It’s easy to loathe Westboro Baptist Church. But because of their spiteful rhetoric, the otherwise politically and socially divided segments of America are united. Thanks, WBC.
When the Phelps clan picketed at several churches throughout Emporia Sunday morning, it almost seemed like no one cared. A few officers from the Emporia Police Department protected WBC’s coned-off area from harassment that never came.
Sure, a few rubbernecking motorists had some choice words in the comfort of their vehicles, but, mostly, the morning went on as usual. The various Emporia church members greeted one another with smiles and open arms as their morning services proceeded unfazed by the silent plot of sign-wielding picketers across the street. They affected nothing. Is that the game plan for WBC?
Honestly, we don’t care, but clearly WBC is losing. Their fire and brimstone, their fundamentalist interpretation of select Bible scripture and their little refuge in Topeka are but a nuisance – offensive and nothing more. We can deal with offensive. Offensive is just a feeling.
But what they cannot control is the position in which their radicalism leaves the rest of us. The nature of extremism is divisiveness. In a country and time so comparatively temperate – “lukewarm,” according to WBC signs – we are united by default. Even our most contentious battles, like abortion or gun ownership, vanish in the presence of groups like WBC. We are allies, if only for a short time.
While in Emporia, WBC moved in caravans. They stood in the cold and looked as if they had just clocked-in to a part time job. It was business as usual. We don’t have to acknowledge every picket as meaningful, but we should definitely begin our discussions of other political schisms with the understanding that we are not so dissimilar.
If most debates would begin with, “At least neither of us is like Westboro,” then perhaps it would be easier to get something done for once. There is a larger picture to be seen here, and WBC neatly frames it for us.