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A Westboro-Dove Outreach "link"?

(My colleague Rick beat me to the punch with respect to this story, but since I had already drafted most of it, I decided to post it anyway.)

Earlier today, Liberty Pundits reported that in April 2010, members from Dove World Outreach Center (the "Koran-burning" church) joined members from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, who had traveled to Gainsville, Florida in order to protest several "liberal" churches in the area. The page at the Dove website that describes the joint protest is inaccessible, but excerpts posted at Liberty Pundits seem to indicate that the joint protest was not pre-planned. In other words, Westboro did not travel to Gainsville specifically to protest along side of Dove; instead, Dove seized the opportunity to join Westboro in a common cause -- evangelizing "liberal" churches that, in their view, are preaching a false gospel. As far as can be determined from the Dove website excerpts, there is no ongoing relationship with Westboro. In fact, the Dove website states:

We do not agree with all of Westboro's methods, but we admire their determination to find radical ways to preach the truth of the Bible, as we do. Most churches and Pastors in America try to stand on neutral ground. They are lost, weak and sick and need to repent.

The Dove Facebook page contains this summarization of the protest:

People who did not know each other with nothing in common but the word of God marching in unity and putting the kingdom first, ahead of everything else! What can be more important than saving people from hell? We must stand on the truth, the word of God instead on finding reasons why we cannot be in unity! Yes we can! We can obey God and save people from going to hell!

Although the Dove and Westboro congregations come from very different theological perspectives (charismatic, and independent fundamentalist or "primitive" Baptist, respectively) they seem to have some fundamentalist Christian beliefs in common, namely that they are part of the last remnant of believers who are completely true to their faith. Everyone else has either fallen into apostasy through the teaching of false doctrines, or is hopelessly lost because of belief in false religions. They also believe that as members of the True Remnant, they are called to "shake up" other "lukewarm" believers, and to radically evangelize those they see as "the enemy", in an effort to open their eyes to their sins.

To this end, something from Westboro seems to have rubbed off on the Dove congregation, because their Facebook page lists three other protests undertaken by the church since their joint effort with Westboro: a local porn shop, the Islamic Center at the University of Florida, and a protest at City Hall opposing Gainsville's first openly gay mayor. The fact that such protests invariably spark considerable opposition is actually seen by Christian fundamentalists as an affirmation of what they are doing, as indicated by Christ himself in Mark 13:13 and its parallel in Matthew 10, All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Politics and religion often make strange bedfellows, and I think this is probably the extent of the relationship between Westboro and Dove. Although Dove seems to have been inspired by Westboro's zeal for protests, I would be cautious about using the word "link" to describe the intersection of these two congregations, because such a word implies some kind of long-term or deliberate collusion between two parties. That doesn't seem to be the case with respect to these two congregations, unless you count their shared commitment to independent Christian fundamentalism.


ADDED: The Smoking Gun has published what they claim is a copy of the rulebook for Dove World Outreach Academy, a private youth boarding school designed to train students to become "Five Fold Ministers." Among other things, the rulebook confines students to a strict healthy diet, prohibits dating, and excludes all contact with family members (funerals and weddings are no exception). According to CBS News, the school had six students in 2009. Other information available online seems to indicate that the current pastors, Terry and Sylvia Jones, have taken the church down a very radical path and in recent years many of the church's founding members and staff have left.

In response to the comments, I do not wish to defend Dove in any way. It is apparent beyond any need for explanation that Terry Jones is a kook who (like the Phelps family at Westboro Baptist) practices a dangerous, even cult-like, brand of ultra-fundamentalism. Churches like Dove and Westboro claim to be Bible-centered (for example, Dove's rules prohibiting students from contact with their families can be linked to a very literal reading of Luke 9:61-62) but virtually no one outside of the small subset of extreme fundamentalist Christianity would condone much of anything these churches believe or practice.


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Comments (7)

We could just let the radic... (Below threshold)

We could just let the radical muslims have them. Couldn't we?

I speak as an Evangelical. ... (Below threshold)
David Marcoe:

I speak as an Evangelical. There are so many things out of whack here, it's hard to know where to start.

