God Loves Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church

There are few areas in life where I would joyfully side with the likes of a Bill Maher, Rosie O’Donnell, or Nancy Pelosi. But because of a certain maligned group of tortured souls masquerading as the prophetic voice of God I share a healthy disdain with these progressives. I do not share any mild fascination my leftist friends may have in attributing this group as Christian, Baptist or a Church though. A landmark false advertisement suit may be in order, right after the courts go after “Christian Science” for not even vaguely representing Christianity or Science. Rather, I submit to you the graceless vitriolic propaganda group hilariously called “The Westboro Baptist Church” is neither Christian, Baptist or a Church.

If their virulently offensive website “Godhatesfags.com” wasn’t a clear enough clue, maybe their picket signs that broadcast “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” should be. Could one group galvanize liberals and conservatives against them in a more unified and total fashion? It should be apparent that the “church” is really just the misguided extended family of “pastor” Fred Phelps, living a communal cultish lifestyle that propagates itself through the brainwashing of children.

My gripe though is not with the shockingly ungodly tactics of the group, but rather the theological nature of the group’s message. Much more can be said about the Fred Phelps propaganda machine, but the grand way in which it misses the core gospel message is enough in itself to deny it entry in the “church universal.”

Here is indictment numero uno on the WBC message: An ignorance of the purpose of the Law. The Law is the holy requirements and commandments of God and the deserving punishment from God for failure to keep those commandments. The Law threatens, exhorts, commands and warns of God’s judgment on unrighteousness. Yet it was never meant to grant righteousness in and of itself (James 2:19). The Law highlights what we cannot do, namely to live a perfect life of obedience before a perfect God. The purpose of the Law is to show the sinner how manifestly sinful he is before God, and how there is no hope to save himself (Romans 3:20). The Law condemns everyone, including the preacher preaching it (Romans 3:23). Homosexuality is not the only scourge on society. The whole host of unrepentant heterosexual sins will accumulate God’s wrath, as will religious pride (ahem WBC!).

WBC’s message is not just offensive because of its abrasive verbosity within ridiculous contexts (funerals?!). The WBC is browbeating people with a half truth that will save no one and only add to the yoke of their guilty conscience. When the WBC cherry picks a verse (as it does with Leviticus 20:23) it is almost always one intimating the Law: that God will judge sin and will pour His wrath out on the unrepentant sinner. But thank goodness, the Law is not the ultimate end of the biblical message regarding sin, though the Jones tribe acts as if it is. Fred Phelps gospel is the anti-gospel of the first century Pharisees and Judaizers of Jesus’ day, a gospel that stresses only what a person can do to be saved (the Law) and not what God has done to save them (the Gospel). To tell a person to “flee” from the wrath to come is of no value if they have no clear understanding what, or whom, they are fleeing to. 

The preaching of the Law alone will make a person twice the son of hell if there is no true gospel grasped (Matthew 23:15). Instead, the Law and Gospel were meant to go hand in hand in all biblical preaching. 

The bad news of the Law makes way for the gloriously good news of the Gospel:

“My friends, I want you to remember the message that I preached and that you believed and trusted. You will be saved by this message, if you hold firmly to it. But if you don’t, your faith was all for nothing. I told you the most important part of the message exactly as it was told to me. That part is: Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say. He was buried, and three days later he was raised to life, as the Scriptures say.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

The ultimate measuring stick of a gospel message is how clearly it uplifts the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus Christ is the only cure for the disease of sin and the wrath of God (Acts 4:12). As Martin Luther stated, “The Law kills so the Gospel can come and resurrect us.”

When one sees their utter helplessness to lift one finger towards earning salvation, they then turn with all their might to the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ who alone takes away their sins (John 1:29). The radical measures God takes by sacrificing his own Son sheds light on the radical grip sin has on our lives. Phelps and WBC makes much of God’s wrath and little of Christ’s wrath absorbing sacrifice. As a result, they preach a gospel of sadism, but not biblical Christianity.

Yes, some modern preacher’s have neglected the biblical reality of God’s wrath in Scriptures. But we are not being faithful to the text by swinging the pendulum the other way and completely ignoring the biblical reality of God’s love. No, these two attributes of God reveal two sides of the same coin.

