Fred Phelps: The Last Real Christian

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My sense of humor is neither unique nor obscure.  Just the same, it tends to sail over a great many foreheads, so let me be perfectly clear on this one from the outset.  One of the major regrets in my life—aside from all the monstrous things I’ve actually done—was missing the chance to break Fred Phelp’s nose when he came to Vermont. This was during the controversy over “civil unions”, a landmark event which is hard to be proud of, since it’s ultimately a comprimise with ignorant bigots.  See, rather than do the right thing and just pass a law allowing gay marriage, Vermont did some half-stepping, and now we have “civil unions”.

Anyways, Fred Phelps showed up with his entourage and their “GOD HATES FAGS” signs, and I totally missed the boat.  Bear that in mind when I crack tasteless jokes for the rest of this article.  For any readers curious about whether or not there’s a “hidden homosexual agenda” behind this article, check out our series on “curing” homosexuality (Part One, Two, Three)

A Crash Course in Mindless Hatred

Fred Phelps, who can only be termed a cult leader, first appeared on the national radar when his family and followers, who call themselves the “Westboro Baptist Church,” picketed a f***ing funeral—and not just any funeral, it was the memorial service for Matthew Shepard, a young man who was beaten into a coma and left to die next to a barbed wire fence in Laramie, Wyoming.  (Sadly, this is really the only claim to fame Laramie, Wyoming has ever had in the entire history of mankind.) This was the beginning of a long career of making the news for protesting at funerals—Phelps clearly subscribes to the concept that “all publicity is good publicity.”

Recently, Phelps and the WBC have upped the ante still further.  Now they picket the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq, claiming that the dead bodies being shipped back home are “God’s punishment” to America for “tolerating homosexuals,” along with Hurricane Katrina.  Now even Fox News hates them, parading Phelp’s truly insane daughter Shirley before their viewing audience for gasps and guffaws.  When asked for comment, Phelps is more than happy to speak to any reporter on Earth—his rationale for harassing the families of dead soldiers: “I don’t have any sympathy for these parents. They’re all going to hell. The family’s in pain because they haven’t obeyed the Lord God.”

Now that everyone is up to speed, let’s begin at the beginning.

A Most Unexpected Start

I always assumed that Fred Phelps grew up thumping the shit out of effeminate men.  To say I was “wrong” would be an understatement roughly on par with Bush’s recent statement that “mistakes have been made” in Iraq.

Phelps first made his mark as a civil rights lawyer.  Unlike our recent prank about how DMT ”gets you high,” this is completely true.  (It’s even here in Wikipeda, but then again, maybe I put it there.)

“I systematically brought down the Jim Crow laws of this town,” Fred Phelps boasted to an utterly headf***ed Kerry Lauerman, interviewing the pastor for Mother Jones.  (The article is good, read it here.)

Fred Phelps was not exactly a free-thinking atheist in his youth, though—the man became a preacher early on, passing up an invitation to attend West Point because he had a conversion experience the summer before.  He attended John Muir College and made his mark for harassing students, back in 1951, about the dangers of “promiscuous petting,” which is apparently what God-fearing folk had to be concerned about in the days before butt plugs and Pope-shaped vibrators. 

Just the same, there is really nothing in his youth to indicate the path Phelps would later embrace.  Here’s a telling excerpt from “The Transformation of Fred Phelps,” by Joe Taschler:

Fletcher Rosenbaum, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force who lives in Meridian, went to high school with Phelps. “He was good at whatever he tried,” Rosenbaum said. “He was a first-class individual. I would be surprised if he wasn’t a top-notch citizen in Topeka.”

The anti-homosexual picketing and fax-machine attacks surprised Rosenbaum. “He was very reserved in high school, very quiet,” said Rosenbaum. “I’m very surprised he would be involved in aggressive activities. To me, that would be out of character for him.”

