I've never written a letter to the editor...but I guess there's a first for everything. Bozeman news and gossip has been abuzz over the past few weeks because Westboro Baptist Church (infamous for their hateful protests) is coming to town on Monday to protest at Montana State University and Bozeman High School. Amidst a slew of diverse responses, I thought I would throw my thoughts into the ring with a submission to the opinion section of our local newspaper. And low and behold, they actually ran my article in the paper today. Since most of you do not subscribe to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, I figured I would share my letter on this blog and on Facebook. So here it is:
The most unfortunate and disappointing aspect of the impending arrival of the Westboro Baptist Church protesters is that it has created an unnecessary and counterproductive distraction for the amazing individuals, schools, churches, and non-profit organizations of the Bozeman community. Do I vehemently disagree with the ideas and actions of WBC? Certainly. Absolutely. But, we have allowed the prospect of a mere handful of protesters (seriously, like four) to consume our time and energy now for weeks. We have allowed a small, inconsequential group of outsiders to shift our attention from what we are for to what we are against. Instead of remaining focused on the beautiful, peaceful, and loving attitude that characterizes most of Bozeman, we have found ourselves consumed with being against this flash-in-the-pan protest.
Westboro will be here today and gone tomorrow, but the good people of Bozeman have always been here, are still here, and will continue to be here long after September 9. I know of non-profits who daily seek to care for those who have slipped through the cracks of our society. I know of faith communities who daily seek to be good news to the Bozeman community through peace, justice, and love. And I work at The Rock Youth Center (across the street from BHS), where we daily seek to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our Bozeman High students. So in the midst of this unnecessary and unwarranted distraction, may we continue to hold fast to the beauty of the Bozeman spirit, a way of peace, love, and hospitality for all.Sincerely,Jason Bowker