The controversial, hate-spewing group Westboro Baptist Church is taking its angry message to a Seattle-area megachurch this Sunday.
Westboro announced on its website that its members will picket at Mars Hill Church’s Federal Way campus in Auburn, Wash., against the church’s teaching that “God love [sic] everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind.” The group claims Mars Hill is leading people to destruction by lying that God loves everyone.
“God does not love everyone – in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die,” reads the Westboro picket schedule page.
In response, senior pastor Mark Driscoll wrote a blog Thursday in which he said the Topeka, Kan.-based church is “more of a political hate group who use the name of God to advance their agenda.”
“Doctrinally, they are extreme five-point Calvinists, or what I like to call Crazy Calvinists," explains Driscoll, who heads the 10-campus church. "They basically believe the underlying message of the Bible is one of God’s hatred and wrath against humankind, and that the Bible is properly interpreted through that filter.”
"Therefore, they believe all mentions of God’s love in the Bible are in reference to God’s Christian elect and not applicable in any way to others outside God’s elect."
But Driscoll maintains that everyone is loved by God, though they are not all saved. "Anyone who turns from sin and trusts in Jesus will receive eternal life," he asserts. "Additionally, we know that it’s not God’s hatred that leads people to repentance but instead his kindness."
Although Driscoll won’t be on campus Sunday, he welcomes WBC picketers “in love” and said the church will give them a copy of his book Doctrine, so they “can learn what the Bible says about who God actually is.” The picketers will also be offered fresh donuts and coffee, he promises.
Controversy and often media attention have followed Westboro members wherever they picket. The self-proclaimed church, which is made up of nothing more than family members of pastor Fred Phelps, often chooses high-profile and emotional events to picket at.
Common targets include funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in war, memorial services for victims of natural disasters, and churches.
Last month, some WBC members showed up at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day to protest against fallen American soldiers. Interestingly, members of a supposed offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan, called the Knights of the Southern Cross, counter-protested. The KKK group argued that it was the sacrifice of American soldiers that gave Westboro the right to free speech.
Some military families recently tried to sue Westboro for picketing at the funerals of their loved ones, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled nearly unanimously, 8 to 1, in March that Westboro's right to free speech outweighed military families’ right to privacy.
Although Westboro describes itself as a Baptist church, it is not affiliated with any Baptist denomination. All mainstream denominations have denounced the fringe group.