I don’t remember when I first heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, but I do remember my reaction. I was angry. I wanted to get in their faces and I wanted to yell at them, “Who did they think they were? God himself??!!” Now, many years later since I first heard of the Westboro Baptist Church my feelings have somewhat changed. With Fred Phelps recent death I can’t help but think of the Westboro Baptist Church and its legacy of hate filled mantras, colorful signs filled with nonsense as they picket at funerals- hurting the families and friends of the deceased. After seeing their actions they have taught me something. Thou Shall Not Hate. Of course that seems really obvious, but think about it. Is there someone you don’t like? Is there someone who treated you in an awful manner that even the thought of them brings hatred out in you? Exactly. Hate is an easy emotion to succumb to and a hard emotion to conquer. I remember when there was word that they were going to picket a soldiers funeral about a year or 2 ago. . A facebook event was soon made and I knew I had to go. I didn’t care if I missed class or not, for me this was important. I soon made a sign and I realized and knew that if I spouted any words of hate I would be just as much of an hypocrite as Fred Phelps and his whole community.
I decided to put these words on the sign because this can apply to everyone. Those that have just lost loved ones. Those that are at the counter protests and any of the Westboro Baptist members. I went to the counter protest and we got there real early, early enough to attend another persons funeral. Many people had american flags, gay pride flags, signs that said Peace and Love. I loved seeing bible verses, verses from the Torah and the Koran. There were quotes from Buddha also. It was wonderful to see a diverse group of people come together to show their support to a grieving family. There were also (of course) people with their signs saying that the Westboro Baptists should go to Hell (which it is understandable, but still it’s not right), and others that treated this whole thing as a joke. These people even though it was good (somewhat) that they were there, they obviously didn’t understand the full purpose of this counter protest. While waiting we the counter protesters were invited by the family who was threatened to be protest invited us closer to the funeral home. I of course was all for it. Holding my sign for the family and friends. They were the ones who were suffering, they needed comfort. The focus shouldn’t be about countering hate with hate, but giving love to those who are being hated on and yes be loving to those filled with hate. I remember at one point while facing the street away from the funeral home that a group of people in a car actually flipped me off and told me to go to hell. I was shocked and I still think they were either supporters of the Westboro’s or they were “scouts” trying to see whether or not it would be worth to come out and protest the funeral. Either way I have learned within my heart that the only way to counteract hate is with love. It is really easy to give in to the emotion of hate, but that is not the answer. They taught me to love and how to love, even in the face of hatred itself. Thank you Westboro Baptist Church, you taught me how not to act. You taught me that hatred is wrong. You taught me why compassion is important. the most important lesson you taught me is how to love you and love all those filled with hate. It is not an easy task, it never is, but I will do my best. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~