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Pastor’s plans to remember Matthew Shepard

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I’m amazed that this story hasn’t gained any real national attention, and I only found out about it through my wife, who’s a real news hound.

The “Reverend” Fred Phelps, the “pastor” who took great joy in the murder of Matthew Shepard five years ago in Casper, Wyoming (he shouted “God Hates Fags!” during Shepard’s funeral), now plans to erect a monument in Casper to commemorate the murder.

The monument is described in an L.A. Times-authored story thusly:

“The 73-year-old Topeka, Kan., pastor has designed a granite monument engraved with Shepard’s face followed by these words chiseled in the stone: Matthew Shepard Entered Hell October 12, 1998, at Age 21 In Defiance of God’s Warning: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.” Leviticus 18:22.”

This fine “Christian” man plans to erect the monument in a public park in Casper. And – here’s the really good part – he’s legally entitled to do so.

How could it be that the city would have to accept this monument in a public park? Simple. Back in 1965 the city allowed a Ten Commandments monument to be set up in the park, and a 2002 federal court ruling says communities displaying such religious monuments must allow other messages or symbols to be displayed as well.

And so Phelps’ monument has a right to be there.

To their credit, Casper city officials are fighting this. Mayor Barbara Peryam was quoted in the Times piece as saying “I refuse to let Casper be defined by hate.”

But the city faces a choice – remove the Ten Commandments or allow Phelps’ monument.

I have two questions I’d like to hear a “Christian” perspective on here:

1) Does anybody want to step up and support Phelps on this? Is he some “radical Christian extremist” or is he correct in his assertion that Shepard is burning in Hell and justified in erecting a monument to remind people of that?

2) Assuming the federal court ruling holds up, should the city take down the Ten Commandments in order to keep Phelps’ monument out of the park? Or is the display of the Ten Commandments so important – remember the vigil in Alabama – that the city should allow Phelps to put up his monument?

Times story

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  • We’ve been discussing this on a Christian theology group blog in which I also participate, and we have decided that it is clear that Fred Phelps is not a Christian, based on all available evidence. His behavior is disgusting and shameful.

    We’ve also added him to a running list of “People Who Are Always Wrong,” along with Pat Robertson.

    To actually answer your two questions:
    1) No, I won’t support Phelps. I don’t think he is even a Christian. Whether or not Shepard is with God today has nothing to do with what Phelps is fixated on, and everything to do with Shepard’s response to Christ.

    2) I thought that the brouhaha in Alabama was overwrought. Based on the law as described, I’d rather have the ten commandments taken down than put up that disgusting statue. Alternatively, I’m all in favor of looking the other as the display is vandalized. With dynamite.

  • frost@work

    Mr. Phelps is a mar on the face of Christianity.

  • I think that he mars the face of humanity, never mind the religious group to which he pretends to belong!

  • Eric Olsen

    Preaching hatred is always wrong. What kind of twisted soul would take such perverse pleasure from the suffering of another? Whatever technical claims this individual has to being a “Christian,” the blackness of his soul speaks much more loudly.

  • Forget “technical claims,” the Bible is quite clear. 1 John 4:8, for example, says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” That’s just one example of money that demonstrate that falseness of Phelps’ claim to be a follower of Christ.

  • Actually, Phillip, I think the bible is quite famously clear (John 3:16) that belief is the criteria for eternal life. Not “whosoever believes and refrains from acting in a manner that is unchristian,” just “whosoever believes.”

    We can doubt the sincerity of his belief and we can certainly believe that his actions are unacceptable and based on a seriously flawed interpretation of scripture, but I’m not convinced it’s reasonable to exclude him because I don’t think it’s reasonable to doubt that he believes in Christ.

    Fred Phelps believes that Matthew Shepard died and went to hell, based on Shepard’s actions. If you say that Phelps is not a Christian and that this is clear because of his actions, then you are implying that Phelps will die and go to hell, based on his actions. I think that if you’re going to claim that Phelps is not a Christian, then you need to make it clear how this statement is not materially the same as the one he’s making about Shepard.

    While I understand the impulse to say “that idiot isn’t one of us” or “that idiot isn’t *really* one of us,” what I’d really like to see is a Christian response that says “yes, he is a Christian, yes we repudiate the things he says. We are having an internal dialog to discuss how we can best deal with these actions so erroneously taken in the name of our religion.”

  • Taloran

    Well said, Michael Croft! I applaud your levelheadedness.

    Not being a Christian, it’s easy for me to say “Sheesh, this kook Phelps certainly isn’t acting the way I understand Christians are supposed to act” or “These bloody zealot nutjobs should just shut the hell up.” But I will refrain from making any claims about his belief or lack thereof, not having insight into the matter except as an outsider looking in.

