"These people are a heartbeat away from Hell ... These are the people Hell was made for."
"These people don't love their children. Instead, they will pay to have them killed."
Loving? Not even close.
Where did I hear these words?
Coming from a street corner, from a loudspeaker.
Being proclaimed by a man-
a man who claims to worship the same God I do.
Speaking them in the name of that same God.
"Warning: Graphic Abortion Images Ahead" read the very first sign, black with white letters. The sign wasn't placed early enough- a car full of small children wouldn't have had anywhere to turn off of the road before getting to the lines of protesters. A line of 6- or 7-foot tall signs that stretched for blocks and blocks on the busiest road in town.
It wasn't just today, either. A preschool teacher at the wedding I attended in town said she had to lie to her four-year-olds while they were playing outside. A plane flew overhead, dragging a banner and a graphic image. "What is it? What does it say?" they asked her. "It's too far away, we can't read it" the teachers answer. "We don't know."
The street preacher made me sad. Followers of Jesus are in the news saying things like he was saying, and all his followers are painted in the same way. Hateful. Unbending. Without compassion. This makes my heart hurt.
My guess is that Jesus would not have been standing out there with those protesters today, though, preaching Hell into the portable microphone, smiling, waving and giving thumbs-up to passing cars next to the huge signs of dead babies. It's not his style. He'd be a stone's throw away, alongside the girl graduating at Notre Dame today, who just found out she's pregnant and is unsure what she's going to do, with no job lined up and the area's economy the worst in the nation. He'd encourage Life with gentle words and a supportive touch. "Go and sin no more." "I will be with you always" "I have called you friends"
Jesus, Friend of Sinners.
This is the Jesus I follow.