Christians Protecting Christians from Christians

photo 2-4Thanks to my new housemate, Matt, I learned last night that our dear brothers and sisters from Westboro Baptist would be unleashing their particular form of “protest” toward the attendees of the Gay Christian Network conference this morning here in my beloved Portland, Oregon.

Well, since I try not to let sh– go down in my town without personally showing up (#unofficialPDXambassador), I got up earlier than I wanted and headed down to the Portland Convention Center.

I arrived to find that the usual suspects of Portland’s religious ragamuffins had already constructed a human wall blocking the cacophony of hate-speech from the arriving conferees.  Evangelicals and progressives, mainliners and Catholics, all forming a “tunnel of love.”  Each conferee photo 3-3arrived to a flurry of “good mornings” and “we are glad you are here” cheers.  My dear friend, Marc Schelske, was even helping lead the chorus.

I never thought I would find myself singing Sunday School songs unrestrained on a Portland street corner.

Now, as the title of this post signifies, this was an absurd exercise. What better example of the brokenness of this life “under the sun” than the compulsion I felt this morning, in my best understanding of the Jesus-Way, to go join Christians protecting Christians from Christians.

Lord, have mercy on us all.

Those protesting the presence of GCN were shockingly normal folk, like any photo 1-4middle-class person from some mid-sized town, probably owners of a mid-sized car.  And yet, they cross the country to do this… to carry those sorts of signs… to shout those sorts of slurs.

Here was my strong impression (one that I witnessed this morning and that, more than I want to admit, witness in my own internal dialogue): It is not enough to believe one is right, one must also find someone to repudiate as wrong.

The irony of religion is that it is designed to fully validate a person, it let’s one know that one is valuable, beloved, whole and purposeful… and yet, religion is also the instrument that twists us to invalidate, hate, minimize and reject others.  And we love to choose a group of people (faceless and photo-17caricatured group of people) to receive that judgment.

It is not enough to let God lift me up high, I must push others down low in order to feel lifted up.

It also helps if I create a form of activism that provides the illusion of persecution.

That was my morning.

But heck, at least I got to sing Sunday School songs on a Portland street corner.

16 Responses to “Christians Protecting Christians from Christians”

  1. “mercy on us all”

    but not WBC.

    • Wombat, I cannot help but feel the same thing you feel about WBC… but if there is not mercy for everyone, what hope can my sick soul hold onto. -tony

      Tony Kriz
  2. “The irony of religion is that it is designed to fully validate a person, it let’s one know that one is valuable, beloved, whole and purposeful… and yet, religion is also the instrument that twists us to invalidate, hate, minimize and reject others. And we love to chose a group of people (faceless and photo-caricatured group of people) to receive that judgment.”

    That is spot on. The discussion about the costs and benefits of Religion as a social structure cannot be productive unless we specifically address Religiosity. And that seems to be an issue that plagues every sphere of thought and human activity. I suspect condemnation arises from insecurity, from not having been validated. For those of us who have experienced Grace in a personal and profound way, condemnation is nonsensical.

  3. Friend, your quote in the Oregonian –

    “It saddens me that my extended family is this dysfunctional,” he said, gazing from the cheering local Christians and conference-attendees to the Westboro protesters. “These are all my people.”

    – wow. Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

    Thank you for pointing us toward Jesus today. I’m just sorry I missed the chance to be there!! Love.

  4. That is a great start. Please go on… it seems to me that you have a lot you could say on this and I, as well as many others I’m sure, would love to hear what YOU have to say on today’s activity!

  5. I get it. We spend a lot of time protecting Christians from Christians, as well. It seems to be a trend. A sad, sad, sad and necessary trend.

  6. The irony of this is unsettling. I think we need to eliminate the labels and simply say, “people supporting people who are being judged by yet other people.” Thanks for being there Tony.

  7. Seems to me Westboro is neither Christian, nor baptist, nor a church. Rather they are an extended family of roving media hounds, carefully picking out and pre-announcing their public appearances for maximum confrontational publicity. I’d rather the press and Christians ignore them instead of falling for their publicity stunts. and I don’t see how referring to them as “Christians” or a “church” is on any way helpful. It seems more heretical to me.

  8. WBC has a legal branch that sues people when their speech rights are infringed at these protests. Thats how they make their money. They don’t do it because of convictions.

  9. I would refrain from calling WBC “Christian” just as I would refrain from calling Mormon’s or Jehovah’s Witnesses “Christian.” There as much of a cult as any other cult. Regardless it makes for an intriguing title. Ditto on that! The hard part for me is 1)Seeing them as people and 2) Not giving them attention. When the news that at they were coming to PDX broke, I actually encouraged people to go down and engage with them on a person-to-person, relational level. But after the wise counsel of others I realized that that is exactly what they want. Regardless of if we treat them poorly or respectfully, they are intentionally trying to attract attention to themselves because that is inevitably what fuels their existence. I already know that they’re not going to engage with me on any level whatever my posture may be. Their MO isn’t free speech their MO is money. They want attention, and they sure as hell got it. Our best “defense” against them is to not acknowledge their provocativeness.

    On the other hand, the continual struggle for everyone is to see them as people who are loved by God and not just as monsters. I have great respect and even some envy for you in that regard Tony! The same goes for ISIS, Al Qaeda, Kim Jung Un, etc. It’s a struggle that only the presence of the triune God can fix. I must continually lean into the presence of the Resurrection.

  10. Nice work! Feel free to use my full name when referencing me if you’d like in the future ; ]

  11. Thank you for being there! I was one of the people attending the conference–and I had my six-year-old daughter with me. Trying to explain those signs was hard, but it made it easier to talk about the people who showed up to be a path of love for us all. I heard many attendees talk about how moving it was to have you all there. And I especially over the very bright rainbow that came out towards the end–sure seemed appropriate.

    • Daneen,
      Thank you for taking a moment to write this note. Prayers and great blessings to you and your six-year-old. I hope God was present with you during the conference. -tony

      Tony Kriz

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