It’s a fair question, and one I’ve wrestled with a lot, as you know if you’ve been reading. I found myself articulating it pretty well to a friend who’s keeping me honest about my motives. What I said, in part, was this:
I do think that ignoring the Westboro Baptist Church is the best approach. Unfortunately, it’s an all-or-nothing approach, and so what I had to ask myself was whether or not I thought *everyone* in Montpelier would ignore them, including the media. For me, I couldn’t take the philosophy of doing what I thought was best for myself, because I had to consider the whole. And the whole picture was that there were news cameras there, seeking pictures of the WBC, and counter-demonstrators there, doing their best to send another message. The story was going to be printed and aired, with our without my voice, and so the question for me was whether or not my voice could make a positive difference. I do think that myself and others did a really good job of steering away people who were getting angry, and most of the time the WBC folks got a really nice, silent view of people’s backs.
Both in responding in the paper and standing at the demonstration, I feel like I made the right choice for me, and the responses I’ve received from people who felt they couldn’t stand up for themselves but were moved that someone else would, have affirmed that. Does it play into the WBC’s hands a bit? Perhaps. Does it comfort even one gay person or Jewish person who has heard their message and been wounded? I know for a fact it does. That outweighs the downside, in my opinion. I’d rather give the WBC a little of what they want and a few dozen (that I’ve heard from) hurting people what they need, rather than give them all nothing.
Edited to add: Or, as one of my best friends in the world put it, in a comment to the facebook version of this post, “shielding those who need it is not action against the WBC. It’s love in action toward those in need. ‘Love in action.’ Isn’t that how you once described pastoring?” Thank you, L, for helping me put both that distinction and my vocation into words.