage, in a chapter, in a book, and in the context of all 66 books.
2. People are out there seeking God, trying to find out who He is and how to find their way to Him. I may have crossed paths with Lauren Drain the month she was banished. She was living on her own for the first time at the same apartment complex where I lived for 30 days, alone, for the first time in my life, as my family was making the move to Topeka, Kansas. Two lonely people waiting for things to change, one knowing the hate of God, the other knowing the love of God. My heart aches – what if I had kept my eyes open to the people and needs around me and had the opportunity to reach out to her but was just too self-absorbed?
3. Why do people join cults or unhealthy ‘churches’? Why is it so easy for the Word of God to be twisted and abused? God created us with a longing and with desires that Satan wants to twist. Many are seeking a sense of:
a. Community and belonging, which can be twisted into a life of segregation and shutting out the outside world increasing the connectedness within.
b. Power, from self instead of Jesus Christ, which comes from looking down on others to elevate self higher, a result of condemning and shunning others.
c. Significance – which twists into eliteness, feeling more special in God’s eyes than other people, feeding pride and arrogance.
Things aren’t what they seem. Lauren Drain’s story helped me see the Westboro Baptist church people differently – each one as an individual in need of understanding of the cross. I will never look at the picketers the same, and dare I say, maybe even feel I can genuinely pray for them with the love of Christ that their eyes will be open to the ultimate Truth.