  • .. and Phelps (and his followers) sure does seem to believe what he preaches, and he backs everything up with Biblical passages.

    So what makes somebody a “Christian”, anyway? If he believes all the stuff the Bible says about Jesus, isn’t that what qualifies you as a member of this faith?

    It seems to me he’s just interpreting Biblical passages (which he quotes often) to mean God Hates Fags and your mission as a Christian should be to preach against homosexuality, adultery, etc. Doesn’t that make him as much of a “Christian” as anybody else who believes in Jesus and interprets Biblical passages to mean you should hold certain beliefs and conduct your life in a certain way?

  • Eric Olsen

    Um, except for the hatred part, which Phillip lists as contrary to the ultimate teaching, the trump card as it were. I think there is a discomfiting element of truth to what Michael says, but there is also a line of orthodoxy outside of which a body of believers is allowed to say “now you don’t belong.”

    Mainstream Christians seem much more inclined to do this (with violent anti-abortion activists, racial identity types, overt “haters” in general) than do their Muslim counterparts, and the world is suffering for this as we speak.

  • So he’s a “Christian”, just not a “Christian” most other “Christians” would endorse?

  • Taloran

    Yep, but there are an equal number of Muslim whack jobs out there as there are Christian whack jobs, which is what got us into this global pickle.

    “If you smile at me, you know I will understand, ’cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.”

    Firing a gun at me, or strapping me to a cross and lighting it on fire, is pretty universally understandable as well.

  • Phelps is a sick, twisted individual who’s spirit died and went to hell years ago, even though his physical body is still walking around. His ‘church’ is made up entirely of family members, who he rules with brutal violence.

    Phelps really is, in intent if not in deeds, in the same league as Hitler, Stalin and Osama.

  • Another question – given the attention the Shepard case generated 5 years, ago, why no national media attention on Phelps’ monument plan so far?

  • Taloran

    We Coloradoans have the honor of living in a place known as “The Hate State.” James Dobson and Focus on the Family, along with other intolerant self-proclaimed Christian groups, practically own the city of Colorado Springs, and preach their message of God-inspired hatred throughout our state. They may well be successfully keeping this development out of the press (this is conjecture, not fact).

    Nothing above is meant to insult Christians in general, or to imply that God is actually sending divine inspiration to these hate-mongers.

  • It’s not unheard of, Cap’n.

    Lyndon LaRouche is a “Democrat”, just not a “Democrat” most other “Democrats” would endorse.

    There are a wide variety of Christian theologies, some of which would agree that by acting on hateful impulses, Phelps was showing himself to be non-Christion. Others might consider him a sinner but still a member of the faith and some would agree with his belief but not his methods. Some few support him.

    I think there are good and bad ramifications of the kind of exclusion you’re mentioning. While it’s good if a community can say “we repudiate this action”, it’s not so good if a blind eye is turned to underlying problems or institutional rot.

    At some point, responsibility should be taken. Consider the example of the pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church. It is important to disavow the actions of the individuals who engaged in this behavior. It is also important to realize the extent of the problem and to investigate and fix root causes.

  • OK, so Taloran says James Dobson and Focus on Family are hate-filled, intolerant and, if I’m reading his comments correctly, should be disavowed by more reasonable Christians as well.

    I don’t know much about what Dobson believes (his website seems to be more about selling his books and tapes than spelling out doctrine), but is he also not a real “Christian?”

    How about Pat Robertson? Jerry Falwell? I’m not sure where the line is drawn on what beliefs put forth by “Christian” leaders the mainstream “Christians” embrace and who they don’t

  • frost@work

    Ok, I understand everyone’s comments and to an extent I agree with you all. I’ve been a Christian since 1994, and graduated from Bible College a couple of years ago.

    From my viewpoint Phelps does not protray what the Bible specifies as proof (or ‘fruit of the spirit’) that is the marker of a true Christian. He ignores specific Biblical mandates that demand that Christians have compassion, mercy, love and grace – not just in word, but in deed.

    I would put him in the same catagory as Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, and the radical word-faith movement preachers. Constantly in a state of unrepentantance — bullheaded dogma mongers.

    Aside from the fact that this guy is a total ass, what hurts me the most is that people get the general idea that all Christians act like this. That it is the standard rather than the exception.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    In Monday’s NYTimes, there was an encouraging article about how Europeans are abandoning religion and belief. For me, the crux, and my favorite sentence, was this:

    “There are many suggested reasons for Europe’s drift, which happened gradually, over decades, as the continent grew wealthier and BETTER EDUCATED.” (caps mine)

    This link between education and belief in superstitions is just presupposed, indicating the obvious, elephant-in-the-room fact that smart people are less likely to believe in a god.

