Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Ken Ham and Westboro Baptist Church | Righting America

by William Trollinger

As Ken Ham reported in a recent post, members of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) recently came to Cincinnati to protest a local high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club. A local newspaper responded by publishing an article – “endorsed by a number of pastors” – which proclaimed that

a deep study of our holy scriptures [reveals that] neither gender identity nor sexual orientation impedes God’s ability and willingness to love us just the way God created us [as] God is an inclusive God of unconditional love who loves us all.

Such sentiments did not sit well with Kevin Landis, a local fundamentalist pastor and Answers in Genesis (AiG) supporter. So he published his own article (included in Ham’s post) in which he asserted that – while he does not “endorse the methods or mean-spirited stance taken by Westboro Baptist Church” – he rejected the notion that “God approves us as we are,” and in which he asserted that gays and lesbians will be condemned unless they turn from their sin. As Ham notes in his concluding paragraph,

Of course, we join with Pastor Landis in decrying the hate of the Westboro protesters, but we also agree that pastors and other believers cannot twist God’s Word and misrepresent God in an attempt to be “inclusive” of everyone.

As Rebecca Barrett-Fox powerfully documents in God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right, WBC is a convenient foil for the Christian Right: “They are hateful, and we are not.” But in the end, fundamentalists like Ham turn out to be strikingly similar to the folks at Westboro. In fact, as Barrett-Fox has argued here at rightingamerica, the Christian Right may actually take a more hateful stance:

In WBC’s view, God sends you to eternal torture because he hates you for reasons that you can never know and, out of his rejection of you, you become gay. Is it more compassionate to be taught that God loves you so much that Jesus died for your sins but that’s not enough to make up for the fact that you love a person of the same sex? I think I rather prefer a God who is a bit more honest, if inscrutable, than one who says his love is endless but somehow can bring himself to condemn you to eternal torture anyway.

It really is difficult to see much space between Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG), and the late Fred Phelps and WBC. Underscoring this point is one particularly bizarre similarity. On the front page of the Westboro Baptist website – www.godhatesfags.com – one learns that one learns that God (while rescuing Noah and seven others) killed 16 billion people in the global Flood. Amazingly enough, however, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter goes even further, suggesting that God drowned upwards of 20 billion people.

The reason for such outrageous numbers seems obvious. The God of WBC and AiG was willing to slaughter 99.999% of humanity in the past, and – if necessary – is willing to do so again. Such are the wages of sin.