Monday, June 12, 2017

The Westboro Baptist Church Picketed My School

Before I go on with this, I just want to say that this event happened a long time ago.  I wrote my reactions to it at the time and saved the document to post at a later date.  This was done in order to keep my location mysterious and make it impossible to look up recent WBC pickets and find my school.

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It was Sunday when I first saw the Snap story one of my classmates had made ranting about some "anti-LGBT protesters" coming to our school and how she would fight them no matter what.  I had no idea what she was referring to, so I just closed her story and moved along with my day.

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Sunday evening my dad showed me an email that my principal had sent out to the whole school about an "out of state group of protesters" who would be on a sidewalk near our school toward the end of our school day that Wednesday.

I recognized the name "Westboro Baptist Church" from some apologetics studies, actually.  Often times when reading about apologetics, something like this would be said, "How do you counter claims that Christianity is responsible for evil things?  The Crusades, the Inquisition, and even modern day things like the Westboro Baptist Church..." etc.

I didn't really know exactly what they were renowned for, so I read the Wikipedia article online about them and watched a documentary.  I won't deny that I was pretty scared for what would happen at school.

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First of all, I felt really pretty bad that these people were travelling all the way up from Kansas to bother kids and teachers at my school.  I mean, that's pretty sad for that group that they believe such a perversion of Christianity, and of course I hated the idea of kids being targeted by protesters.

Clearly I knew (or thought) that basically 100% of the kids at my school would strongly disagree with the protesters, but I could easily see the pendulum swinging.  I was worried that kids would try to fight the protesters.  That would not be a good look, for sure.

Our principal assured us that police would be present and technically the group's time-slot of protesting ended right when our school day was over, which meant they would likely be gone before anyone saw them.

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I heard in passing during creative writing class that after the announcement in the morning that our principal made, that someone had stood up in their class and said that they "stood with the church", which first of all, I cannot confirm since I only overheard that claim, and secondly cannot believe.  How ridiculous do you have to be to a) say that and b) say it in the middle of your class where everyone can see you?  Do you have an actual social death wish?

At school there was a general buzz about the topic, but I tried to steer clear of it as much as possible.  WBC wants attention and I didn't want our school to give them that much.  Besides, we all have finals and the seniors have graduation to worry about.  We don't have time for this!

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It's all very sad.  We have a very good school, but we've had a couple dramatic incidents this year that have besmirched our name and rubbed our pride into the ground.  My sincere hope is that this WBC protest is ignored and they go all the long way back to Kansas unfulfilled.

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Okay, I wrote all of this before the protest, and now I am back post-protest.  I watched a documentary about WBC a little before the actual protest occurred, and I have to say that seeing the real people behind WBC was really, really sad.  They are just normal people--parents with kids and jobs etc. but they are so terribly misguided and their actions are truly hurtful.

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It did make me less nervous about the entire ordeal though, to see that the people were really just that--regular people.  Turns out there were only a few people even outside our school during a time of day when no one could even see them.  They stood across the street and held up their signs.

Teachers guarded the doors to our school so that no kids could leave early and go rile up the protesters, but other than that the school day went on uninterrupted.  Lots of kids wore pride gear and tried to virtue signal a bit and show that they disagreed with the protesters.

To be honest the protest ended up not interrupting my day at all.  When school was over I quietly slipped out the orchestra hall door, popped in my headphones, and walked back to school unimpeded.  Many kids at my school, however, in an effort to prove just how "courageous" they are, went to counter protest at the side of the street.

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This whole thing kind of made me just a little angry.  The protesters wanted this exact thing to happen.  Even once the WBC legally had to leave the property, counter protesting kids from school blocked off the streets and created a huge ruckus.  The news came, and WBC got all the publicity they wanted.

So in the end, the WBC got what they wanted, and the kids at my school got to virtue signal a bit.  Kids like me who wanted the protesters to just leave also sort of got what they wanted--an uninterrupted day of finals at school devoid of extreme controversy and danger.

It was definitely an interesting (and pretty random) event to end the school year with, but I am very thankful that everyone stayed safe at the very least.

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If the WBC ever pickets a place of worship or a school or whatever in your are, here are a couple tips I have for you.

  • Don't be scared.  As zealous as the WBC might be and as scary as the concept of extremism is, the WBC's weapon is words, and sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you unless you let them.  
  • Ignore them.  There is nothing the WBC loves more than attention.  They are kind of like the annoying sibling who will eventually stop if you quit reacting to their antics.
  • Keep things in perspective.  The WBC represents a small cult-like faction of "Christianity" (I hesitate to even give them that) and by no means is representative of Christians of course.  Don't paint people with a broad brush after seeing the terrible things WBC does.
  • Keep calm and carry on.  They will be gone by the end of the day, and life will go on.  Don't lose sight of that.
I hope that you never have to deal with a WBC protest, but if you do, just know that it will probably blow over very quickly and you will be able to get on with your regular life.

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2 comments:

  1. That sucks that you had to deal with that. I live in Kansas, but I've never actually seen any of their pickets (I'm a homeschooled introvert who loves my bedroom, so that helps) but I can imagine how horrible it would be to see those signs or be in the midst of the confusion and arguing. It saddens me that this is how a lot of people see Christianity. That isn't evangelism, that is just being nasty to people. If you disagree with the way someone lives their life, fine, but that doesn't make them any less a human being. A human being that you are supposed to treat with love and respect, no matter what. Sigh. But as you said, protesting a protest will achieve nothing, and the best thing to do is to remain calm and kind.

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