    Survey top physicists, surgeons, or any other discipline where intelligence is a prerequisite, and you’ll find few who go to church or believe in a god. Certainly nothing close to the two-thirds of Americans who call themselves religious.

    The sooner we rid humanity of stupid, contradictory superstitions that inevitably lead to killing, war and hatred, the better. Without the veil of religion, perhaps we could see this fuck Phelps for what he is: a fount of hatred. Ditto the pedophile priests, the muslim extremist baby-killers, the abortion-doc murderers, the right wing sexists and homophobes, and all the other humanity-hating folks around the world who use their gods to justify all kinds of horrible crap.

    May Hera and Neptune smite them all.

  • frost@work

    Clubhouse Cancer: I wasn’t going to respond, but your last paragraph was intended as a dig.

    Don’t blame ‘religion’ for Phelps, blame him.

    I also hate to be the first one to break this to you, but priests aren’t the only pedophiles in the world, muslims aren’t the only people who kill babies, not all Pro-LIFE (emphasis mine) people kill doctors (not even a fraction of a percent), and you can’t lump all Christians are in the right wing, nor all all Christians sexist or homophobes.

    You said “all the other humanity-hating folks around the world who use their gods to justify all kinds of horrible crap.”

    You sir, have become what you hate. You want to eraticate the world of Christianty, but blame the minority for the problems of a VERY small minority. Yes, you made me mad with your comments, but I believe it is a rightous anger. Anger about ignorance and intolerance.

  • Taloran

    I said nothing about Christians disavowing Dobson. I do, however, hear his message of intolerance on the radio, and I witnessed the “no-rights-for-gays” amendment to the State Constitution his group proposed several years ago. A watered down version of that amendment passed, but was overturned before it could be enforced. Because I am familiar with the message he presents to the public, I can state without fear of having to retract my words later that he preaches a message of intolerance for difference.

    What I did say in comment 14 was that I theorize that it might be due to the predominance of preachers of hate in Colorado that the national news media is not picking up on this spew coming out of Phelps.

    I also intimated, and will say straight out now, that I personally do not believe in the message of Dobson and his followers.

    But I did not claim to know what any Christian should or should not do, and did not suggest any correct path for a Christian to follow.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Anger is no substitute for logic. Get angry at the millions of people killed in the name of religion over human history, not me. I didn’t, of course, say that ALL christians are bad, or all muslims or whatever you’re accusing me of. I pointed out which ones I find fault with specifically.

    But thanks for getting personal.

    I’m not sure how my statements make me the thing that I hate, especially since I didn’t mention hating anybody, and in fact I don’t.

    I am neither ignorant nor intolerant. I wish others would be more tolerant toward those of us who believe in the ancient Greek and Roman gods. But of course THOSE beliefs are silly, right?
    I’m also not a sir.

  • Taloran

    In response to 19 and 18 –
    frost@work writes – “priests aren’t the only pedophiles in the world, muslims aren’t the only people who kill babies, not all Pro-life people kill doctors and you can’t lump all Christians into the right wing, nor are all Christians sexist or homophobes.”

    Absolutely true. However, the group of pedophiles in most obvious view of the American public are Catholic priests. The most evident group of babykillers are muslim extremists. The Americans most obviously espousing a message of intolerance toward homosexuals are Christian preachers. It is therefore logical, if not precisely correct, for ClubhouseCancer to perceive that the abolition of religion would solve a great many of the world’s problems.

    I disagree with ClubhouseCancer as well – I think he chose his words hastily when he said “the sooner we rid humanity of stupid, contradictory superstitions,” and it might have been better phrased as “the sooner humanity forgets its stupid, contradictory superstitions.” But I may be wrong, and he may have stated exactly what he meant.

    My guess, however, is that he was caught up in a passionate fervor as he composed at the keyboard.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Tal, thanks for the edit. Yours is better.

  • Taloran

    I apologize to ClubhouseCancer for the use of masculine pronouns in the previous comment. I stand corrected.

  • frost@work

    clubhouse: sorry about the sir thing, I meant no disrespect.

    It just seemed like you were generalizing quite a bit in you comments about ridding the world of Christianity for it being a group of intollerant simpletons (that’s what I got from it anyway).

    I don’t think that you believing in the Greek or Roman Gods is stupid.

