Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Westboro protests, day one

Today was the first of the Westboro "Baptist Church" (I don't think they qualify as Baptist or a church) protests here in Omaha. They've decided to protest at the high school graduations this weekend and decided to kick it all off by protesting at South High School this afternoon. 

As part of the church contingent (we're very much concerned because one, the graduates, students and their families do not need this stupidity and hate, and two, the cathedral's right across the street from where the graduations will be held), I went down to help de-escalate things. The Westboro people know how to provoke people and want to see people react. It's pretty sick, really. 

Teenagers are also not known for being calm, cool and collect in the face of such outrageous behavior, but I was delighted to see them exercise their energies on a sizable counter-demonstration on the other side of the street. I'm so happy to see them stand up and use their voice. The Westboro people were pretty quiet today, too, so that helped. Oh, yes, it was also raining. I'm pretty sure God had a hand in that one. 

The fact that it went off without a hitch, without any loud shouts or much baiting, is nice. It was quiet and it gave me the chance to get a look at the Westboro people more closely as they returned to their van. It was scary to look at those faces. They looked like they should be normal, sensible people, but beneath that facade lurked undeniably evil hatred. I don't use the word 'evil' lightly- look at the Westboro website if you want a glimpse into the pure hatred which permeates every word. It's disgusting, and it cannot come from God. 

But their faces! They weren't contorted or ugly or anything. Nothing would distinguish them from anyone else if it weren't for those signs and their words, and I guess that is a glimpse into what we call "the banality of evil." It doesn't bear nice marks to distinguish it, nothing to set it apart. It looks and seems to act like one of us. Now it sounds like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" or something.  

So, friends, can I ask your prayers and thoughts for the young people (and the Jewish community) of Omaha this week? They all need strength in these times. 


Phil said...

Let's hope they continue to have less-than-effective protests. I guess the fact that they look like normal people is a testament to the fact that all of us can be led down a dark dark path.
Hope all is well with you Joe, and continues to be.

Country Parson said...

They are a curious group. All of them members of one extended family, not really a church at all in any ordinary sense of the word. I sometimes wonder what their own personal lives are like. I imagine that it's hard to remain sane when one's life is spent both spewing vitriolic hate and confined to the company of a fairly small hate driven family.

Karl Julian said...


I think you're right here. It is scary to think that so little separates us from something so dark. The old "I was just following orders" attests to that. Things are well with me, and I hope they are with you.


I wonder what the dinner conversation's like.