Saturday, August 09, 2008

Of Soapboxes and Condolences

Apparently a bunch of people from some "godhates_(fill in the blank)__" group in the States is coming up for the funeral of Tim McLean this weekend in Winnipeg. They are planning to hold up signs like the ones you see here.

These picketers will be using the notoriety and vulgarity of this young man's random and horrific death as a soapbox for their own message. Whatever you think of their message, this is a despicable move.

(Incidentally, while I would agree with this group about some of the things they oppose, it is amazing to me just how extremely I do not agree with the method of, nature of, or even the reason for their opposition. It truly boggles my mind. But we can talk about that another time.)

Fundamentalist "godhaters" (as I'll call them, purposefully tongue in cheek) are not the only ones to be so disrespectful, however. Apparently P.E.T.A. was going to run ads in newspapers using this event as an opportunity to raise awareness of cruelty to animals. This is extremely disgusting. Thank God the newspapers (far as I know) aren't running them.

The Canadian outcry against these picketers from the US has been one of disdain, and I think that this is by and large a very healthy disdain. A facebook group has started, and on it some 700 people have volunteered to go and make a human wall around the funeral to protect the family from such disrespect.

Good for them. I personally think the better strategy would be to completely and utterly ignore these activists, to the point of walking right past the screaming as if no one was there, but I am kind of too late to start my own facebook group on that idea. I just hope the drama does not escalate to the further embarassment of those actually there to grieve.

The way these activists are further victimizing the grieving family simply as a platform for their propaganda is a disrespect tantamount to violence.

However, I will say I'm a little intrigued at some of the disdain. One has to wonder how much of it is actual respect for the family and how much is simple Canadian self-righteousness over these fundamentalist Americans, or even how much of it is an act of intolerance for the things these activists stand for.

Its just something I wonder, picking up on the way some people talk. But I can't really be the judge of that. Nor do I want to turn this whole despicable side show into a soapbox of my own. I'm also going to try to remember this next time (if) I am ever asked to preach at a funeral. It is a delicate time. Not a time to avoid the issues staring us in the face as humans, but not a time to become inhumane in the process.

Fact is, this whole incident was deeply tragic and sad. Tim McLean was the victim of a random and horrific act. My condolences go out to his family. I really hope nobody does anything stupid at that funeral.


the Doug said...

Wow, picketing a funeral to make a political statement is something I never would have thought of. That's sad.

Colin Toffelmire said...

I think that it's important to note who these people are who are planning to picket. I have no love whatsoever for fundamentalists (of any description, be they Christian, Muslim, or atheist) but the folks at Westboro Baptist "Church" aren't even fundies. They are hateful and evil in every way. There is nothing whatsoever redeeming about their message. They aren't against homosexuality, they hate homosexuals. They aren't against abortion, they hate people who support abortion rights. They aren't against anything...they just hate and they hate everything.

Their idiotic stunts at funerals of slain soldiers and now at the funeral of this poor innocent man are not simply tragic or sad, they are revolting. The Canadian government is absolutely correct in not allowing their entry into our country for the purpose of carrying out hate-crimes.

Like you, Jon, I have some relatively unpopular views regarding issues like abortion in this country, but the difference is that you and I don't hate people who support abortion. That difference is monumentally important.

Tony Tanti said...

This "church" is a hate group, plain and simple. I totally agree with you Jon that it would have been better to just ignore them. Unfortunately they do not do things that are easy to ignore.

This group of people are to me one of the worst evils in the world. They are taking God's name in vain and committing acts that can only be explained by evil or mental illness.

It's a very different thing to have an unpopular opinion and to express it respectfully, the irony here is that there is likely no group of people on earth more unlike Christ than these scumbags.

This is the best proof there is that God does not operate the way he did in the OT anymore, if he did he would have struck this group down a long time ago.

Kudos to the government for not letting them cross the border and kudos to anyone willing to confront them if they find a way to show up at that funeral.

Tony Tanti said...

Though this group is an extreme example it's tough to argue that so many people (70+ members) could all be mentally ill, so considering that they believe they are doing the work of God as guided by the HS, this brings up an interesting arguement about how we determine who is speaking for God.

Again, this group is an extreme example and with some simple exegesis one can quickly show that they are in fact doing the work of Satan and not the HS, however, there are many examples of people who are less obviously harmful but are also claiming to speak for God and in my opinion taking his name in vain. Benny Hinn steals people's money with fake healings, Pat Robertson clothes his biggotry and racism in the Bible and James Dobson is one of the main contributors to the opression of women in evangelical churches.