Political protests, especially of the type Westboro and Dove engage in, are in no way evangelism. They do not follow the commandment to "love thy neighbor." They do not honor God. They do not follow any instructions or principles outlined as to how the Gospel should be preached. The very behavior they engage in is at odds with the Gospel they claim to preach. The behavior itself engenders responses and attitudes in non-believers which Bible instructs believers to avoid.

Westboro is a heretical cult. Their repeated assertions that "God hates fags" is heretical; it is contravention to and in contradiction of the essential doctrines and core of the Christian faith. That Dove knowingly associates itself with a church expressing heretical views and engaging in such noxious and un-Christian behavior is both in contravention to what the Bible commands and is shameful in God's sight.

There are endemic problems with many charismatic and fundamentalist churches existing on the fringes of modern Christendom, from major exegetical errors in interpreting the Bible, to large theological mistakes and unhealthy spiritual distortions in the life of congregations. The discussions of these issues in the Christian blogosphere are numerous.

None of what I've said is figurative or hyperbolic, but quite literal. What will likely go unnoticed, even among conservatives, is that there is a near universal condemnation from the rest of the Christian community.

As a Catholic, I agree with... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

As a Catholic, I agree with David Marcoe's assessment at #2 above.

That there is no long-term relationship between Dove and Westboro is hardly a mitigation or excuse. It isn't like Westboro Baptist is an unknown quantity - they have generated lots of publicity with their hateful performances protesting at fallen soldiers' funerals. And yet, Dove sought them out when they came to town, and joined them in harassing members of other churches by protesting outside worship services.

Sorry, no matter what spin is put on these things, they are despicable, anti-Christian, and un-American. And Dove's plan for the Koran burning confirms they are not so far from Westboro in the virulence of their hate, or the lengths to which they are willing to go to inflict pain on others.

The time spent attempting to defend them would be better spent praying for them.

OK, disclaimer first...I do... (Below threshold)

OK, disclaimer first...I don't agree with the methods or ideologies of this group.

But I do think there are some interesting observations to be made:

1. Why is it that the media keeps pushing the message that we should leave the GZ mosque builders alone to exercise their "freedom of religion," but then seek to condemn a fringe "Christian" group for exercising their "freedom of speech"?

2. Is this the left's new strategy to replace yelling "racist" when losing an argument? Finding the kooks among us, publicizing their antics, then leaving it us to spend our time and energy distancing and denouncing, thereby losing some of the focus on the original debate?

3. It's interesting to note the unanimity with which mainstream Christian leaders denounce, distance, and condemn these kooks (who by and large contain their antics to book burnings and staging protests, albeit done in poor taste), while so many so-called moderate Muslim leaders fail to do the same with the "extremists" among them who kill thousands in the name of their faith.

Just some thoughts...

JPO - you're right of cours... (Below threshold)

JPO - you're right of course. If liberals were consistent in their beliefs, they would be standing beside Dove and vigorously denouncing anyone who opposed Dove's precious, unalienable "right to do things that offend other people" as un-American and a threat to religious freedom and freedom of expression.

I thought we'd have to wait until Christmas to see liberals do an about-face on their recent "defender of faith" posturing, but I guess I was wrong.

The connection between the ... (Below threshold)

The connection between the two churches has been known here in Gainesville for many years. I happen to live in the neighborhood where Dove church calls home. It's going to be a ghost neighborhood this weekend as most residents are going to leave.

Sooooo...Muslims want to bu... (Below threshold)

Sooooo...Muslims want to build a community center near ground zero seen by most as a right yet extremely insensitive and devisive and this is protected from the liberal left media. Freedom of religion and speech...yadda, yadda. A guy in Florida wants to burn a religious book and this is seen by most as a right but extremely insensitive and devisive and yet it is condemed by the liberal left media. Radical Muslim leaders are calling for the death of Americans if he burns the book. I don't hear any radical Christians calling for the deaths of any Muslims if the center is built. Can anyone else see the hypocricy here? I would just like to tell everyone out there...you can't have it both ways. The whole goose and gander thing is really strong in this situation.






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