They frequently stand on Washburn University's campus, which is just blocks from our house. Since the death of Fred Phelps, I haven't seen them protest much.
During my lunch break, I pulled up to a common traffic light. A large group of Westboro church members stood along the busy road, their rainbow signs visible from a distance.
"God is your enemy"
"America is doomed"
"God hates your tears"
At this point, I feel like I've seen every sign they own.
One, in particular, who stood just a few feet from my car looked to only be about 10 years old.
An innocent, blonde hair, blue eyed boy, holding a picket sign with large letters reading:
"GOD HATES YOU"
Why would anyone allow a 10 year old boy to tell others they are hated?
Beside him stood a man in his 30's -maybe it was his dad.
I wondered how their conversation went beforehand.
Dad, explaining to his son that God hates people who are Jewish. Who are soldiers. Who have aids.
I wondered how a 10 year old boy could even come close to comprehending the weight of those words.
Heavy on his heart, I wondered if the little boy thinks God might hate him, too.
Inevitably, the little boy will make mistakes in his future. I suspect he will fear God's hate towards his own life, and respond the only way he has been taught: to place hate on others.
After lunch on my way back to work, I passed Westboro Baptist Church. Their sign read "Fathers -you have failed to teach the fear of God and the commandments"
Over and over I repeat Mathew 7:5.
I know I have failed others, so I cannot judge the father who lets his son carry a hatred picket sign. But that doesn't mean my heart can't hurt for an innocent child.
Maybe you feel like the little blonde hair, blue eyed boy with a picket sign. Maybe you point your finger to the life of another to hide your own fear. Maybe you have convinced yourself that God doesn't love you. That you are too far gone. That there's nothing you can do to be "good enough".
Do not believe the lies you've been told.
You are NOT hated.
We have been created with purpose and meaning and are forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus.
The Westboro protestors have been forgiven.
The people that the protestors hate have been forgiven.
And the people that hate Westboro have been forgiven.
That's a God worth serving.