The Westboro Baptist Church of Wichita, Kansas. I feel a little guilty for even writing about them, because they live for exposure. And they get it. National media companies love the images the WBC produces, standing outside the funerals of soldiers with their “God hates Fags” posters. They are frequently and unfairly connected, by inference, with other Christian churches.
But I think it’s important to understand that “Rev.” Fred Phelps and his “church” do represent a horrifically exaggerated version of the exclusionary, judgmental, and fear-based stance of many other American churches. Whenever a church regards itself as the “only true” church, involves itself in determining the divine fate of others, or threateningly holds its members with regularity over the fearful fires of hell, they are dancing at the edges of a belief system that has its logical conclusions in the stances of Westover Baptist.
(By the way, Westboro Baptist Church is not affiliated with any other recognized Baptist organizations or any other denominational organization in the United States. They are a family cult, made up primarily of various children, grandchildren and in-laws of Fred Phelps.)
Here’s a choir from the church (probably the whole church) singing their version of “We are the World” called “God Hates the World.”
(This song may be the very embodiment of taking God’s name in vain. It is also some pretty bad singing!)
There’s an expose here of Fred Phelps and his “church” which was done by an investigative reporter for Stauffer Communications. The article was spiked by the company, for reasons unknown. Several other Kansas area newspapers offered to run the series, but Stauffer apparently claimed it as their property. In order to get the information about Phelps to the general public, Jon Michel Bell, the reporter, filed suit against Stauffer, charging that they owed him overtime pay. He attached the articles to the lawsuit, thereby making them publicly accessible. Even reading a little of it will reveal to something of why Phelps is the way he is:
And here’s the homepage of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group of volunteers from around the country, who have made it their mission to park in front of, and rev their engines over, the Phelp’s people whenever they appear at soldiers’ funerals. Good guys:
One thought on “God Hates You (they say)..”
Thanks for bringing this up again.
There can’t be an acceptable level of bigotry in American society. There can’t be an acceptable excuse for bigotry.
Sam Harris makes the point that religious moderates often provide cover for religious extremists.
We are certainly quick to criticize Muslims for not calling out the extremists in their ranks.
Articles like BarryWebers serve two important purposes. First, social change cannot be achieved by quietly sitting on your butt and wishing for it (sorry believers in The Secret). Society as a whole benefits from open and frank discussions of our values and the reasoning behind them. Secondly, the Phelps cult offers American Christians an opportunity to be a positive example for others. By not allowing their teachings to be co-opted by extremists for hateful purposes the US Christian community can open the door for others to do the same.
BarryWeber also avoids the pitfall of mud wrestling with the extremists. Polite societies have a way of twisting themselves into knots when they confront extremists. Avoiding becoming a caricature of yourself while battling the crazies is an art.