Where do we draw the line when respectful people who contradict each other claim to speak for God and the Bible?

jon said...

yeah, i was going to make a provocative statement about how this group shows us the trajectory (at its worst end) of a literalist interpretation of the Bible.

of course not all literalists are nut-jobs. conscience and humility often kick in before that happens. and not all literalist readings end up being all that wrong.

but some do. and when not restrained by humility, tradition, community, reason, and so on, well, bad things can happen.

literalism does not account for the very medium that is chosen for the message. metaphors and images and parables and even progression in revelation must be taken account for, properly, in dialogue with others.

else i can read it and make it say whatever i want it to say.

all must beware of this. not just the fundamentalists, but the anti-fundamentalists as well.

this prompts me to read the Bible in dialogue with many partners. the last thing i want is to find out i've been reading it only to project upon it a reflectio of my own self.

jon said...

tanti, i agreed with and appreciated what you said. you also asked:

"Where do we draw the line when respectful people who contradict each other claim to speak for God and the Bible?"

first of all: what do you mean by "draw the line"?

unless the church refers to some sort of papal hierarchy, it can't really reign in people like this. just as God made flesh submitted himself at the mercy of human beings, so the Word writ down is subjected to the same poor treatment. Like it or not, this the Christian God. Condescends so far even to subject himself to mutilation.

Of course the story of Jesus doesn't end there, and neither does the story of Scripture. As Chesterton said, it has been murderously mistreated many times, but from the dust and ashes it resurrects afresh over the course of history, providing its own inspiration and direction for the reform that must take place.

So in this case I think we can support the law of the land, the governing authorities, who are there to promote peace in the land. We can also be meek and patient in our own agendas. And at some point, nonviolently, we stand up to evil.

And we try to reason with people around the word we profess to share. And if that doesn't work, honestly, I don't know what we do, except break fellowship, and pray for the best.

But I think that break happens at the long end of trying, even at great self-sacrifice to oneself. That's if I'm reading Christ correctly.

I wonder if at some point in their history a bunch of people broke fellowship with this Westboro group earlier than they should have, and thereby left them to the trajectory of their own misdirection, and now society has to suffer the consequences.

I don't know what their history is, but that's just something i wonder.

don't know if i'm answering your question, but those are the thoughts it has inspired on my end, so far . . .

Tony Tanti said...

I see what you're saying Jon, but the church does reign people in all the time. Churches split, people get removed from fellowship, public denouncements happen (Westboro) etc...

I believe in Christian unity so I'm wondering where you draw the line between the things I mention above and just allowing someone's message to be widely heard without response. I guess what depresses me is that the three examples I use above have bigger followings than most and so it makes me wonder where the HS is in saving people from being fooled, then I think maybe the HS means to speak through us and we stay silent for the sake of unity.

FYI, it sounds like the Westboro people are not only sick and evil, they're also cowards. They were no-shows at the funeral.

jon said...

yeah, i believe in unity too. i am beginning to think that it is only ever visible at the communion table, and even then it is a mysterious one, not a human one.

I think of unity as a goal, and i think that what we are supposed to be about is reconciliation, ambassadors of.

That means we probably should stand up and speak (rather than stay silent), as you say.

Did the EFC bother to say anything on this instance? James Dobson? I don't want to pressure these organizations too much, and they can't address everything, but you think that if they're going to speak out politically they should be dang sure to do so against those who do not demonstrate properly.

Yeah, I think we should speak out more. I think the HS is in the church and the church is supposed to speak the truth in love.

I think conflict avoidance has become the evangelical excuse for "peace" and political power games have been the evangelical modus operandi for achieving "unity". Case in point the Alliance General Assembly of 2008, which I'll be addressing here shortly. In either case it is false. False peace. False unity. And therefore not a great witness to the Kingdom of Christ.

Don't get me wrong, I think that the Alliance folk who have fallen into these lulls of falsity can and often are very great witnesses for Christ in other ways. I am most certainly not going to fall into the very trap that I resist with every fibre of my being, of labelling people in a black and white fashion as good or bad, Christians or non, and so on.

That's not what this is about. This is about calling it like we see it, and prompting each other through dialogue to better things. Again, I think we are to be speaking the truth in love, ministers of reconciliation . . . or we are pretty close to being nothing of any relevance at all.