The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas has been called “the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.” Its members are famous for their “God hates fags” signs and pickets at the funerals of American servicemen.
Now two of the founder’s granddaughters have left the church. Megan Phelps-Roper and her sister Grace issued an announcement in which they state: “We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.”
Their brother, who serves as a church spokesman, responded: “If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell.” Their grandmother tweeted Friday: “Sadly these young ladies who go from light out into darkness will soon learn how unreliable is the ‘love’ of the world.” Their mother responded by quoting 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
The sisters have responded to their family’s rejection: “We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.” What about their years spent in the church’s notorious service? “We know that we can’t undo our whole lives. . . . What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.” They hope that “the changes we make in our lives will speak for themselves.”
Our actions are our loudest sermons, for good or for bad. Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, began his journey from self-described “obnoxious atheist” to committed Christian after meeting a patient whose faith sustained her in the midst of terrible pain. I became a Christian after witnessing the difference Christ had made in the lives of my friends. “How can I have what you have?” was my question. If we will live our transforming faith publicly, others will ask the same question of us.
After Jesus healed a demoniac in Mark 5, the man “begged to go with him.” Instead, Jesus told him, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So “the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (vs. 18-20). As his homeland was outside Israel and dominated by Gentiles, this man was the first foreign missionary in Christian history.
Changed people change the world.