Monday, December 15, 2008

"God Hates WHO?!" December 13 Counter-protest by Project 12

A handful of Project 12 students and staff went into the heart of downtown Chicago Saturday, December 13, to again stand against the Westboro Baptist Church's defamation of the character of God. (Sorry, no photos... we did get some video which I am trying to get copied for the web.)

Westboro Baptist, actually one extended family with a patriarch, Fred Phelps, became known initially for their "God Hates Fags" signs and website. But when they began picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, carrying signs such as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." If you feel an adrenaline rush, and not of a good kind, when thinking on such things, consider that Westboro finds that reaction just what they're looking for.

We focused our protest upon the fact that they misrepresent the Bible and God by nearly everything they say. This wasn't lost on passers-by, a number of whom thanked us.

One of our Project 12 students, Rebecca, attempted to communicate with an older woman leading the group (a woman I believe is Fred Phelps' daughter, and a spokesperson for Westboro). Rebecca said to her, "God is love."

Her response, delivered in the most disdain-laden tone imaginable: "Oooo, my itty bitty private parts!"

Rebecca's response? "But God is love!"

And later, on the way home in the van, Rebecca commented: "How can they be so lost that they don't know God is love? That's so sad!"

Pray for this group. They are easy to hate back, but that "natural" response isn't the right one.

I'll try to get back to blogging on more than Westboro...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Only one of us could go today to protest the "God Hates Fags (and everyone else)" people

Last Thursday, a van load of us Project12ers went downtown to protest a group called "God Hates Fags." The latter, however, didn't show as they'd said they would (though did show up elsewhere later in the day after we'd gone home).

Today, I couldn't get our Project 12 students sprung from their job and class responsibilities to go downtown with me. The G. H. F. people again had promised to show up, this time to picket President-Elect Barack Obama, who they (so predictably) say is the Antichrist.

And they were there this time as advertised.

"God Hates Fags"... and Barack Obama. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church
displays their signs on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wabash, Dec. 8, 2008.
[Photo: Jon Trott]

I took up a spot across the street from them, not wanting anyone to think I was part of their group. My own signs read "Gays are Our Neighbors" and "Jesus' Answer to Hate was the Cross." Holding both signs was awkward, and it was quite cold, but since Monday had also prevented anyone else from showing up in opposition to Westboro, I stayed until they left around an hour after it began.

Chicago's well-known gay newspaper, Windy City Times, did cover the event (the reporter is an old friend from days when she was part of Queer to the Left and we worked on homelessness and poverty issues). A van pulled up, a guy jumped out and... well, let's say what he did with a water bottle mimicked one of Westboro's signs. A few minutes later, that van pulled up to me and I noted they were filming. Those inside told me they were doing footage for Showtime, asked me for a waiver (which I gave), and then drove off.

I handed out fliers to a few passers-by, mostly those who saw I was in opposition to Westboro and stopped to thank me. (The flier's contents I've posted in my Dec. 4 bit on Westboro.)

We hope to be present when Westboro shows up again in Chicago, perhaps this Saturday. By the way, Westboro... God LOVES you. Just thought you should know.

People Who Are Kind to Me: Thanks.

Two recent "15 minutes of fame" moments for me...

1. Christianity Today's Brandon O'Brien came to JPUSA and interviewed me, then put his reputation in further danger by actually posting a podcast of part of that interview on Audio Ur. Apparently even that isn't enough for him, as Leadership Journal's Winter 2009 issue will apparently offer even more of my brilliant babblings.

2. While I'm not a Christian Universalist, I do appreciate an apparently C. U. blog, Mercy Not Sacrifice, noting my blog entries re homosexuality and the Christian Right.

Okay, now that I've proven yet again that humility is not one of my strong suits, I'll shut up. But thanks, guys.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

NO SHOW!! Fred Phelps' "God Hates Fags" Fails to Appear in Chicago After All...

Where was everybody?!

