Wednesday , February 21 2024
Hating is not God's way.

Fred Phelps and Hate: Does God Hate Gays?

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
– Booker T.Washington (1856-1915)

I generally try to live a life free of stereotyping and hate for the reasons King articulates. Both can indeed cloud judgments and lead one to inaccurate conclusions. This is true whether it is stereotyping about the media, about evangelicals, or about soldiers. Every person is different and should be treated accordingly.

This is a difficult feat to accomplish and I admit to sometimes failing. Perhaps it is fitting that the one group I find it most difficult not to stereotype, generalize and, in the case of Topeka minister Fred Phelps Sr., hate, are Christians who hate gays.

I oppose discrimination in any form and that includes bigotry of gays and lesbians. Many organized religions shun those who are gay but Phelps takes everything a step further. Phelps is the kind of extremist that even Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell consider a nut job, with Falwell even calling Phelps “insane” during one television broadcast. Phelps has contempt for Falwell and Robertson, saying they are not preaching God’s message about Gays.

To me God is about love. To Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, God is about hate. Phelps is the freak, evil idiot – see how he brings out the worst in me? – who travels the country to try to ruin the lives of people who are gay or, in his opinion, not sufficiently anti-gay.

The Topeka Capital-Journal did a good job of chronicling Phelps ministry of hate up until about 1995. Phelps, or a Phelps supporter, could often be seen at public events with signs bearing the upsetting slogan, “God hates fags.” With the growth of the Internet, he took out his own Internet site. Just as anarchists and violent protestors besmirch the legitimacy and credibility of those protesting for civil and gay rights, so does Phelps do the same thing for the religious rights.

There are good, ethical, moral reasons held by some people who oppose gay rights. Jon Stewart, during a recent interview with author/politician William Bennett, recently summarized some of those arguments and then shot them down with a double barrel of ethics and fairness. You can watch it at the Crooks and Liars Web site

And then there are people like Phelps who preach hatred. One example should suffice: Phelps showed up at the funeral of gay murder victim Matthew Shepherd and announced that Shepherd, and everyone attending his service, were going to hell.

By Phelps own account, his group has picketed 25,000 events since 1991, including the funeral of Coretta Scott King, (Mr.) Fred Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Barry Goldwater, and the miners who died in the Jan. 2 Sago Mine disaster. They picketed Falwell twice, as well. Why protest King? Phelps says, "I'm mad at them for turning that movement over to the fags."  

I hesitate to even mention Phelps at Blogcritics because giving any press or exposure to this jerk is exactly what he wants. On the other hand I think it important for people to speak out against him. 

Regardless of your position on gays and gay rights, Phelps’ tactic in recent years has people of all faiths and belief systems up in arms.  Phelps and members of his group have gained notoriety and, yes, more hate, because of their practice of attending and interrupting the funeral services of soldiers killed in Iraq. 

No matter your stance on the war, and the decisions leading up to it, it is hard not to be shocked and disturbed that, at these services, Phelps makes the outrageous suggestion that God is killing these soldiers because America is accepting of Gays.

Phelps has made the same claim about those who died in the September 11th attacks and Hurricane Katrina.  State laws, as well as a recent federal law, have been passed, limiting how close people of Phelps ilk can get to a service. 

In recent weeks, the family of one service member whose funeral was disrupted in this ugly way filed a lawsuit against Phelps and his church. Phelps has announced plans to file a countersuit.

Essentially the family says Phelps intentionally disrupted their funeral and made a difficult time even harder.  Phelps is trying to take a free speech stance. This leaves open the possibility that we might have a civil liberties group like the ACLU supporting someone like Phelps. 

Freedom of speech does not extend to hate speech at funeral services. My sincere hope is that a court judgment will do to Phelps what lawsuits by the Southern Poverty Law Center did to racial hate groups: Shut them down by driving them into bankruptcy. 

I have been thinking about Phelps in recent days, wondering who in the world would belong to such a group and where they get their funding. So I did a little digging and according to Wikipedia, 90 percent of the members of that group – numbering about 100 – are related to Phelps by blood or marriage. So I guess it sucks to be part of his family, but at least that suggests there are fewer fools outside of his family believing his hate then might be normally suspected. 

And where do they get their money? Wikipedia has a thorough and very disturbing profile of Phelps, explaining not only his ethical and moral failures, including encouraging his flock to beat their wives, but also his legal problems. It seems the money came from his family members selling candy and, in later years, robbing and defrauding businesses. Those who came home without enough money were beaten. 

If there is any other good news to result from this man’s actions it is this: He inspires much opposition. A number of motorcyclists have formed the Patriot Guard Riders and they serve as a volunteer non-violent buffer to Phelps’ supporters, trying their best to stop Phelps from disrupting the services. And if anyone is truly doing God’s work and spreading love instead of hate, it is not Phelps and his ilk, but those working to stop them. 

Never hate your enemies. It will cloud your thinking.
– Michael Corleon, Godfather III

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is a part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.
– Herman Hesse

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been working in mental health for the last ten years. He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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