Lauerman’s Mother Jones article also has this gem:

“Phelps remained prominent in state and local politics, working for years as a major organizer for the state’s Democratic Party. (He still calls himself a Democrat, refusing to change just because his party has.) In 1988, Phelps housed campaign workers for Al Gore’s first presidential run; in 1989, his eldest son, Fred Jr., hosted a fundraiser for Gore’s Senate campaign at his home.

Phelps has frequently run for public office—for governor in 1990, ‘94, and ‘98, for the Senate in ‘92—always losing the primaries by a landslide. Because of their years as loyal Democrats, the Phelpses have even been invited to—and attended—both of Clinton’s inaugurations. They protested at the second one.”

Like most of us, Phelps first got arrested for assaulting a police officer.  At the peak of the civil rights movement, over one third of every single Jim Crow lawsuit on the dockets in the state of Kansas was filed by Phelp’s law firm.  So how exactly does a civil rights activist become the most absurd caricature in the United States?

Psychology of Hate

‘Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you and cast out your name. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!” --Luke 6:22

It’s impossible to accurately tell when Fred Phelps started to seriously lose his shit, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was in 1977.  Some folks might make a case for 1974, when he filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Sears Corporation when the local franchise was no less than three days late delivering a television to his son. 

But 1977 was when a humble court reporter named Carolene Brady was late—according to Fred’s watch, at least—bringing him a court document.  He sued her, and that’s actually the most sane part of this little story.  The lawsuit itself was a strange one, since he sought $2000 in damages, and $20,000 in “punitive damages” for “fraud and misrepresentation”.

“Before filing the lawsuit, Phelps allegedly told Brady “he had wanted to sue her for a long time,” according to court documents. During the suit, Phelps called Brady to the witness stand, had her declared a hostile witness and cross-examined her for three or four days.

“The record discloses that his cross-examination was abusive, repetitive, irrelevant and represented a classic case of ‘badgering’ a witness,” the Kansas Supreme Court said.

After the jury picked their jaws up off the floor, they found in favor of Brady (shocker, I know), but Fred insisted on appealing to the Kansas Supreme Court.  To sweeten the pot, Fred insisted he had affadavits from no less than eight witnesses who would support his claims.  Brady returned a week later with signed affadavits from all eight witnesses, who not only denied they would testify against Brady, but denied that Phelps had even spoken to them.

So already, you can see how far the fag-enabling, racist establishment in Kansas would go to destroy a brave Christian.  Things went downhill from there, as you already know.

Phelps and the WBC actually began their protests of homosexuality back in 1991, after an incident in a local town park where Phelps claims one of his children was accosted by a fiendish homosexual.  He first got a taste of the spotlight in 1993, when an ABC news team got footage of him writhing on the ground after being maced by someone at a Gay Rights march in Washington, DC. 

So What’s a Real Christian?

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
--Lev. 20:13

Hard to call it either way.  Phelps is obviously overlooking more than a few key passages about things like “love” and “forgiveness”—and yet modern “reformed” Christians are just as hypocritical for ignoring the crystal clarity of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  The Old Testament is perfectly straightforward: homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, and the penalty for it can only be death.

(It’s worth noting that Leviticus also mandates the death penalty for such crimes as swearing, practicing other religions, doubting god, stealing, or disobeying your parents. Not too many Christians want to talk about this, so please, bring it up whenever you can.)

It’s nice to pretend that when Jesus Christ delivered the New Testament, it was a “kinder, gentler” form of Hebrew law, but any honest investigation of the Bible proves this is not so. 

Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

So now, it’s clear to the reader that when the Westboro Baptist Church says America is “tolerating homosexuals”, they don’t just mean “being accepting of different lifestyles”, they mean “not killing them.”

A Perfectly Circular Logic

The most curious wrinkle in the strange fabric of Westboro Baptist Church theology is the where predestination and preaching the Good Word intersect.  Phelps, you see, calls himself a “Primitive Baptist”, a reference to Baptism’s roots in Calvinism.  John Calvin will go down in history as perhaps the single most constipated human being Planet Earth has ever seen. 