A few passers-by were the only people we initially saw where the "God Hates Fags" /
Westboro Baptist Church had said on its website it would march
against Barack Obama. Ah, well. We'll save our signs and try again!

As I posted yesterday, our Project 12 program's students went downtown today in order to picket the picketers. The infamous Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church (actually all members of his own biological family), were set to tell Barack Obama, the Canadian embassy, the Chinese embassy, and the Democratic National Party, that Phelps' gawd hates them. We thought Jesus ought to be represented. So we made signs, wrote up a press flier, and drove our old rickety Project 12 van downtown to the Federal Building on South Dearborn.

But... We were there. Numbing cold weather was there. Lots and lots of police were there. Barracades were there. After a while a self-proclaimed satanic group called "S. I. N." (Sodomite Insurgency Network) was there. (We tried to talk with them but they had no interest in our message.) Who was not there, however? Westboro Baptist Church. No idea on why.

UPDATE: It appears that Westboro changed the time of the event as well as the targets of it. They may or may not be appearing later today (near noon) at 233 N. Michigan Avenue. That is a severe scale-back from what had been planned. They also plan (if they're to be believed) to appear at the same spot a number of times this month (as this pdf from their website lists).

At any rate, here we were:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Project 12 Response to "God Hates Fags" Chicago-area Protests

Project 12 students will be gathering in downtown Chicago tomorrow to voice our opposition to the message of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church. The latter will be picketing the offices of Barack Obama, the Canadian and Chinese embassys, and the Democratic Party headquarters.

Below is the text of a flier we will hand out at tomorrow’s events downtown. Hopefully, photos and perhaps even video will appear here and on tomorrow.

God loves Fred Phelps.
God hates Fred’s hate.

God commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We affirm that loving our neighbor means robustly loving the homosexual, the non-Christian, even loving Fred Phelps and his family. This is the message we of Project 12 (a discipleship program sponsored by Chicago’s Jesus People USA Evangelical Covenant Church), offer here today. Our message is an attempt at one Christian response to the very unchristian message of Westboro Baptist Church.

Fred Phelps and his extended family misrepresent both God and the Bible in their continuing assault on homosexuals, Jews, U. S. servicewomen and servicemen, other Christians, Swedes (?), and various others. Selective and out of context interpretation of Scriptures does not make one’s own moral darkness into Christian theology. From our biblical viewpoint, Mr. Phelps’ teachings are not Christian in any way, shape, or form.

We mourn the spiritual wasteland Mr. Phelps has led his family into, as well as the incredible pain he and his family have inflicted on others all over the world. Mr. Phelps over and over again violates the heart of the gospel – Grace.

The book of Proverbs, Chapter 26:4-5, says two things about someone who refuses wisdom:

“Do not answer fools according to their folly,
or you will be a fool yourself.”


“Answer fools according to their folly,
or they will be wise in their own eyes.”

In short, Project12 understands that to come here today is somewhat of a fool’s errand. By speaking out we are calling more attention to Mr. Phelps, thereby fulfilling his felt need for media attention. That is frustrating. But as the second half of the above verses point out, if we do not answer Mr. Phelps’ assault on our neighbors, we are not fulfilling the calling of God to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Proverbs also says:

“Lying lips conceal hatred,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.”
Proverbs 10:18

We are here today to bear witness to the Triune God of Love, who to bridge the relational gap between human and human, and God and human, sent his own Son. That is the good news of the gospel.

Fred Phelps’ failure to understand that God is a God of Love rather than Hate lies at the heart of his own agony. We sincerely pray that Fred will hear God’s truth and learn of God’s all-encompassing love, but in the meantime we must stand against his false message that God hates our neighbors.

Hating human beings on God’s behalf is a hellish deception, and smolders at the heart of much darkness in the world.

The Students and Staff of Project 12 Discipleship Training School
939 W Wilson Avenue, Chicago IL / 60640

Contact: Jon Trott ( Phone: 773 633 6026