#NOOGASTRONG and Westboro Baptist Church: Angry & Writing Anyway
A response to Westboro Baptist Church’s threat to visit Chattanooga by Pastor Rob Armstrong
I am trying to write this with a measure of humility and grace, but it is difficult. The fact that my news feed, concerning the tragedy in Chattanooga and the push for unity in the #NOOGASTRONG, is laced with Westoboro Baptist Church infuriates me. I can’t write about Westboro Baptist Church without wrestling with my own anger and hate, and this affirms my compulsion to write this letter/blog. I am feeling a little bit of the “Matt Walsh” (blogger) vibe as I sit in front of the computer. I believe that I am not alone in this. As a pastor in our community of Rhea County, I want to denounce the ungodly depiction of Christ and the abandonment of God’s mission for His church by Westboro Baptist Church.
I don’t understand how they can claim to know the love and grace of God and then celebrate the death of unsuspecting soldiers by a terrorist in Chattanooga. How can they see this as good, right, and deserved? How can they use the Lord’s name in vain with such offensive confidence?
I have come to believe a surprising truth in my seething struggle of prayer today: Westboro Baptist Church is proof of the grace of God. If you have never believed in the grace of God, you can start believing now because Westboro Baptist Church still exists on the face of this planet. This can only be the result of God’s long suffering patience. How else do you explain it when they live to their own detriment and incur God’s judgment by slandering His name to elevate their own?
They claim Christ and they have Baptist in their name… but we are not together. Please hear me Rhea County, we are not on their page at New Union Baptist Church. Please don’t assume that we at New Union Baptist Church or any other Christian church are in league with these inflamers of hate and dealers of defamation and lies.
Yet, we are the same in one way, you can examine our lives, find our faults, and expose where we fall short. This is true of all humanity. Each person falls “short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23
Westboro Baptist Church is wrong. God is not pleased with the events and deaths of last week. God is not clapping at the brokenness and hurt of families, friends, and communities. However, God understands our hurt and He identifies with our loss. We know this because Jesus experienced hurt and God the Father experienced loss through the death of His Son. We know that when events like those of last week happen it is because we live in a world that is broken and in need of redemption.
I want to wave a wand and make everything better for the families and our community, but I can’t. I can and will point you to the sustaining love and grace of God that is continually undergirding His church. For hope and help look to Christ. If you are wrestling, struggling, and trying to work this out on your own; hear the words of Christ to you today “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30
Look away from the hate-filled speech of Westboro Baptist Church. Instead turn to the loving, gentle, and gracious God who, instead of sending Jesus to picket your funeral, sent Him to take your place at your funeral to bring rest to your soul.
Pray for Westboro Baptist Church. Pray that they will know by His grace, and through His truth, the God they claim to serve and live for. Pray that they would beg for mercy and run in repentance all the way back to Kansas. I am thankful to be the pastor of a church that regularly reminds itself that we are a church made up of “sinners whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Our prayers are with the families of our brave and respectable soldiers during this season of grief and healing. Let us all stand #NOOGASTRONG in Chattanooga and the surrounding communities. We are with you here in Dayton, TN.
Sr. Pastor, New Union Baptist Church