    I’m sorry if you felt I was getting too personal with you – I felt like Christianity in general was being not only attacked and dismissed, but belittled because of the actions of a few radical assholes.

  • Taloran

    I have found over the years that I tend to become very heated and insistent when discussing religion in general, and even more so when discussing the intolerance of certain Christian sects, muslim extremism, and Catholic dogmatic hypocrisy. I often find myself saying things off the cuff that are just plain wrong and that I don’t really mean, but that seem right at the time.
    It has always seemed odd to me that logical, bright, well-educated people would base their actions on something written when mankind’s knowledge and perception were in their infancy, or because their imaginary friend told them so.
    The indelible fact that very old books and the imaginary friends of certain historical figures have caused untold suffering, death and hardship for people who did not believe the words of those books or the advice of the imaginary friends is a sad testament to human frailty and illogic.

  • I’m responding to Michael Croft (#3), and haven’t even read the rest of the comments yet. It’s a busy day.

    Michael, I believe very strongly that this is an oversimplification of the Gospel, and a dangerous one. While I dislike quoting just a verse here and a verse there, I’ll do it for the sake of this discussion, since this isn’t really a theological forum.

    So to specifically counter the claim that John 3:16 is universally inclusive, I offer James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!” Clearly more than just “belief” as we normally think of it is required.

    In fact, James 1:19-27 is a great passage: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
    But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
    If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

    Based on that and many other passages, I feel safe in condemning Phelps’ claim to Christianity as “worthless.” While it is popular to think that God ia like a magic vending machine in the sky and if you just say these words like this and “ask Jesus into your heart,” you’ve got a free pass to glory, that just ain’t so.

    I refrain from judgement on Matthew Shephard because I don’t know enough about his life to know whether or not he believed in Christ, but I know enough about Phelps to know that he does not serve Christ as Christ commands.

    I understand your desire for an “establishment” response, but there is no such think as a Christian establishment outside of the Roman church, and Phelps isn’t a Catholic. The rest of us protestants have no authority over him or even ability to sway him.

    And for what it’s worth, many good Christians disagree with me on Phelps and think that he is a believer, just an ignorant one.

    Still, there are 2000 years of orthodox teaching about what it means to be a Christian, and Phelps rejects it all and fails at most of it. In fact, orthodox Christian teaching tells us that we are all equally sinners before God, and that Matthew Shepard or Fred Phelps is no more or less a sinner than I am, except for the grace of God. If God hates fags, He hates Fred and me, too.

    Based on Jesus’ time on earth, I’d say Jesus would be far more likely to go after Phelps than Shepard. Jesus reserved his rude speech and physical fighting for those who claimed the name of God and maybe even honestly believed that they were God’s chosen leaders, but Jesus described them as dead men and snakes.

    Now I’ll go read the rest of the comments. 😉

  • Gee whiz! Lots of stuff!

    Ken (#8), the same answer I gave to Michael. While anybody can come up with just about anything and say it’s based on Scripture, there is a long chain of Biblical orthodoxy that helps identify weirdness.

    Eric (#9), exactly. Anybody can say, “I’m a Moslem,” or “I’m a Christian,” or “I’m an athiest,” but people can be judged based on their actions, and Phelps’ actions are antithetical to Christ.

    Ken (#13), good question. I’m curious to know this myself. I suspect the media got tired of Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps some time ago, or maybe they’re collectively not giving him the thing he so obviously desires: attention.

    Taloran (#14), here’s where I’ll buck the tide. I’m not really a fan of Dobson, and disagree with him on some things, but I haven’t really seen “hate” coming from his group. I know his association with Exodus (and “ex-gay” group) has earned him some ire, but I’m not sure that that Exodus people are actually as hateful as those who attack them. Blogcritics’ own Natalie wrote a big piece on Exodus on her own site a while back, and I don’t remember reading anything other than passionate concern for people they honestly believe can change.

    But then, I don’t live in Colorado, so I might have missed some things.

    Michael (#15), I’ll go out on a limb and say that the underlying problem with Fred Phelps, aside from the hate, is a lack of any good theology. It doesn’t even have to be mine, but he’s apparently built his own.

    Ken (#16), the theological blog I mentioned earlier definitely belives that “Pat Robertson is always wrong,” but mistakes don’t make someone not a Christian. Reluctantly I have to admit that Robertson and Falwell are both Christians as far as I can tell, though I disagree with much that they proclaim.

    Frost (#17), exactly.

    Most of us know little about groups of people other than our own. Non-Christians can have funny views of Christians and vice versa, protestants of Roman Catholics and vice versa, and people who worship in ancient Greek and Roman style of intelligent people and vice versa. This smacks of the “bright” post that was hanging around here recently, and it simply represents well that someone has lost an argument on merit and resorted to ad hominem dismissal against a class.