Calvin preached the doctrine of Absolute Predestination, also known as Unconditional Election—that God determines, even before birth, which humans will reach Heaven and who will burn in the Lake of Fire.  If you’re interested in the scriptural logic behind this—and it is genuinely interesting—start here. As Phelps explains it:

“It goes like this. The everlasting love of God for some men and the everlasting hatred of God for other men is the grand doctrine that razes free will to the ground.”

You might be asking yourself: “So why even bother preaching to people who God himself selected to go to Hell?” First of all, asking questions like that is proof positive that you’re damned, sucker. 

Their mission, members say, simply is to spread this news.

“We don’t strive to change your hearts or minds,” Phelps wrote in a letter to the Capital-Journal. ”Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t make you believe the truth.

“Every person who is predestined for hell will remain in darkness.”

So here we come to the real core of Fred’s “theology” which, I can’t help but point out, is just as insane as anyone else’s theology, just uglier and more vicious.  (Or perhaps, just more honest.) You see, we’re all going to Hell—everyone on planet Earth, except for Fred Phelps and his family.

Why Start a Business When You Could Start a Church?

Here’s a very important paragraph from Lauerman’s article:

Whether Westboro Baptist is a church or an official family get-together is a question frequently asked by Phelps’ critics. The IRS considers it a church, though, and that qualifies Westboro for tax breaks on “church activities,” including the $250,000 the family spends traveling to protests each year. The large brood has grown and married and includes 45 grandchildren; they fill the pews during Westboro’s single Sunday service. With one exception, everyone attending the service on this Sunday in December is a relative, either by blood or through marriage.

Are you thinking what I was thinking?  All you’ve gotta do is get a regular place to assemble, find a podium, and then you can just get wasted every Sunday with some friends and holler about all manner of nonsense.  For your “efforts”, you will earn yourself sweeping exemptions from state and federal income taxes for life.  (Assuming you bother paying those vampires in the first place. I make most of my income selling warheads to third world countries, so I tend to avoid the IRS.)

You, too, could build a paramilitary compound right in the middle of a US city—just like Fred Phelps!  You could have a playground, a swimming pool, a fallout shelter, particle accelerators—anything you wanted.  If the government tried to interfere, they wouldn’t “enforcing the law”, they would be infringing upon your religious rights

Further Resources

Anyone interested in having a detailed discussion of the Old Testament and it’s personal applications in the 22nd century might enjoy a google map to the Westboro Baptist Church compound. Not that I’m advocating anything, just, you know....enabling.  That’s what Brainsturbator is all about—giving you the tools to get in trouble more efficiently.  You don’t even need the address, it sounds like it’s none too hard to find:

Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church has been a fixture in the small city of Topeka, Kansas (population 120,000), for 44 years. These days, the church feels like a bunker, from its chain-link fence to its sign pockmarked from gunshots and the enormous American flag hanging at half-staff and upside down in front of the building. “It’s the signal for distress, because those are the times we are living,” says Phelps

Bear in mind this is Topeka, Kansas.  Happy hunting!

18 responses to "Fred Phelps: The Last Real Christian"

  • avatar

    Jan 18, 2007 at 2:18 PM

    Leviticus is the ‘book of choice’ for cherry-picking weird laws and regulations that have absolutely no value in today’s world.

    The book of Leviticus says you should “cut off a womans hand” if she touches your penis! Also warns about divine punishments for “they that pisseth against the wall”
    ... because back in those days the wall was baked Clay Bricks that absorbed the piss smell and the acidity also eroded the walls over time.

    Luckily, in TODAY’S World of the 21st century - due to innovations in technology we can ALL piss on the walls without fear of divine retribution or eternal damnation.

  • avatar

    Jan 18, 2007 at 5:27 PM

    The Phelps family is prime example of scum. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing Shirley Phelps face. I’d crack Fred Phelps’ jaw, I’m 3 hours away!

  • avatar

    Jan 18, 2007 at 5:31 PM
    Dick Hefacheese

    Stop refering to Jesus as a historical figure.

