Beliefnet
Windows and Doors

Despite the attitude of many New York Jewish leaders, I am not certain that ignoring this famously hateful church group is the best way to go. In New York for a variety of activities, they have planned protests at numerous Jewish institutions, including Temple Beth El on Long Island, where a memorial service will be held Thursday for murdered Yale student, Anne Le. The temple was to be the site of her wedding to fiancé, Jonathan Widawsky.
Ignoring these protesters strikes me as a bad idea for any number of reasons, not least of which is that when any group is as hateful and fearful as these folks are, failure to engage is often construed as tacit permission, or at least, passive acquiescence. How can we not respond to a group that announces itself like this:

Westboro Baptist Church
(WBC Chronicles — Since 1955)
3701 S.W. 12th St. Topeka, Ks. 66604 785-273-0325 www.GodHatesFags.com
Religious Opinion & Bible Commentary on Current Events
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
NEWS RELEASE
(Supplemental info: background, photos, audio sermons & hymns, & video footage – available free at www.JewsKilledJesus.com, www.SignMovies.com, www.GodHatestheWorld.com, www.PriestsRapeBoys.com, www.BeastObama.com & Blogs.SpareNot.com)
WBC TO PICKET FAG-INFESTED
TEMPLE BETH EL, 660 PARK
AVENUE, HUNTINGTON, NY,
IN RELIGIOUS PROTEST AND
WARNING:”BE NOT DECEIVED;
GOD IS NOT MOCKED.” Galatians 6:7.
MEMORIAL TO ANNIE LE
(Picket, Thursday, Sept. 24,
from 5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.)
GOD HATES “NAUGHTY FIG” JEWS.
Jeremiah 24:2


Unlike the head of a Jewish Day School that will also be picketed by Westoboro, who insisted that “this is not a teachable moment”, I think it might be.
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And I also cannot help but wonder if we claim it is not such a moment, because we don’t know how to teach the moment, or engage the issue, meaningfully.
Let’s face it, our own tradition was founded on a not to dissimilar theology, one in which God punished, often in violent and horrible ways, those who did not do precisely what the Bible said. And if we believed that our sons and daughters were dying because of the larger culture’s sexual and religious mores, would we not protest? Not in this way perhaps, but we would surely raise our voices.
I am not justifying in any way what the members of the Westboro Church either believe or do. I am simply suggesting that deep down, most of our traditions have at some point articulated similar messages, that we are all more alike than we often like to admit, and that we could engage both these people and the fear and hate which animate them.
What would happen if rather than simply ignore them, we sought a genuine conversation in which we asked what it is that has them so angry? How is it that they insist on the literal interpretation of certain portions of scripture while wholly ignoring others? Why is it that their protest is so angry and hateful? What is the cost of all that anger and hate, and who pays it?
What would happen if the head of every institution that will be picketed invited the group in for a real talk about these questions? Of course, they will probably not accept the offer, but why not try? If nothing else, it would transform their moment of hate into our moment of genuine teaching of the values we hold most dear. And the teaching, learning and sharing of those values is surely a better response to these folks than simply congratulating ourselves on being better than they are.

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