    This really isn’t the place for theological discussion, so I’ll shut up after this, but I’ll wrap up first.

    The labels we use are useful to us, but in the end, whether I think Fred Phelps is a “real” Christian or not doesn’t matter. Whether Fred Phelps think Matthew Shepard is in hell or not doesn’t matter. Only the Truth matters, and we may not know it. God knows where Matthew is, and He knows where Fred will be, and where I will be. That doesn’t change regardless of whether I believe it or not.

    Based on my understanding of absolute Truth, I’ve given my opinion. Others are free to disagree, and maybe they’re right and I’m wrong and Phelps will go to Heaven and Matthew is in Valhalla and I’ll disappear forever when I die.

    But given the context of Christianity as spelled out over the last 2000 years, I’m pretty sure on Phelps. I hope he lives long enough to truly meet the God he claims to represent before he dies. 🙂

  • Eric Olsen

    Much evil has been committed in word and deed in the name of religion, but that is the fault of the perpetrators, not the religions. Condemning all religion is throwing the baby out with the bath water: it is much easier than separating out the results of true religious expression from those cloaking themselves in the veil of God in order to do Satan’s work – to use Christian terminology. It is easier but it is wrong.

  • Hey, glad to see this topic got kicked into high gear (finally!)

    After the string about my Egyptian twins’ post, I’m shocked to see myself and CCancer in general agreement here.

    Personally, I don’t base my life on the contents of old books, be they the Bible or Greek mythology, but I know a whole lot of people who get peace and direction from following the old books, so who’s to knock that? Anything that works for you, you know?

    I do think it become problematic when zealots develop within these religions – because it exposes the tremendous amount of hatred, conflict and intolerance that can result from individual interpretations of the old books.

    And these zealots go a long way toward convincing a lot of thinking folks that EVERYBODY must be wrong about this God stuff.

  • Eric: Couldn’t you argue that the fact that such violence, hatred and ugliness DOES occur in the name of organized religion is, in itself, a condemnation of organized religion?

    And no so much any particular religion, just the concept of organized religion itself.

  • kara

    Let’s see what the Man Himself has to say about it:

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

    Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” – Matthew 7:1-2;21-23

    Not looking good for Phelps in the next life, is it?

  • Kara: I’m sure “Reverend” Phelps could also find plenty of Bible verses to back up his position (in fact, he quotes plenty of them on godhatesfags.com).

  • kara

    Religion isn’t the only thing that’s been used to justify outrageous acts of violence or hatred. Just about any ideological or political difference can lead to violent conflict.

    Does that mean that people don’t have a right to their differing beliefs?

    I’d say no.

    Does that mean that people who use their ideological beliefs to justify hatred and violence shouldn’t be punished to the fullest extent of the law?

    Again, no.

    (And don’t read any support of “hate crime” laws into that.)

  • kara


    Of course he can. I was simply quoting an opposing scripture to make a point. People who manipulate scripture to their own end – like Phelps – focus exclusively on passages that affirm whatever their agenda is and disregard passages that conflict with it.

    Phelps’ agenda is an agenda of hate and anger – and honestly, there’s a LOT of that in the Old Testament. Fire and brimstone-type stuff.

    I think the spirit of the Bible (and other religious texts, for that matter) is not to be used as a rulebook by which you can point fingers to those who violate the rules, but as a guidebook for how to be a good person, and a good member of society.

    That’s all I’m sayin’.

  • Kara:

    Outside of religion, give me an example of an ideological or political belief that leads to violence or hatred and that shouldn’t be condemned.

  • frost@work

    Cap’n: you are making the assumption that religion = violence. That isn’t true.

    Your assumption is that a belief in a higher power means you want to kill. That is not logical reasoning (ie. Not all mentally disturbed people are violent, nor are all violent people mentally disturbed.)

  • Phillip,

    I understand and agree about there being “no establishment” to dissociate itself from Phelps, this doesn’t prevent me from wanting such a statement. It just prevents me from getting it.

    I also think that Jesus as depicted in the Bible would be more likely to condemn Phelps and have dinner with Shepard, although a back channel in my mind keeps saying “Fred needs more help and might get personal attention.”