    Besides that little part this was a great read.
    Really weird dude.

  • avatar

    Jan 18, 2007 at 5:53 PM

    Usually, it’s not divine retribution I’m worried about, it’s the cops. raspberry
    Ironic about this article, I was daydreaming last night about starting a church, one of the many reasons being, tax-free property & expenses.
    As far as this asshole goes, (and I mean no disrespect to actual assholes), I’ve seen these people on various news reports, and I can’t believe they make it unscathed from their protests. That’s not to say I condone violence, However, not unlike a Pavlov’s Dog scenario, how many punches in the face would someone take before it registers that this action results in an achy, bloody face?
    Remember when getting spanked was an acceptable form of child rearing? Nuff said.

    I realize most commentary in this forum is like preaching to the choir, so to speak, but man, these douchebags, and the ones like them, are one of the main reasons this country is fucked up.
    Oddly enough, one thing I will agree with; the flag should be flown upside down. Not that the flag retains any of the same meaning its supposed to, but it is a fitting symbol for the current state of the country.

  • avatar

    Jan 18, 2007 at 7:58 PM
    senden ka

    man I hate this guy.

    what I find most illuminating about this man is that, for the most part, reports of his ‘activities’ at military funerals fail to even mention his presence.  one local news story I saw simply called them ‘protesters’; their true identity given away by nothing but a half-second flash of video in which, if you were really paying attention, a sign reading ‘god hates america’ could be made out.

    a few months ago I met a member of the patriot riders (the guys who shield phelps from funeral goers’ view), and when I told him who this man was he was actually shocked.  despite his proximity to these assholes, he’d thought they were dastardly peaceniks or something.

    p.s. - great blog! keep it coming

  • avatar

    Jan 18, 2007 at 9:12 PM
    Robert Durant

    Why don’t you identify yourself further?  Trying to avoid legal action for copyright infringement, maybe?  Come on out in the sunlight.

  • avatar

    Jan 18, 2007 at 10:41 PM

    George, I have constantly wondered the same question—I left out all the allegations, quite substantial, about Phelps abusing his kids to a really absurd degree.  I know....what a shock.

  • avatar

    Jan 19, 2007 at 2:55 AM
    Senator Knee Hi

    Long live the Church of Neo Futonism.

  • avatar

    Jan 19, 2007 at 9:49 PM
    Dr. J

    I’ve heard that the KS community in which Phelps lives, and surrounding communities, live in terror of him due to his litigious nature. He and several of his family members are lawyers and use this power to sue, surprisingly often successfully, everyone and anyone who opposes them. The local police and other city officials leave them alone and advise anyone who has an issue with them to just let it go, because of the fear of being sued by Phelps.

    My .02 is that Fred is mentally ill. Perhaps a mix of paranoid and narcissistic personality disorders. For some irrational reason he has fixated on homosexuality as the epitome of all sin, and cannot see beyond it to any other issues or religious messages to spread. It is evidence of pathologically rigid thought patterns. Because he is so isolated from anyone outside the church and his own family, who probably live in terror of him, there is no one who can effectively question his mindset or give him feedback on how wacko he is. Sort of like Michael Jackson.

    Some of his children have left the church and have written and spoken extensively about the torturous abuse, both physical and mental, that he subjected them to. The world will be a better, freer place once this man is no longer spreading his insane messages of hate.

  • avatar

    Jan 19, 2007 at 11:34 PM

    ^^Yeah, “functioning psychotic” comes to mind.  That was a very eloquent comment, Dr. J, thanks for that.

  • avatar

    Jan 20, 2007 at 2:34 AM
    Burnt Hill

    You go WR, Glad your posts at RI brought me here. Yes you are bringing the fight to the right place.

  • avatar

    Jan 20, 2007 at 9:48 PM

    okay, so we’re all going to hell anyway, why don’t we murder these people?...or at least pass around a basket until it gets big enough to have it done professionally.

