The traffic has been pretty interesting on the comment section of Jesus Loves You.net, the site dedicated to the book by Craig Gross and Jason Harper. What caused the current stir is the fact that when Gross and Harper visited Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kan. on the first stop of their book tour, they gave their book to Shirley Phelps and she wrote a review.
WBC is infamous for its protests at the funerals of soldiers and, most recently, its picket at a performance of American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert. WBC members carry signs that say things like: God Hates Fags and God Hates America. Lambert, being gay, was a natural target for WBC. Gross and Harper did their best to counter that protest with a sign of support for Lambert.
Gross and Harper went to WBC originally to show that God loves everyone, including those at WBC, who in their extreme version of religion carry on in ways which Gross and Harper see as contrary to how Jesus lived. One of the chapters in the book is God Loves the Religious. Gross and Harper gave copies of the book to the leaders of WBC, one of whom is Phelps.
Phelps gave a scathing review of the book, but true to Gross’s track record (he publishes the hate mail he receives at XXXChurch) he posted the review on the Jesus Loves You site. Phelps is brutal, but there are the occasional moments of comedy, such as when she refers to Gross and Harper as “Joel Osteen wannabes.” That line actually made me laugh out loud.
But the interesting thing has been the response in the comments section, where visitors to the site are responding to Phelps’ review. It is here that the real challenge to love is put to us. Do we justify our excoriation of WBC, or do we grow in love of even extremely intolerant people? The commenters seem a little divided on this issue.
But that is the point Gross and Harper are making all the way through with this book, the tour and the engagement with WBC.
Quite frankly, it feels good and fitting to lambaste WBC. But, again, the love i need as a former addict is the same love WBC members need. Not one of us is immune from our need for the transforming love of God to pierce our hearts. And not one of us can rightly deny that love to others.