    However, I can’t agree that there is an unequivocal 2000 year intellectual tradition that Phelps is at odds with. While I personally consider his opinions definitively in the “bathwater” camp, I don’t think it’s reasonable to consider his beliefs to be sui generis

  • BB

    …hmmm. I smell the definite aroma of a weenie roast. It never ceases to amaze me. There is nothing more powerful to rile the rancor of the masses than the topics of religion or politics. I have read the above posts and have but one question in mind. Why oh why are we so concerned with the spiritual health of Mr. Phelps, Dobson or whomever else happens to be the latest media martyr? Should we not be more concerned with our own state?

    It is so easy to be smug and superior but who are we to pass judgment? There are lots of hypocrites out there no matter what the religion (including atheists) and on the face of it Phelps’ actions appear despicable, but experience has shown not everything is what it seems. We cannot possibly know all of the particulars of his story and yet we are so quick to judge and nail the cross – especially when it concerns a self-professed Christian.

    Are we that naive to believe everything we hear or read in the media? I have a personal philosophy. When I see doggy-doo I walk around it. That is not to say I am passing judgment on the man, but whatever your views are look to yourself first before judging and then move on. If the story is true then the man has much to answer, but Phelps’ issues are between him and his Maker and perhaps some day we will all be in that position. Making comparisons or pointing fingers is not going to cut it on the day of reckoning, and that will be His job – not ours. That is good advice for all of the arm-chair theologians out there including yours truly. Amen.

  • kara


    By your own statement: “Making comparisons or pointing fingers is not going to cut it on the day of reckoning, and that will be His job – not ours”, pointing fingers and judging Matthew Shepard isn’t the job of Phelps, either. So should the city of Casper and the greater community of the United States sit back and tolerate Phelps’ venom because it’s the “Christian” thing to do, when Phelps can’t seem to tolerate Matthew Shepard?

    That seems like a cop-out to me.

  • BB

    I’m sorry that I took so long to respond. Where does it say in the good book that a christian is supposed to form an action committee and throw tomatoes at whomever offends it? It is up to the (local) church to discipline Phelps. Whatever happened to praying for and loving your enemies? My advice is leave politics to the politicians and church business to the church.

  • kara


    Sorry to disagree, but when some venomous religious fanatic decides to erect a monument in the middle of taxpayer-funded public property to disparage the memory of a deceased citizen of that locale, then it most certainly becomes a political issue. I don’t care if his religion is his motivator, he’s using the park AND Matthew’s memory to push his POLITICAL agenda.

    He can spew all the vitriol he wants within the confines of his church building and it won’t bother me one whit.

  • BB

    I understand your anger and it is not my intention to belittle your indignation. Nor am I justifying his actions. But with all due respect Kara you are missing the point. I am merely stating the facts. If your bible is the same as mine you should know that you are supposed to be on your knees praying for him – not publicly condemning him to hell. Christian discipline is supposed to be mediated within confines of the local church and God.

  • Phelps is certainly a Christian- as was Harry Powell in Night of the Hunter. Powell really believed in his idea of Christianity, chatting with his God when there’s no one around. Phelps also seems perfectly sincere- wicked and mean, but sincere in his belief that God made an example of poor Matthew Shepherd.

    Phelps and Powell, of course, have twisted any ideas of Jesus Christ so far out of shape in their own malicious minds that average decent Christians won’t want to claim them. I can’t blame them for that.

  • BB

    I wish to further add that by spewing your indignation in a public forum you are only falling into the media’s trap, which takes great pleasure in finding any opportunity to discredit the faith.

  • The Theory

    I think the only thing I have concluded after I have read this is that PEOPLE ARE VIOLENT. I don’t care what your cultural, religous, or political background is.

    Some people are twisted, regardless of what they believe.

    And I have concluded that’s life. Nothing we do can change that.

  • Andy

    I believe that Phelps has missed out on some solid hermeneutical and theological training. He’s very good at gathering scripture to support his view that homosexuality is a sin, however, he seems to miss the part about loving all people. In his mind, homosexuality is the inpardonable sin. He may strongly believe in Christ and love Him, however he is missing the entire jist of His teachings. I never read in my Bible that homosexuals are hell bound. I am painfully embarassed by the actions of this man taken in the name of the God I believe in.

  • BB

    Regardless of your views, we are supposed to admonish each other privately and in love.

  • kara


    If the media is so intent on discrediting the faith, why haven’t ANY of the major media outlets picked this story up?

    I understand that the Bible states that “we should admonish each other privately and in love”, however:

    1) Phelps has failed to follow that particular tenent when it comes to Matthew Shepard, to the point that he’s pushing his political agenda through the local government. Should Christian citizens sit back and watch him defile taxpayer-funded property simply because he’s cloaked in the shroud of Christianity himself?

    2) That didn’t stop you from admonishing ME publicly, did it?