    Very interesting Article. I seriously did not care to learn anything about this douche whatsoever, but, for some reason I read this whole damned thing. Good writer perhaps...thank you. human Psychology...always quite interesting.

    1. Old Testament, old schmestament.
    2. God probably would hate america, along with a whole lotta other places
    3. yeah, hang the flag upside down.
    4. “Like most of us, Phelps first got arrested for assaulting a police officer” - HA! That’s so 37

    love it.
    don’t stop.

  • avatar

    Jan 22, 2007 at 5:11 AM

    Maybe there is a Redeemer - see the website of the Landover Baptist Church at - where the worthwhile worship and the unsaved are unwelcome. Buy their very own T-Shirt -"Born Right the First Time” or their “What Would jesus Do?” thong.
    When all else fails, humour is the best resort . . .

  • avatar

    Jan 22, 2007 at 7:47 AM

    The man actually made a stop here in Northern Michigan after the newly-elected mayor (the first female mayor here, a Scot, and a fellow college radio DJ who had a show before me) revealed her campaign logo on a bumper sticker, which was a bunch of different-colored puzzle pieces in front of a rainbow with big words saying “We Are Traverse City”. Nice and unifying, you’d think, but a bunch of homophobes in our isolated little town pointed out the fact that it must’ve been modelled after the rainbow flag. Old Phelpsie caught wind of it and protested outside of the gay nightclub we have here where she held her victory party. It was more like performance art than actual protesting. The man’s a joke. Here’s the site behind the whole brouhaha, if you’re curious.

  • avatar

    Jan 26, 2007 at 4:17 AM

    “John Calvin will go down in history as perhaps the single most constipated human being Planet Earth has ever seen.”

    lmao for 5 minutes

    like robin williams in live at the met “and then there’s casper weinberger, the worlds whitest human being”

    i’m pretty sure god loves this blog too

    ps - true story: i started on a mashup of ‘what if god was one of us’ and ‘god is watching us (from a distance)’ - it was either going to be called ‘what if god is watching one of us (from a distance)’ or possibly ‘what if god was watching god (from a distance)’ but after 10 minutes working with the samples i got too nauseated and had to stop…

  • avatar

    Jan 26, 2007 at 10:09 PM
    juno jones

    Actually I remember reading somewhere that Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism was the number one constipatee in the protestant camp, quite obsessed with his difficult personal evacuations and making rather rude scatalogical references to his ‘enemies’ (often other protestants...)...but given the rather negative impact predestination and it’s related dogma have had on western civilization for the last 500 years, I’m sure Calvin would make a fine ‘number two’.....

  • avatar

    Feb 04, 2007 at 1:06 AM

    People like this know nothing of the information their own religion is presenting them…

    I really like how people quote stuff from the Bible to their own convenience as an excuse to support their intense bigotry and ignorance.

    Know thyself.

  • avatar

    Feb 14, 2007 at 3:26 AM

    Hey, Thirtyseven, great article. I am pretty sure you just made me a subscriber to your writting.

    You raise a great point about the lesser knowns of the bible. When confronted, most christians will deny it, by saying that Jesus overwrote that. Whatever that means. But another point that is interesting is that those teachings are still in the tora with no excuse.

    As for the problems with the new testimate, i suggest you look at 1st timothy. They talk all about how women should never speak in church and may never wear gold and this and that. Its a slew of awesome sexism. Might be a good addition to your article.

    Now, my oppinions about Phelps. I actually aprove of his existence. I mean, yes, I feel very bad for the grieving mothers who have to endure his taunts. But, his efforts should be the very definition of free speech. I know that many non-squeeky wheels are getting pushed around. But, if anything equal to or less than phelp’s activities we are in for tyranny (which we arlready are). I mean, if anyone is allowed to attack Phelps or even to supress him the 911 movement is next. Any protesters at ground zero would be banned or attacked or jailed by the anti-phelps hate speech bill of 2015 or whevever it would get hypothetically passed.

    But, I am not saying that anyone here has argued for his supression (although possibly for his attack).

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