Fred Phelps: The Last Real Christian
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.
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!