Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Bring Division! Let's Talk Missionary Work

When I ranted about Westboro Baptist a few days back, some Christians came by to try to “show” me that they weren't like those psycho fundies down at Westboro. Which is fine and dandy, and I never said otherwise, but what I wanted was for someone to explain two things: How these Westboro nutjobs can call themselves Christians? and What are “real” Christians gonna materially do, or are doing, to really stop this insanity?

I thought they were both reasonable questions. In the responses, I got three Christian responses. For my blog, three newbie first-time posters is great! (I should probably work on some superior form of tagging, tho' I admit the technical details I find tedious and frustrating. I should still do it if I'm serious about wanting fundie Christian trolls cruising my blog. A friend of mine doesn't say that it'll particularly help because I'm too good at “winning” arguments, which drives away trolls. Still, I want trolls!)

The first, Kathi, said that confronting them is “what they want”. The second, Kevin, didn't even mention what to do about them except “expose their mess”. The third, Martin, said that the Westboro people sue other people, so didn't dare do anything, then claimed poverty (tho' he eventually did say that, perhaps, it was time to do something about people like that), and then said that money could be better spent feeding starving people, and he also used the “it's what they want” argument. All three of them used the “no true Scotsman” fallacy as a defense, claiming the guys at Westboro weren't “real Christians” (tho', again, to be fair, Martin seemed to realize that his aggressive behavior wasn't, really, too much different from the Westboro people – loving everyone does mean, after all, even loving horrible human beings).

All I could think, really, is “what a bunch of gutless fucking cowards” but then I started thinking it through, more. Christians can find the money to send missionaries all over the world, but can't find the cash to go down to Topeka, Kansas? They'll send missionaries into brutal, war-torn countries to confront dictators and warlords, but can't stand down from some guys in Kansas?! So, given that Christian churches routinely do dangerous missionary, and I gotta figure it takes a lot of nerve to do missionary work in some corners of the world, it really makes me wonder why the Westboro people are so off-limits? Clearly, Christian churches have the nerve to find missionaries to do work in very dangerous places, and they find the money to do it, too. I find it without real credit the idea that neither the resources nor the courage exist to fight the Westboro Baptist Church. I mean, it isn't like these people – Christians – have any problem at all converting people. If the folks down at Westboro aren't “Christian”, I can't see any reason at all why “real Christians” would hesitate from attempting to convert them and thus save their souls as well as blot out an ugly stain on American Christianity.

I think that this is important for talking about American Christianity and every time they throw up the “no real Scotsman” fallacy. These people, as a group, are missionaries. Jesus, himself, created what is known as the Great Commission, which was go to out and preach the word of Jesus to all the world. They've got the resources, infrastructure and personnel to provide missionaries to the most horrible spots all around the world – they'll fight to send missionaries to communist China and war, drought and famine ravaged African countries, and everything in between, but they will not engage in missionary work directed at fundamentalist Christian organizations here in America.

I would really like for some Christian to answer me that – I want to know why missionary work isn't directed towards people like the Westboro Baptist Church, which time and again I've been told “isn't really Christian”. Because, what I think, is that it is Christian, and that no moderate or liberal Christian in America really wants to do missionary work towards fundamentalist Christians because it would start a real lively discussion in America about the real nature of Christianity, what it really stands for, and why Christians speak and act as the do (with many of them being racist, classist, sexist war-mongers), and I don't think that any Christians in America want that. The fundies don't want it because right now they can get away with murder, and the moderate and liberal Christians don't want it because it'll create a big ruckus right next to them, it'll bring division and dissent into their own homes and communities, and they do not want that.

Yet, I can't help but think that Jesus said something about this:

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (Luke 12:49-53 KJV)

Again, spread the word. I'd really like to get a good answer as to why “real Christians” don't engage in missionary work to spread the “real” word of Jesus to fundamentalist churches in America.

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Santiago said...


Interesting that you came to this conclusion. I was heading there myself last evening though I hadn't considered the missionary aspect.

I was merely thinking of the vast amounts of money Churchs are known to collect and why that money wasn't being put to use in causes such as these.

