My cell rang around 10:30pm on the night of Thursday February 12, 2009. My younger brother put it bluntly: “Justin, a plane just crashed across the street.”
I immediately thought of a small prop plane: “you mean, like, a two-seater or something?”
“No…” he paused, his voice low and dragging, “bigger… I’m not sure. All I can see is a huge fire across the street.”
“How big, what do you mean?!” I stammered – not sure if it was a stupid joke.
51 people had just died in a fiery plane crash across the road from my family in Clarence Center, and my brother was not sure what to do with himself. The entire Buffalo region felt the impact as young and old, friend and neighbor were killed instantly in what was a truly unnecessary tragedy created by pilot error. As the community began to mourn, ask questions, and try to pull together in the face of this pain, the Westboro Baptist Church showed up as soon as they could bring their hate crew from Kansas to Buffalo, NY.
You know them, right? The ones who picket at soldiers’ funerals to bring shame and pain upon the families of our fallen warriors?
As they marched around our little village with their message of God’s hate and wrath for America, manifest in the crash of flight 3407, I had thoughts of running them over with my Chevy Impala. Their colorful signs were held high: “Plane Crash God Laughs,” “God Hates Fags,” etc.
Like the many other “Christian” hate groups, the Westboro Baptists are hypocrites who blaspheme the Name of Jesus. While it is true that God has a strong and fearful wrath towards sinners, the gospel is not “Plane Crash God Laughs,” or “White Power,” or “Black Power,” or “Resist the Government with Violence,” but rather, God is holy and wrathful, and will punish sinners eternally, but in His wrath He reveals an infinite mercy by placing His only Son in the place of sinners to bear their punishment – this atoning sacrifice, Jesus, then rose from the dead and commands all people everywhere to repent and believe on Him for the forgiveness of sins. There is none righteous – not a Westboro hate preacher, not a homosexual, not a Klansmen, not Martin Luther King Jr. We all of us to the man need to trust in the shed blood of Jesus to cleanse us from our sins.
The Bible pictures the working of God’s grace as the great leveler – every mountain brought down and every valley lifted up. When someone has been born of the Holy Spirit, believes on Jesus and has eternal life, the preaching of God’s wrath will be followed by the hope of the gospel – that the wrath of God is removed in Christ Jesus for all who believe and repent of their sins.
So then, how do we explain hate groups who hate in the Name of Jesus? Paul gives us the clue in 2 Timothy 3:
1But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
There is your Westboro Baptist “Church”. Really, the question of Christian hypocrisy in this case is easy to answer: they do not know God, their hearts have not been changed, and they are in disobedience to the Word of God. Any person who has met Jesus, received forgiveness, and seen the depth of their own sinfulness will have no room in them to continue to hate other people. The gospel breaks hard hearts.
Plane crash, God… says “I do not delight in the death of the wicked,” and if any who were on that plane were His forgiven children in Christ, “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”
Thanks for reading,