Christmas According to the Westboro Baptist Church

Silent night, awful night,
You have no peace; you're full of fright,
God's righteous anger is close and near,
His hate for this nation is painfully clear,
Behold the wrath of the lamb, Behold the wrath of the lamb.

When we first hear the voices, often children's voices, we think we're hearing the familiar refrains of the Christmas season. The music is right but the words are wrong.
But listen for yourself here. (If link does not connect, copy and paste to browser.)

The Westboro Baptist Church expresses their beliefs through parodies of traditional carols or holiday songs. For its members, Christmas is simply one more example of pagan inspired idolatry, completely lacking in Biblical basis or foundation. Their theology dictates that because Jesus never directed His followers to celebrate His birth (nor His resurrection, but that's a column for another day), to do so is blasphemy and idolatry.

For the children of the Westboro Baptist Church, this Christmas will be just another Thursday. No tree, no decorations, no special church service, no gifts, no extended family coming to visit. No Jesus in a manger. Nada.

"What I remember about Christmases ... is that we would always picket the local churches. We would sing parodies of common Christmas carols. There was also a particular church that always had a nativity scene drive-through that we would picket... It sticks out in my mind," shared Zach Phelps-Roper, a grandson of Fred Phelps, who left the church earlier this year. "We never actually celebrated Christmas in any way, shape or form ... I never really wanted to participate in Christmas because I felt like it was wrong."

There is historical data to support their position that Christmas as a 'holy day' on December 25th (which is, arguably, not the birth date of Jesus) was conceived by a Pope in the 4th century who wanted to piggy-back on existing Roman pagan holidays (which the WBC decries as festivals of sin, lust and gluttony) and picked a date to coincide. And there is also historical data to support that the accoutrements of the celebration, from holly to mistletoe to gift giving to evergreen trees, derive from pagan celebrations. The very word, "Christmas," reflects, in their beliefs, a marriage of idolatry and Roman Catholicism. They prefer the model of the Puritans in England, and those who emigrated to the Colonies, who regarded the holiday as witchcraft.

"Jesus Is Not The Reason for the Season," they contend.

The mindset of the Westboro Baptist Church is that true believers are swimming in a sea of idolatry: "... a whirling maelstrom, a tempestuous sea of idolatrous behavior that surrounds us and buffets us on all sides at all times. We are adrift in a dangerous situation where this idolatry is ensnaring, it is at times hard to see for what it is, and it is a soul-damning thing. It is a thing we must diligently watch for lest it invade this precious house, the only refuge from that buffeting we have." (WBC sermon, 12-7-2014)

What separates the WBC from many other fundamentalist churches, even other Christian sects that reject Christmas, is their unrelenting fixation on homosexuality as the ultimate sin (murder, abuse or cruelty? No big deal) and their vision of God as Nazi-esque, more executioner than loving creator. As in this version of "Jungle Bells":

Off to hell
Off to hell
Time for you to go
With your cursed Christmas trees
You've made God your foe - Oh!
God hates you
God hates you
Time for you to fall
You love your idols and your fags
This is your final call

Dashing off to sin
You love to marry fags
Lots of dead bodies
Coming home in body bags
God kills your boys and girls
You scream and cry in pain
You curse His people in large mobs
God answers with more slain
Oh, off to hell, off to hell (refrain)

Full disclosure: I became interested in Westboro Baptist Church theology when I was researching for a novel that centers on a custody battle over a child in the WBC. What would it be like for an 11-year old boy, raised in the WBC, to be required by the court to live two days a week with a father who, by his family's definition, is a tool of Satan? And how would that kid feel about Christmas?

So, why should anyone care what the WBC thinks or believes? Because they are not alone. They look like an isolated fringe cult because of how they express their beliefs, but their core theology parallels that of many fundamentalist churches (a dissertation/column for another day.) Because everyone expected the church to disappear after their founder, Fred Phelps, died last March... but they're as resolute as ever. Because Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and the WBC have a lot in common, yet his fans do not seem to mind.

I'm not sure what local churches will be picketed on Christmas but the WBC picket schedule says they will be at the Town Center Mall in Aurora, Colorado, on Dec. 26th, declaring God's wrath on the country for tolerating homosexuality. To wrap up, here is "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" because...

This might be your final Christmas
This might be your final Christmas
This might be your final Christmas
The Judgment Day's near

You'll soon meet the King
The time is at hand,
He's coming from heaven
To punish this land.

He's not gonna have fag marriage
He's not gonna have fag marriage
He's not gonna have fag marriage
The nation is doomed.

You Christians have lied
Divorced all your wives
Now your proud adultery
Will cost you your lives.

God hates all your stinky idols (repeat 3 times)
Your doom is at hand.

You worship your flag
Your bloody red wrap
It's your favorite idol
God hates you for that.

This might be your final Christmas (repeat 3 times)
The Judgments Day's near

All the nations are playing
The fag marriage game
Christ will destroy you
The whole world's in flames.

Susan Kraus is a therapist, mediator and writer whose latest novel is All God's Children. In disguise as psychological thrillers and mysteries, her novels delve into the ambiguity and complexity of polarizing social and political issues.