There is usually plenty of push back against the suggestion that it is problematic to characterize Christian sectarians like Mormons “cultists.” But I wonder if it could be helped by characterizing Good Shepherd Church and its Bayly leadership as really no different from Westboro Baptist and the Phelps leadership? Both confess the Westminster Confession (and not sufficiently persuaded of paedobaptism) and both seem unduly fixated on very particular sexual sins and social ills of the world. Both seem highly persuaded that picketing and public protestation against these things is quite affective and even more necessary, the Baylys even going so far as to suggest that those who choose to refrain from such public behavior for principled reasons are “unfaithful.”
So is it problematic to say that Good Shepherd Presbyterian is to Westboro Baptist what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is to the People’s Temple Agricultural Project? Maybe those inclined to give more rope to the Baylys and hesitate on the comparison to the Phelps’ but who also think their friendly neighborhood Arians are no different from the anti-social ilk of Jonesittes could apply that charity a little more evenly. But if not, then maybe that means the Good Shepherd-Westboro conflation has more merit than I would be willing to give it, which is very tempting. But temptation is to be resisted, it is true, and maybe in order to stave it off I should take my own medicine and be content to conceive of the difference between Good Shepherd and Westboro as being more one of degree along the spectrum of culture war co-belligerents. Whatever the case, I’ve no need for any of these outfits and it reminds me that one of my household errands remains incomplete, namely to find an understated and tastefully done “No Solicitors” sign to affix to our front door.