A Twilight Zone lesson for Westboro Baptist Church

A couple of times in recent years, I’ve taught a course at my local congregation called “Theology from The Twilight Zone.” Since I was a kid, I’ve believed that Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, was one of the premier moralists of his generation. It’s been a delight to share some of his best work with my fellow parishioners.

My favorite Twilight Zone episode is called Four O’Clock. It stars Theodore Bikel (pictured at right) as Oliver Crangle, a fanatic obsessed with exposing people he deems to be “evil.” He’s made it his life mission to demand that these people’s employers expose their evil and fire them as punishment. When he fails to make much headway, he comes up with another plan, asking God to make all the “evil” people in the world two feet tall. Then they can be rounded up and dealt with properly.

Crangle moves to his apartment window shortly before 4 p.m. to enjoy the spectacle of seeing the evil people shrink. Then, as his clock strikes four, he finds himself beneath the window sill, unable to see his triumph. It seems that Crangle is the only one who suffers the affliction of being 24 inches tall.

I believe Serling, in his day, was taking shots at the House Un-American Activities Committee and its shamed leader, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose witch hunts for Communists ultimately turned him into a laughingstock. The lesson of Four O’Clock, however, remains timeless, and it’s equally relevant for us today.

A modern version of Oliver Crangle is embodied in Westboro Baptist Church, which decided this past weekend to picket the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards. Westboro decided that Edwards was a “witch” for some of the things she said after losing her son Jack in an auto accident and for allegedly choosing egg donation or in-vitro fertilization to have more children after Jack died.

As a Christian, I’m appalled at the actions of Westboro Baptist. The Jesus I know went out of his way to be understanding and forgiving. He opened himself to all manner of people. He met them where they were. He told stories of the Good Shepherd who went after the one lost sheep even when he had accounted for 99 others. And he loves me and uses me to serve others despite all my failures and shortcomings.

To Westboro, I would simply ask this question: How do you reconcile your actions with the basic Christian idea that God is love, not hate? How do you square what you’re doing as you stand before a Lord who loved the world so much that he gave himself to rescue it?

I don’t wish for the members of Westboro that they would all one day find themselves two feet tall. I just wish they would grow up and understand that other people are to know we are Christians by our love, not our hate. Until then, I hope the world will see the congregation as an aberration, not a true representation of Christianity and the love it has to share with the world.

What do you think?

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