Russell Brand and the Westboro Baptist Church

Russell Brand recently had the Westboro Baptist Church as his guests. If you don’t know who they are then you should check out the Louis Theroux documentaries The Most Hated Family in America and the follow up America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis.

Check out Russell’s interaction with them…

It reminded me of the time I interviewed Shirley Phelps Roper, one of the heads at the church, about their beliefs and life in general.

Any thoughts about their theology?

2 thoughts on “Russell Brand and the Westboro Baptist Church

  1. Dale Campbell December 4, 2012 / 13:12

    A few thoughts,
    WBC are (for obvious reasons) an easy target for anyone wanting – consciously or not – to make their religion or themselves look better, whether that is Russell Brand with his side-splitting portrayal of his sincere collage of anything/everything vaguely ‘spiritual’, or (arguably) myself when I mentioned them in a seminar or sermon. Pat, whilst I do think these aren’t your motivations as a journalist, I do think the reason such footage is so popular is that we (myself included) enjoy looking down on WBCers, and thinking ourselves to be good, decent, ‘tolerant’ people (even if we’ve not thought very long about what ‘tolerance’ is, specifically that disagreement with x is a prerequisite to ‘tolerating’ x).

    But having given that overly-dense word of caution to myself and any others who can be too eager to laugh at WBC, I must, of course, register the degree to which I think their claim to emphasize the ‘whole bible’ falls short. What I actually think they are doing is responding (or ‘reacting’) to what they would see as a treatment of the Bible that is ‘ashamed’ of some parts of it. For them, there is an un-written imperative, it seems, for all ‘true believers’ to quote or otherwise paraphrase (i.e. placards) the most offensive verse that you could possibly quote to every person, such that the moment you find out the person standing next to you is either gay or has gay friends that they do not constantly harass about it, then you are a ‘fag-enabler’, and as guilty as they are. Indeed, the teaching of Jesus (which is true) that persecution will accompany followers of Jesus is [mis]used to justify this imperative. The more offensive they speak, the more they convince themselves of being ‘true believers’.

    I have two thoughts about how we might more helpfully respond to WBC.

    One, I wonder what would happen if we simply ignored them? It seems that they draw their strength (and how vocal they are for 70-ish ppl?) by provoking people. So perhaps refusing to be easily provoked would be a wise ju-jitsu-like maneuver. The challenge to this will be that it is so hard to let some things go ‘un-corrected’. And this suggestion should not be taken to imply that we stand by and let someone be harassed, which wouldn’t be loving. But what if nobody asked them on their show, or linked to their website or videos? Hmmm…

    Two, I simply note the tension in the Christian task of being both a) wise and winsome toward those outside the Church, and at the same time b) faithful and fruitful in our task to work redemptively and transformatively. We are very comfortable loudly speaking out against slavery, ecological carelessness, pollution, racism and host of other things that the wider culture also opposes, but particularly with issues clustering around sexuality, we often struggle with how to (if indeed at all) be a redemptive influence.

    Pat, this came out as I typed, and looking back it looks like a bit of a blog post, so apologies for that. You asked for a response to their theology and got a theological response!! 😀

  2. Ebullient2012 (@Ebullient2012) December 6, 2012 / 17:52

    I believe the problem is not so much The Westboro Baptist church but the bible itself. Sadly we see in the old testament a God that appears to hate homosexuality, condones slavery, demands genocide, and shows absolutely no tolerance for other religious systems. The anger that Westboro show pales in comparsion with say, God’s anger when he decided to send out a flood to drown mankind, save a few on the arc.

    For me the bible, and the God portrayed therein, is the truely disturbing thing.
    Brand’s summing up of Chritianity as love and tolerance sounds good but does not seem biblical. I am not aware of the word tolerance being used in the bible.

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