And before anyone else jumps in about what that money is put to use for, check with your church. In the 90's a study was done (I read in a book by Dan Barker "Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Athiest", so I don't have an internet reference handy) which showed that only about 20% of the money collected over all by churchs was actually used for such things as "helping the needy" and "food drives."

The rest seems to vanish into various black holes.

Whether anyone chooses to believe that statistic or not, I would simply suggest that they go to their church leaders and ask for an accounting. The honest ones will give it.

The money collecting machine which any church represents should be sufficient to, at the very least, raise awareness to this problem.

I would even go so far as to say that people of many different religious view points would likely get behind a cause to curb the more hostile and violent activities of groups like Westboro. I derive that thought directly from people I know of wide religious backgrounds who are all just as horrified at such individuals as these.

Ultimately though your point is well taken. I simply can't see how more moderate churchs throughout the country can be blind to these activities. They have to know.

So why don't the respond? A real PR campaign would be sufficient to raise awareness and generate action.

Doesn't seem like that would be all that difficult to do.

April 25, 2007 11:45 AM  
Chris Bradley said...


Yeah, I didn't consider the missionary part of it immediately, either. This post started out as a rant about the general cowardice of Christians and their fear of confronting fundamentalists in their midst. Then it just hit me. If these guys aren't "real Christians" then it stands to reason that they're legitimate targets for conversion on those grounds. If Christians are serious about Westboro Baptists not being "real Christians" -- and thus, y'know, are gonna go to Hell on account of their violence, pride and false teachings of Jesus -- then it behooves them to go and correct and convert them as much as it behooves them to go and convert people in central Africa or Southeast Asia. The difference being that it would be a lot easier to minister to Westboro people. I'm sure that people of missionary bent who feel Westboro Christians aren't "real" could be found in Topeka, Kansas. They could minister to the Westboro folks by day and sleep in their own beds at night. They're RIGHT THERE.

Perhaps some of the problem is, y'know, conceptual. The problem is that, really, most Christians on some level do see them as co-religionists -- if they ministered to Westboro, what would they say? "Let Jesus into your heart"? The Westboro folks would go, "I already have!" Rather than talk in the simplistic emotional speech most missionaries use (which, IME, it very, very manipulative), they would have to offer a more nuanced talk on things -- they'd have to discuss Scripture and it's interpretation. And I think that's a can of worms they are trying to avoid, very strongly.

History has shown that Christians, absent other enemies, fairly gleefully start to fight each other. People talk about the Enlightenment. I prefer "Era of Religious Wars" to emphasize how much the Enlightenment is romanticized by people who consider it the highest peak of human civilization. (If it was so much about REASON, why were there so many damn religious wars?! That sounds the antithesis of reason to me!) The history of the Christian church from Constantine to the formation of secular governments (which were formed in large measure to put an end to Christian-on-Christian violence) is one of internecine warfare amongst Christians. I think that, at this point, even Christians are hesitant to open up that can of worms by walking up to another kind of Christian and saying, "You're not REALLY a Christian." We know where that goes.

Of course, in American, the fight wouldn't be physical. We wouldn't let it get to that pitch, really. But the ideological struggle would be really intense. Christians would be confronting other Christians with the contradictions and absurdities in their interpretation of the Bible. When atheists do it, they can blow us off by saying we don't "read in faith" or whatever other argument they use -- our opinion about religion doesn't count. But other Christians BELIEVE and you can't blow them off as easily.

Ultimately, I think what would happen is people would leave Christianity in droves. Some would flee the struggle itself, others would come to see the absurdity of their interpretation and find another faith, or lack of faith, more compatible with what they wanted Jesus to say compared to what he did say, and the general trust people put in religion would go down because the struggle would highlight how confused and contradictory the Bible is. It'd just be bad for religion.

So, I think it's easier for Christians to . . . sort of superficially say that the other people aren't "real Christians" and let it go, because to do otherwise would be to attack the very foundations of their religion -- and no religion wants that. It's sort of a mutually assured destruction -- the fundies don't go after liberal congregations and liberal congregations don't go after fundies.

I should note, however, that the fundies have been using parachurch organizations to cheat, and so far the cheating has been successful.

April 26, 2007 12:11 AM  

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