  • “If the media is so intent on discrediting the faith, why haven’t ANY of the major media outlets picked this story up?”

    I am just guessing here, but have you ever been interested in a one-sided argument? There is nobody who is on this quack’s side, therefore making it a kind of a non-story. His “fellow” Christians aren’t stepping up in any number to support him. (I am with Philip on this one and can’t see how this guy is really a Christian.)

  • BB: I don’t think Phelps needs any help discrediting his particular part of “the faith”.

  • BB

    Karla, I am merely stating the obvious. If you believe in your Bible then this type of forum is inappropriate. You chose this forum to speak out so I had no choice but to respond accordingly. As you know public stoning went out with the Old Testament and is at odds with the teaching of Christ. “He who is without sin…”

    Craig, I agree that nobody in their right mind would agree with this guy. However, anybody who has studied the Bible will tell you there are proper guidelines for dealing with it. And that is all I am saying.

    Cap’n Ken, kudos and point well taken.

  • Actually, BB, there are guidelines for dealing with offenses between believers — that kind of thing should be kept out of the civil courts and the public eye.

    This is not such a case. Phelps is not dealing just with fellow believers (and I, for one, would side with St James, I think, in calling Phelps a pretender and not a fellow believer at all). His very public and offensive statements merit a very public repudiation — just as you believe that Karla’s choice to speak out here required you to respond here.

  • BB

    Thanks Phillip. I fully appreciate what you are saying. However, since this is a ‘religious’ (for lack of a better word) matter I am coming from the biblical perspective – “Judge not lest ye be judged”. As humans we do not have the capacity to fully understand what is in the heart of our fellow men (or women). That having been said I do agree on the face of it he isn’t acting very Christian-like. Yes, he has made his views public and is receiving a public trouncing. My only concern was that seemingly sincere people such as Kara were standing in line with the mob ready to throw stones which isn’t what ‘Christians’ are supposed to do. I would say that the man is most definitely misguided and needs help – but in a loving, compassionate manner that ought to be conducted by ‘Christians’ in accordance with biblical guidelines. That is all I’m am saying (or trying to say).

  • BB, I do appreciate the sentiment, and I generally am not very judgmental myself. However, I would be perfectly willing to be judged exactly as I have judged Phelps — which is what that passage of Scripture indicates. If you find me spewing hatred as Phelps is doing in direct violation of the most basic principles of Scripture and the most important commandments of Christ, by all means, judge me freely.

    We are all sinners in dire need of God’s grace, and in that regard I am no better than Phelps. But those who claim the name of Christ while doing the work of His enemy hate God, and how can I not react to that?

  • BB

    Thanks Phillip and I really appreciate your intelligent and heart-felt comments. I agree those who claim to work in the name of God and Christ must be held to a higher standard. But likewise, I hold to the view that people who profess to be ‘Christians’ are bound to deal with it in accordance with biblical standards.

    We all have the right to choose how we can react and you have chosen yours and I cannot judge you for that. And I most certainly understand your outrage. I suppose when I read comments from people who were discussing it in their theological class I felt the need to set the record straight in that respect. I myself am no Mother Theresa and I fall on my face every day. Where I disagree is that I hope God will not judge me as I have judged others because on that day I will most certainly be in a lot of trouble.

  • Andy

    ehh thank God for attonement! Literally!

  • Katherine

    Grr..by the time I get to the topic, we’re talking about a subject within a subject! Anyway, I was 14 when Shepard died, and for a while I was ashamed to hold my Christian head up high, then I thought: “Its always the radicals that make it to the papers” Why should I feel ashamed because Hitler reborn as a Christian priest, voiced his cruel opinion? After that whole incident I joined gay straight alliance, and I’ll continue to have compassion for the persecuted. BTW: Its a shame that he doesn’t realize that there was a time that Christians were being persecuted for what they believed in as well.

  • Eric Olsen

    excellent points and very well put Katherine, thanks!

  • disgusted

    Reading about this made me sick to my stomach. As if Matthew Shephard and his family did not suffer enough already…

    The one thing that will ALWAYS upset me is taking the Bible out of context. You cannot pull a line out of the Bible and twist it to mean what you want. You have to look at in in the context of the entire passage, in context to the entire Bible. After you do that, do an exegesis on it. Research the historical implications and I guarantee you will have a completely different understanding in the end. Until then, don’t find your favorite line out of the Bible to tell me why you feel a gay person is going to hell.
    Also…the Bible is not Christianity. It is a part of it, but it isn’t Christianity. Religion is INTERNAL and about a personal relationship with God. Christianity is not technical. Even more, you cannot take everything written in the Bible for fact. It has errors, it was not written by God. It was written down after an extremely long game of telephone. And then edited to reflect the culture of the time ((notice how there are rarely stories involving women as speakers and doers. This isn’t because women were not involved, it is because when the Bible was written women were oppressed. This cultural aspect is reflected in the text.))) People need to learn to adapt the words of the Bible with the changing times.

