This week, I learned – along with the rest of our college community – that Westboro Baptist Church will be visiting our campus to picket the production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later that is being performed on Monday night. I was teary with anger when I learned they were coming and then off and on for the next two days. Finally, today, I feel some peace about this whole thing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Westboro Baptist’s main mission – at least from what I’ve witnessed and read on their website (and please note, this website is pretty awful, so only visit if you feel strong and calm today) – is to spread the message that God not only hates homosexuals but that God is punishing America for being accepting of homosexual/bisexual/transgendered people in this culture. I cannot tell you how much this church angers me because I know that God is love. God is not just loving and not just loving toward some people but God is love. God is made up of love – God’s entire essence is love. So when the members of this church begin preaching – and holding signs – that say God hates anyone, something crucial in me is wronged and offended. Of course my level of suffering over this is nothing compared with LGBT people’s suffering when their very personhood is attacked and when they are told that God hates them – that is a pain I cannot even imagine to feel. And as a Christian, I know that this is not God’s way, and I loathe the fact that God’s name is being used to spread this kind of hate. It sickens me.

I am not going to delve into the discussion about the morality of various sexual orientations here; in relation to this demonstration on Monday, that discussion is irrelevant, except to say that I believe God loves all people, no matter what, even the people from Westboro Baptist. (I do want to say, though, for the record that I am an ally of LGBT people; I honor all people and try to love them the best I can.) And I am not going to defend God; God’s got God’s own defense under control.

What I am going to try to do is pray love into myself, into the people who come for counter-protest, and into the members of Westboro Baptist Church. Thus, here is my mantra for the next three days.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy; ” — St. Francis of Assisi

There is nothing in this world that will change people who have dedicated themselves to hate. Hate is too consuming, too burning, too addictive for a simple act of will to wipe it out entirely. Instead, here, we need the divine nature of love to burn in all of us and purify us. This I pray.

If you are interested in joining us on Monday night in a peaceful and loving protest, please come to Cecil College at 7pm. The campus is small, so we will be easy to find. If you do come, please come in peace. We need no more hate or violence there. And if you want to be part of the Angel Action, wear white wings so that you can stand silently, backs facing the WBC members, to show solidarity with the people of Laramie, with Matthew Shephard, and with anyone who has suffered because of their sexual orientation. And if you can’t be there, please pray and send all the good and loving energy in the world our way. We – and the other performers at other schools who are being picketed that night – need it. We do.

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And now for the Friday book giveaway, our winner of last week’s copy of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours is Christine from Book Tumbling. Congrats!

This week’s book is Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. This is only the second book of Gaiman’s I have read (the first was Stardust), and while it took me a bit to get into this one, I really liked it. The story weaves together contemporary lives with folktales – African folktales I think – to make this magically twisted by highly readable and relatable story about two brothers who must learn to reconcile to save themselves. It’s really quite good and fun.

If you’d like to win this book, just leave a comment about it here. For more chances to win, tweet, facebook, blog, etc., about the giveaway and I’ll give you more entries. The winner will be chosen next Friday.

Cover of Neil Gaiman's Anansi BoysAnasi Boys by Neil Gaiman