It’s hard to know what to think of the Kim Davis situation – the Kentucky clerk who went to prison on contempt of court charges for not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples – when you attach this little addendum to the story; Westboro Baptist is not on her side. Generally speaking, if you can do anything that Westboro Baptist doesn’t approve of, you’re doing something right. So how did it come to pass that one religious extremist is in the bad books of a group of other religious extremists? Was everyone wrong? Is Kim Davis doing something right? Not exactly.
Westboro hates Kim Davis because she’s not evil and ignorant enough. They might not put it that way, but we’re taking some liberties here. Basically, Westboro took issue with the fact Davis has been married thrice before. According to their Church, divorce isn’t recognized by God and her current relationship is therefore adulterous. And, by the transitive powers of sin, she herself has actually caused gay marriage. No, we’re not making this up, this is actually what Westboro thinks. Davis is just another sinner, driving the sin bus towards sin town. Population everyone.
A lot of people are baffled by this turn of events, assuming Westboro would happily jump in bed, so to speak, with any other Christian crusader who holds an extreme viewpoint, especially an anti-gay one since Westboro famously hates gays. But this is a tragic misunderstanding of how church members think.
I once interviewed a member of the Church for MadeMan a couple of years back and it became clear in that interview that most people have the very wrong perception of Westboro. Not that they’re not misguided, sinister, hateful, judgmental and terrible, this is all true, but most people think of Westboro as an “us vs them” scenario. Westboro is judging you, or the military, or gays. And the natural response to this is to try an appropriate counterattack. A popular tactic is trying to throw their faith back at them. But you can’t. And the reason why, the reason you can’t say “but doesn’t God say to love thy neighbor?” or try to trip them with scripture or hypocrisy is they already gave up on themselves. They don’t think they’re right in the sense that they know the true path to salvation. They think they’re screwed too. They’re prepared to go to Hell with the rest of us. They’re the losing team trying to tell the rest of the losers that they’ve lost, so there’s no high horse we can knock them down off of, no counter point we can offer to prove they’re wrong because they’re not trying to prove themselves right over the rest of us. There is no dialogue because they don’t want one.
Knowing that Westboro is coming from a viewpoint of all of us being lost is the key to realistically defeating them. Arguing with them needs to simply change from the yelling of points and counterpoints to saying “uh…ok” and then moving on. Because they have nothing else, and they have no other agenda. They’re like a rash – it doesn’t have a greater purpose, you don’t need to question it. At best, acknowledge it. But if you don’t want to, then don’t. Wait for it to go away, because it will. And it’ll come back again, exactly the same as before, and therefore deserve just as much or as little attention. Because it’s never different. It never changes.