Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Good folks should get in the limelight

BY GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader publisher

(This is the second part of a two-part column that we’ve turned over to Jaynie M. McClain of Lonoke, whose cousin, Army Specialist Bobby West of Beebe, was killed May 30 in Baghdad at the age of 23. He was buried June 7 in Beebe as hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders protected the family from about 10 protesters from Kansas, who be-lieve God has punished America because it tolerates homosexuals.)

I became so irritated that night as I watched the local news. I mean, if you just watched the television news coverage, and weren’t there, you would have thought that there were 400 protesters from Topeka, Kansas, and six Patriot Guard Riders. They wasted all their film on six hate-filled individuals, while ignoring (for the most part) the sea of black leather, mingled with red, white and blue that was probably 400-500 strong.

As a Baptist myself, a member of Marshall Road Baptist in Jacksonville, I was very ashamed of the display of disrespect toward a serviceman and even toward a grieving family. I never would have thought that they would show up at a funeral I would attend. You hear about them going to funerals and it just doesn’t seem real until you are there and you see them. I don’t know what Bible they read, but the Bible that I read says that Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus just prior to Him raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus grieved with those who grieved. He didn’t show up at a funeral and protest the politics of the Roman government!

Bobby was not a homosexual. If they want to protest homosexuality, then they need to go find someplace other than a funeral to do it. Particularly the funeral of a young man who has just died to keep them free in a nation where they can express their opinions, no matter how offensive or wrong they are. For them to hold signs that say: GOD LOVES IEDS, GOD HATES YOUR TEARS, DON’T WORSHIP THE DEAD, GOD IS OUR TERRORIST and YOU ARE GOING TO HELL were extremely offensive to me both as a Christian and as a member of the grieving family. Not one of those signs spoke the truth about the situation.

We were there to honor Bobby, a soldier, not to worship him; apparently they don’t know the difference. We were there to remember him with tears at a life cut short and smiles at good memories. Bobby would not have wanted us to worship him, he knew who God was. God does not hate our tears, on the contrary the psalmist said that He captures our tears (Psalm 56.8) and puts them in His book. It also says that God is close to the brokenhearted and that He heals the brokenhearted (Psalm 147.3).

Psalm 116.15 says, “Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Bobby is alive in heaven today. His death was not the act of a vengeful god, but of a loving God who removed him from a world of pain and death. God doesn’t love improvised explosive devices — that’s like saying that God loved what the terrorists did on Sept. 11. IEDs are inventions from the minds of those who don’t want any religion in the earth except for their version of radical Islam.

As a born-again Christian and a Baptist, I would like for you and others to know that true Christians would never, ever picket at the funeral of anyone. I was very ashamed of the antics of those so-called “Baptists.” I might consider a picket for Osama Bin Laden, but certainly not at the funeral of an honorable man or woman who served this country in the military, as law enforcement, firefighters, or as first responders. These are the ones who have stood between this nation and tyranny for over two hundred years.

One of the saddest things is that they are bringing their children and teaching them that such disrespect is acceptable. One teenage boy was standing on the American flag. I know that seeing that sight hurt each of those veterans and active duty people who saw it. This does not fall under the admonition of the Shema in Deuteron-omy 6. 4-9, does it? The people of Westboro Baptist Church have more in common with the KKK than they do with followers of Jesus Christ.

After checking out one of their many Web sites, I found that basically, everyone except for the members of their own church is hell-bound in their eyes. They were critical this week of the Southern Baptist Convention (my church is a member of this denomination) stating: “WBC to picket the idolatrous Southern Baptist Convention as they worship the 10-foot graven image of Billy Graham at the Greensboro Coliseum.” The people of Westboro were planning on being there on Tuesday and Wednesday to picket there. The bottom of the flier on their Web site says: “The worshippers (Southern Baptists) and the worshippee (sic) (Billy Graham) are all Hell-bound heretics.” So, my family is actually in pretty good company being on their hit list: all Southern Baptists, Billy Graham, one of the most respected evangelists of all time, and our military.

Jesus sat down and ate meals with the dregs of His society, prostitutes, tax collectors, and Samaritans. His words of anger were said to the self-righteous of His day who thought they were so much better than all the rest, the self-righteous who thought that they were the only ones who were right, the only ones who were truly serving God.

The photos that I took were of the positive scenes of the day, and to remind me of my cousin. Bobby died doing what he loved and wanted to do. He was willing to go to a foreign country and attempt to show them what liberty feels like. The liberty that the people of Iraq want is the same liberty that the protesters from Kansas were exercising so rudely at his funeral.

I’ve heard it said that we are losing the old warriors of the Greatest Generation at the rate of 2,000 per day. I have wondered what our nation would be like when this patriotic group was gone. But after Bobby’s funeral, I have found that their place is being taken by their children…The Patriot Guard Riders, the people who have never served but respect those who have chosen to serve, and the young men and women who are serving their nation today in bases around the world. Perhaps as the Greatest Generation of World War II veterans have passed away, they passed along their fervor for this nation to the next generation.

Those young men and women in the armed forces today deserve our respect and our gratitude. They are all that is standing between us and another, perhaps even more devastating Sept. 11 attack. One wonders if the people from Kansas have given even a passing thought as to why terrorist attacks have hit the other western nations of Britain and Italy, but not in America again. Were it not for the military of the United States in the past and those currently serving, we would be speaking the language of some conqueror as a defeated people. Instead, most of us live our lives from day to day, not fearing a suicide bomber, or political retribution from the party in control. We are safe in our homes because of men and women like my young cousins, my stepson, my husband, my father and the countless others whose faces are a sea of desert camo, or jungle camo.

I cannot sing “America” without crying especially the line that says, “who more than self, their country loved and mercy more than life.” Now, besides thinking of the aging warrior who is my beloved dad, I will think of the face of my eternally 23-year-old cousin.

Thank you, Bobby, for your service to us, for the sacrifice that you were willing to make so that I can go to bed each night without fear. I will never forget you for that.

Thank you also to your older brother, Patrick, for his continued service to our country in Iraq. We all are so grateful to him and all those like him who have chosen the frontlines of defense.

Thank you, Garrick for the sensitive article on the funeral of a hero. Thank you also for realizing that the people from Kansas are not representative of everyone who calls themselves a Christian and a Baptist. Please, may no one associate all Christians as being like the people from that church. We are not. Most of all, we would have the good sense not to protest at a funeral.