Some misguided people are finding bizarre messages from God in the Aceh earthquake and the Indian Ocean tsunamis. Their perspective is offensive, morally and religiously.
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas is on the extreme fringes of the American social conservative movement, and it interprets the Bible as supporting its socially conservative rejection of homosexuality. The domain name for its Web page is godhatesfags.com. It has a web site called God Hates America, proclaiming that God punished New York City for its acceptance of homosexuality by the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. It has a related site called God Hates Canada. It has put itself in the news by persistently picketing against gay marriage and the repeal of anti-sodomy laws and by its persistent and vicious intrusions into the grief of families who have lost loved ones to gay-bashing violence.
It has discovered the hand of divine retribution against Sweden in the loss of Swedish tourists in the Indian Ocean disaster of December 26, 2004. It has opened a new web site called God Hates Sweden. It has a particular grievance with Sweden because of the case of Pentecostal preacher Ake Green who was convicted in Sweden of the crime of hate speech against gays and lesbians for a sermon criticizing gay marriage and homosexuality delivered in his own church.
I don’t think that arguments based on science and secular logic are going to appeal to this group, and I don’t want to start a science vs. religion debate over this issue. I won’t spend time on arguing about rational interpretations of the disaster. I don’t think that I can argue theology and scripture with this organization on its terms. Perhaps other Christian fundamentalists might find the time to answer them within the terms of Biblical interpetation. They envision and portray God as a jealous tribal deity, intervening and managing affairs on earth for mysterious reasons. It seems to me that they are blaspheming by claiming to know the mind and will of God, and worshipping their own idol – the homophobic God. Their teachings bring to mind the many biblical warnings against following false prophets.
The Westboro Baptist Church presents a strong test of the case for free speech and freedom of religion because they are taking their teachings outside of their church into the public space, and abusing the sincere grief of the world over this great calamity of nature.