    Hopefully you understand how this related to the topic, and to other questions/comments. I will not say, in the end, that Phelps is not a Christian. It is not my place to judge him, but God’s. Clearly to me, however, is that Phelps is not good or truthful representation of what it means to be a Christian. The issue of where Matthew Shephard is, whether that be heaven or otherwise, has no relevance to anything Phelps is saying.

  • Eric Olsen

    my view on the matter is very similar to yours, Disgusted. The Bible may be divinely inspired but it was written by people – context counts for a lot.

  • As well as whatever conscious and subconscious agendas the various authors may have had at the time they wrote.

    Phillip wrote: “I’m not really a fan of Dobson, and disagree with him on some things, but I haven’t really seen ‘hate’ coming from his group.”

    Having covered the Christian Right for about a decade now, I have seen and heard enough to know that there is hate involved in the mix. Not all Focus employees hate, by any means, but hate is in there.

    Phillip continued: “I know his association with Exodus (and ‘ex-gay’ group) has earned him some ire, but I’m not sure that that Exodus people are actually as hateful as those who attack them.”

    Trust me; there is hate on both sides. And remember that some of the attackers of ex-gay ministries were wounded by those ministries. That doesn’t make their hate right or justified, but it makes it, I believe, understandable to a degree.

    And more from Phillip: “Blogcritics’ own Natalie wrote a big piece on Exodus on her own site a while back, and I don’t remember reading anything other than passionate concern for people they honestly believe can change.”

    That’s right. Of course, in the interest of showing compassion, there is much I did not print. Most of the people involved are indeed sincere (if, IMO, misguided). But there are those who do hate homosexuals and are quite inhumane toward them. And there are those who hate their true selves so much that, as ex-gay ministers or employees of right-wing groups such as Focus on the Family, they heap that hatred on gays under the guise of “counseling.” I have witnessed it.

    As for Fred Phelps, I have talked with him and members of his family/church on a number of occasions. He is a character — his ideas are odious, and he is alternately humorous and creepy. But this I know: Fred believes. And yes, he hates. In fact, he believes God hates and that good Christians must hate. And he spouts plenty of Scripture to make his case. Is he a true Christian? That is between him and God. But if “believing” is the defining factor, than one has to assume he is a Christian (which means “forgiven,” not perfect).

  • BB

    Of course context is extremely important and the Bible is the ‘divinely inspired’ word of God. Be very careful however when making judgments between fact and allegory or what constitutes a perceived “error”. For if the Bible is truly ‘divinely inspired’ you will be treading dangerous territory.

    From what I have heard with respect to Mr. Phelps his actions do not seem to reflect the teachings of Christ, but we similarly are directed to NOT pass judgment for that alone is within the realm of God. Phelps should be admonished by his local church and NOT be the subject of public entertainment for that only serves the media’s anti-Christian agenda and to undermine the credibility of the Church on the whole. Christians are enjoined to be the salt of the earth and act as His representative – not God’s public executioners.

  • Becky

    Being a Christian, I dissagree with what Phelps is doing. He is so fixated on the sins of others that he doesnt see the sin he is commiting himself. What he’s doing is hateful and is giving non-christians a bad perspective of God.

  • Tracie

    How can anyone think that way about some beautiful person like Mathew Shepard and how can he dear make a monument that says such horrible things about Matthew or anyone else I hope when this idiot dies he will face the devil and burn in hell himself,God doesn’t hate anyone he loves all his creations no matter what they are Rest In Peace Matthew don’t worry God not only loves you but billions of ppl like you do too

  • Calicowhispers

    The city deserves to be boycotted and not a cent be spent in that city. Hell they should change their names if they want to allow and tolerate this kind of behavior, they should be the KKKs new homeferont. If he needs to have the statue he should put it on his own property since he wants to be known as the biggest racist, bigot, hateful person on the planet. I am pretty sure God and Jesus doesn’t approve of his judgement and his hateful heart. As far as I am concerned the only person who is going to burn in hell is this bigot. Who goes to a persons funeral and screams that, talk about disprespect- seriously are people born that stupid or does it happen after time? He is satan, he doesn’t preach what Jesus taught, he is the compelete opposite that makes all other Christians look bad.