Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fred Phelps & the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas: Turning hatred into a religion

By Diane Silver

Once again this blog has been graced by the presence of a member of Fred Phelps' clan. This time it's Shirley Phelps-Roper, the heir apparent to the leadership of Phelps' funeral-picketing empire.

Every time a Phelps visits, I find myself thinking about the true meaning of being saved.

I'm betting that Shirley would think (and probably will comment soon) that I, as a lesbian, have no chance of being saved unless I repent from homosexuality, which I have no intention of doing. She may well argue that the mere fact that I am gay means that I hate God, and that, of course, I'm going to hell and am dragging the country down with me. (Did I get that right, Shirley?)

I think the real issue, though, is how the Phelps family is creating a hell on Earth for its own children. As far as I'm concerned, that isn't even close to holy.

Today's issue -- and the reason for Shirley's visit -- is a news story I mentioned that quoted a Phelps' child as saying he wanted to kill gays. The quote came in a new documentary about the family called "Fall from Grace."

You can read all of Shirley Phelps-Roper's comment here. She describes the documentary scene like this:
(Filmmaker) Ryan Jones to the six-year-old Noah - How does that make you feel when people say those mean things and do those things to you?

Six-year-old Noah - I feel mad . . . I feel mad enough to kill them, but I can't kill them, God has to cast them down to hell.

Shirley, of course, approves of Noah's comments. "Such clarity of thought for a little guy," she writes.

I think: What a horror for this child. I do not condone anyone yelling at or saying mean things to a child. However, the real issue is that his family has so surrounded him with hatred and fear that at the age of 6, he wants to kill.

Shirley complained that I made it sound like the boy intended to kill gays when his comment was only about his feelings. Although this distinction is important, it is also hollow.

This child is surrounded by hate. He has been brainwashed into thinking that only certain people are worthy of love. His family has created monsters out of millions of Americans and painted them (really us, as I'm one of "them") as being so terrifying they need to be killed.

Shirley's comment also ring hollow because it ignores her father's own belief that the death penalty should be imposed on me and all lesbians and gays. In a 1994 story in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Fred noted that the biggest problem with his idea was its' impracticality.

The Bible supports the death penalty for sodomy, he contends. "I'm not urging anybody to kill anybody." But the matter of factly explained his belief that homosexual sodomy should be a crime punishable by death based on his interpretation of the Bible.

The death penalty was violently carried out by God on a massive scale when the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone, Phelps said. "I am inclined to the view that the closer man's laws come to God's laws, the better off our race will be."

Phelps is a realistic man. He admits chances of getting the death penalty for sodomy in Kansas is remote.

Shirley, please let me know if the newspaper got your father's quote wrong.

Pain, fear and hatred are not a religion. They're not a path to God. Taking a 6-year-old to picketing sites bathed in anger is not a path to peace. Terrifying a child to the point that he already wants to kill someone at the age of 6 will not save his soul.

As a lesbian I worry about anyone who says they want to kill me and destroy the "evilness" of my plump, middled-aged, mother-of-a-college-kid self. My concern as a parent, though, is far greater. What has been done to this child is a tragedy.


Joe Rawlins (AZ) said...

Good for you!

I am a 26-year-old, straight, married father and my family and I publicly condemn the Phelps family for comitting this heinous sin against the human family.

I wrote a myspace blog on the subject of Fred Phelps as a part of my "American Hitler" series targeting others like Warren Jeffs and Arizona's Russell Pearce.

Fascist hatred has no place in civilized culture and it has to be stopped.

I am sorry to hear that Fred Phelps is ill and will probably die without ever having a chance to admit that his hate comes from his self-loathing and to ask for forgiveness for the pain he has inflicted on others.

But I am in even more pain to hear that Phelps-Roper is taking his sceptre - she is a really sick individual. I hope you keep this blog up. There has to be avoice against them.

Anonymous said...

I always get a good laugh out of people like this. The religious debate over gay rights, gay marriage, and so on is growing quite ridiculous. Families like the Phelps have twisted religion to fit their own opinions, and I, as well as almost everyone else in North America, are growing tired of their rants.

I saw a clip of the Phelps online and one part that stood out to me was when a journalist asked Shirley where he could find an opinion of gay people in the bible. Her answer was that proof of Jesus' opinion could be found in the ten commandments, namely 'thou shalt not commit adultery'. She then said as a justification of this, and i'm paraphrasing, that married men have sex with other men all the time... Is it just me or am I missing a part of the argument? While that does outline an example of adultery, how does it specifically explain that 'being gay' is wrong? Using her justification, it is wrong for a married man to have sex with another man, but it is alright for a non-married man to have sex with another man. I don't follow the logic.

Fortunately for me, I live in Canada, where people like this are locked away. The Phelp's family have quite rightly deserved the name 'the most hated family in the US', and I add my name to the list of those who endorse it.