To All Media Outlets, Reporters, Writers and Editors:It is abundantly clear to most Americans that the “Westboro Baptist Church” is neither “Baptist” nor a “church” according to any commonly accepted meaning of either word. As a Christ follower, and a long time church attender, I enter this plea to stop using the phrase “Westboro Baptist Church” in favor of the more accurate “the Westboro cult.”
The journalistic profession has turned out a small number of plagiarists whose words were stolen from the creativity and hard work of others then passed off as their own. Yet, though some among your number bring a pall on the word “journalist,” I do not refer to each of you as “cheats,” “word thieves” or “plagiarists.” It would be inaccurate to label you thusly because of a few whose actions obviously do not represent the whole. But in the mass media we see, with alarming near-universality, a refusal to call the wackos from Westboro anything except a “Baptist church” or a “church.”
Please begin referring to all family and followers of Fred Phelps as “the Westboro Cult,” for that is exactly what they are.
A search last Friday, August 3, 2012, on news.google.com–the news search, not the web search–of the phrase “Westboro Baptist Church” returned thousands of stories from news outlets. An immediate follow up search of “Westboro cult” returned four (4) results, all of which appeared to be people making comments on news stories. The most consistent users of the phrase “Westboro cult” appear to be a few conservative bloggers.
Westboro “Baptist Church” is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions, associations, or denominations. It stands proudly independent, with little desire for “friendly cooperation.”
The overwhelming majority of churches in the United States do not fit these popular definitions of a cult regardless of how hard one stretched the description. But Westboro does. This is the definition from Wikipedia:
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a new religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices.
Or what about this definition of cult from BING:
1. religion: a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader
2. religious group: a group of people who share religious or spiritual beliefs, especially beliefs regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false. [Emphasis in all cases mine.]
Even a general religious definition used at Cultwatch.com, defines “cult” as
a group claiming to be Christian [yet] teaches significantly different things from what the Bible teaches.
A brief glance at Westboro’s website (Godhatesfags.com) reveals they place even their picketing schedule above what they “believe.” The listed “Sister Sites” are filled with hatred. The Westboro cult is interested in attention and free publicity.
You will find no Christian leaders in America or the world, no ordinary church attender, and precious few non-Christians or atheists who consider the actions of Phelps’ group to be representative of orthodox, normal, true, or customary Christianity. Few would consider them to be a legitimate expression of a “church,” properly understood.
Simply stated, Fred Phelps and his Topeka followers are a cult, and should always be designated as “the Westboro cult.” They should never be called a “church,” nor should they be called “Baptist,” and it is grossly inaccurate, as well as offensive to millions of Americans, to continue to do so.
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