What the World Needs Now, is Love, Sweet Love
Trying to oppose hate with love in the face of the Westboro Baptist Church in yet another Maryland protest.
Westboro Baptist “Church”. They’re at it again. They have once again graced our state with their presence, this time protesting outside of Fort Meade Middle/High School. If you want to know their stated reasons for the protest, just have a look at their lovely press release here.
Of course it doesn’t really matter what they say their reason is. One glance through their hate filled website shows that they are equal opportunity haters. They hate the Catholics, they hate the Jews, they hate the homosexuals, they hate the soldiers, they hate teens who randomly get killed in drunk driving accidents, they hate 9-year-old girls who get shot in the head in supermarket parking lots.
Through Facebook, someone in my network posted an event that a local Christian group was holding as a counter protest. I decided to attend with them.
I drove in the still dark morning to the location. As I crested the small hill just before the school, the first thing I saw were the police lights.
The next thing I saw was the small group of WBC protesters, and their hate-filled famous signs. The signs nearly brought me to tears: “Pray for More Dead Children”, “Thank God for 9/11”.
Do these people really believe this stuff??
I was directed to park by one of the dozens of County Police officers on hand. As I walked towards the already sizable mass of counter-protesters, I tried to take in the scene. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Contact” with Jodie Foster—there is at least one scene showing protests or gatherings of people with signs. This felt a bit like that.
The protesters and the counter-protesters were separated by an entire street, with police and barricades in between.
Walking through the crowds, the atmosphere pinballed back and forth from festive to somber. There were groups there obviously quite enjoying themselves, dressed in various costumes, carrying signs with cute, funny, and pop culture laced messages. Most also delivered a strong point in the process. There were also quiet prayerful groups, people obviously moved and saddened by the hate so near.
As I met up with the Christian group, they handed out t-shirts, emblazoned with “HATE” on the front and “LOVE” and a scripture reference on the back. It was a simple, powerful expression that stood out.
As the group I was with waited for the right moment to begin their planned prayerful counter-protest, I walked amongst the growing crowd and observed with awe.
Someone walked through the crowd with “It’s Raining Men” playing through speakers, bringing chuckles as they went down the line. A man dressed as Jesus walked through with a sign “Jesus Loves Gays”.
A number of motorcycle riders, from various clubs, attended and drove up and down the street gunning their exhaust in a barrage of noise to drown out the grotesque chants from the WBC.
Brad Hubbard, Director and Charter Member of the American Legion Riders of Maryland, Laurel Post 60, was one of the motorcycle enthusiasts who joined with the dozens of riders with their exhaust performance, which drew cheers from other counter protesters at each pass.
One of the most striking things I began to notice was of the amazing mixture of people in the counter–protest. There were military moms, there were church groups of various denominations, there were biker groups, there were lesbians and gay men, there were high school students and a large assortment of others.
I am confident in saying that there are large differences in the beliefs, thoughts, and morals between many of these groups. But they were all there with one common enemy—hate. How magical that moment was—this crowd with so many differences and yet together.
As it turned out, WBC’s targets never saw the hate messages intended for them. The school figured out a way to route the buses into the school a different way, and the students bypassed the whole display. The group stood for about an hour, and then quietly, almost anticlimactically, slipped away in the opposite direction of the crowd of counter-protesters, and were gone.
The group of counter-protesters slowly started to disperse, and you could feel a bit of confused energy—as if the group had been revving up for something, but now didn’t quite know what to do.
The WBC protestors numbered five. The counter protesters numbered in the hundreds—300 hundred to most reports. I asked Hubbard if he thought the large turnout of the counter protesters and media attention just served to encourage WBC. His answer: “Maybe, but you cannot let it stand alone. You cannot let theirs be the only voice that is heard.”
I couldn’t agree more.