Churchgoers largely ignore Kansas group’s gay-bashing slogans
What if the Rev. Fred Phelps unleashed his anti-gay road show and people just ignored the shock-meisters?
That is what happened before a Sunday morning service at Lakewood’s Bear Valley Church when 11 members of Phelps’ controversial Kansas church showed up to picket during a Sabbath protest blitz of eight churches in Lakewood and Englewood.
Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church members have outraged citizens and lawmakers nationwide with in-your-face flag stomping and taunting at the funerals of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their goal is to promote the idea that God is punishing the United States because the nation condones homosexuality.
But the Kansas group drew disbelieving laughter, dismay and prayers from the 1,000-member Bear Valley congregation when they began strolling the sidewalk at 8:30 a.m. with signs claiming “Fag Church” and chants about the church being a “whorehouse.”
Lakewood churchgoers said the inflammatory tactics only galvanized their faith in a loving God who promises redemption for sinners.
“Our basic plan is to ignore them,” said Bear Valley Senior Pastor Jim Walters.
“We do respect the right of free speech, including speech with which we adamantly disagree. Many of us in this church, me included, have worn a military uniform to fight and protect that right,” said Walters, a retired Air Force fighter pilot.
It was odd that Phelps group targeted Bear Valley, another Baptist congregation that, as Walters put it, does not “condone (homosexual) behavior as a lifestyle compatible with Christianity.”
On its Web site, the Kansas rabble-rousers blasted the Lakewood church for being “tolerant and accepting” and for preaching that “God loves everyone!”
” ‘God loves everyone’ is a lie from the pit of Hell, and all who subscribe to such lies are servants of sin and Satan,” the Web site declares.
Bear Valley Church members said they just feel sorry that Phelps followers don’t recognize the Bible’s message of God’s loving salvation.
“We believe the Bible teaches that God demonstrates his love for sinners – Hello? – that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” Walters said, citing the Book of Romans.
Bear Valley members have practiced their faith by pioneering inner-city health clinics for the poor and programs to serve homeless families, troubled teenagers, unwed mothers and abused women.
Before the service began, giant TV screens advertised an “HIV Care Link” workshop for “compassionate Christians” who want to help people living with AIDS.
Outside the church, a Kansas woman protester with an American flag wrapped around her like a skirt sang, “God hates America, the heretic Southern Baptist church,” to the tune of God Bless America.
“This gives Christianity a bad name,” said Bear Valley member Allan Gonzales. “This to me is hate. You can tell by the people’s faces out there.
“God’s not hate, he’s love. Jesus wouldn’t be out there protesting like that,” he added.