Steven Waldman

In the comment thread on my post about Westboro Baptist Church’s visit to Brooklyn, Jay writes:

“I think you underestimate the links between Westboro and the Southern Baptists and other more mainstream Christian religions, nearly all of which trumpet the very same verses when they condemn homosexuality. Similarly, you also don’t seem to realize the history of anti-Semitism in Christian churches. Westboro may be a laughable collection of rude and stupid people, but they are different only in degree to many other Christians. And in the long run, I believe that the homophobia of more respectable churches has harmed far more people than the silly pranks of Westboro.”

I disagree.
By Jay’s logic, the fact that Cuba has national health care means that those who want universal heatlh care here differ “only by degree” with Communist leader Fidel Castro. At a certain point, the differences so outnumber the similarities that implying they’re close cousins becomes misleading.
Yes, Westboro quotes the same Bible passages against homosexuality as conservative Christians — but Westboro also jubilantly celebrates the deaths of gays. Yes, Westboro argues that America’s behavior has angered God (as some conservative Christians have) — but they also picket the funerals of soldiers who have died defending America.
It is absolutely worth conservative Christians examining the logical progression of their ideas, just as those who want more government intervention in health care should consider the worst case scenarios, too. But part of being a good person, and a good society, is knowing how to put on the brakes as you slide down the slippery slope. One essential ingredient is for those who come from the same branch of the genealogical tree as the extremists to denounce them. The Southern Baptists, and other conservative Christians, have done so with Westboro.

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