God’s wrath for sin cannot be separated from God’s love for sinners (John 3:16, 1 John 4:16). What God has joined together let no man separate: “This is love, not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us and gave His Son to be a wrath bearing sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). 

Those who claim Christ will be marked by this same sacrificial humble love (John 15:13). They will speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And they will use their speaking gifts for the sake of love so as not to be a merely annoying clanging cymbal (1 Cor 13:1). The Holy Spirit will birth in that person fruits that include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…gentleness” (Galatians 5:22-23) and maybe mostly, humility (Phill 2:1-5).

Those are the marks of a true Christian preaching the true biblical gospel. 

So instead of broadcasting a drive by pot shot that would include a “God Hates the WBC” moniker and rousing hate speech to match, I would say this:

God loves the Westboro Baptist Church. God loves Fred Phelps and his extended family. If any of you are reading: God, in His infinite mercy, gave you His Son as a perfect all-sufficient sacrifice for your sin, so that you would not have to live under the crushing weight of the Law you preach so passionately (and wrongly).

Flee from the wrath to come, yes. But flee to the God Who is Love. Even you, Fred.  

“Whoever does not love, does not know God because God is love” (1 John 4:8)

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

16 thoughts on “God Loves Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church”

  1. We must not confuse truth and lie with God’s love, since the Bible teaches of the Lord’s six hates. Those who bore witnessed to his words only to pour of lies are hated like those who stirs up conflict in the community. The outcry you see is not “Pot Shots” as these people speak the truth as a warning to those who have fell into temptation.

    These followers are not of a church of the Lord, instead they follow man and are being led into evil. Those who follow the Lord; love thy neighbor and thy enemy, and mourn with those who mourn. We must show they are loved by praying for them to find God’s love:

    “Heavenly Father, we pray for those who have been led into temptation and are now delivering evil. We pray they may once again find your love and cease their lies of false hates. We pray they can once again see your words, to love thy enemy and thy neighbor, as those words you have given to bring people to you. We ask they regain in fellowship to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn. We ask they use the gift they have been given not for notoriety and greed, but as fisher of men as you had intended. It is with these words we pray – Amen”

  2. Hey there,

    On 60-minutes Australia last night a spot was done on Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. After dealing with the rage I was harbouring I set about to find a mature, biblical response to him and I think I have finally found one. Alot of things I read just talked ideas on how to respond to him, but it was great to find a mature, christian and biblical response. So thanks for your work….

    I think about these things and always reminded of Jesus weeping over the unrepentant Jerusalem… certainly not hating there….

    Thanks again

    Adam

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comment. I tried to give a generous thoughtful biblical response (not always accused of that!) to Phelps terrible “ministry.” When someone is throwing mud I’m usually inclined to get my own hands dirty too. Hope to hear from you again, God’s blessing to you and yours “down under”!

  3. It hurts me that these kinds of groups grab national attention and bring disgrace on the name of Christ…So many people are driven away from religion by sickening spectacles such as these. Thanks for writing about it.

  4. Brilliantly put, sir. I thank you for presenting this horrid ‘ministry’ accurately and in a biblical manner. I get so upset at WBC when I hear of their antics and can’t help but wonder what could possibly make them think that this is right. I pray for this group. God bless you for explaining it so well.

  5. Good golly now! This is an absolutely outstanding write, Bryan! I almost didn’t read past the first sentence, but I’m so glad I did. You expressed so eloquently what I discern to be the truth about this matter. Thank you for sharing these God-based thoughts with us!
    I will share this on FB, Twitter and SU!

  6. Bryan, well said. There is nothing cult-ish about these folks, clearly they are a full fledged cult. However, as you wrote so well, the point is that God loves them as he loves all. It is up to each of them to accept, or reject, God’s graceful. May they realize the utter hopelessness of where they are and come to a saving knowledge of the one true God, the God of love as well as justice.

  7. Sometimes it is helpful be reminded that God loves those who do not deserve it. No one deserves God’s love, but He still does because He is God. I know when I see these guys on TV I have to step out of the room to vent out a little because they frustrate to new levels. The truth is God loves them, and they need our prayers.

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