So, Westboro Baptist Church is protesting at my university today. And our administration, at last check, has said nothing to condemn them.
Obviously, Westboro has free speech rights and I will indeed fight for those, though what they say is reprehensible. But why hasn't our new president or other university leadership spoken out against Westboro's message? Wouldn't there be a statement if the KKK decided to rally in front of the African American Cultural Resource Center? Why is it so hard to condemn hate now? What are we afraid of? There is so much false equivalence and fear of taking a stand, that there is no stand taken. Friends, if we get it wrong, we can admit it. But not taking a stand against hate, as many better-spoken people before me have said, is just as bad as speaking the hate itself. UC, speak up.
To be clear, I don't think the speaking up needs to be a loud counter-protest. I know that will happen as it always does with Westboro and others. The problem is that's precisely what they're after. The more loud and violent the reaction, the more they feel they're doing right. The best way to make clear that their message is ridiculous is to let them yell into the void. No one showing up for their shindig, or hundreds staring silently at them. Or even the German response to Nazi marches of turning them into walk-a-thons for various anti-facist charities. Make it clear that their message is not our message, then take the wind out of their sails, don't yell back.
I will be on campus today with my campus ministry's red couch (it's on wheels--fun!) to be present to those who want to talk and to direct folks to other activities that are happening elsewhere on campus. Pray for all of us, Westboro Baptist Church included, that we may have our hearts broken open.