Fred Phelps is dead. He was the founder of the now infamous Westboro Baptist Church, which is the smallest famous church you will ever hear about. For the most part, the Church is made up of Phelp’s admittedly large family and that is about it. It isn’t like they are some giant mega-church or even a match for the local church around the corner (there is always a church around the corner). So why are so many religious writers so giddy that Fred Phelps has died?
Phelps and his clan know how to get a lot of press. Best known for picketing funerals with signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” the Westboro Baptist Church has become the poster church of homophobia. However, they are hardly the only church in America who “hates fags.” Most churches in the country are anti-gay (including the Catholic Church). The Westboro Baptist Church really doesn’t hold a monopoly on any of their doctrines. They believe the same things that so many Christians in America do. The difference is that they know how to get attention for it.
Picketing funerals is just not a polite thing to do. Reminding people that according to the Bible, God hates certain people is also not something to talk about in public. The accepted Christian talking point is to say that God loves everyone, but that he just hates the behavior that is biologically central to certain people’s lives. Deviating from this talking point makes Christians look… hateful. But the sad fact is that Phelps and family aren’t any more hateful than most other Christians in America.
Phelps preached that God hates certain people and that those people will be tortured for all eternity in Hell. This is the same thing that most Christians believe. God hates sin. Humans are sinners. Therefore God hates humans… but he wants to love us so he created this elaborate scheme in which he impregnates a virgin, waits 33 years, requires the torture of his son as a blood sacrifice, and demands the worship of his son’s sacrifice so that he doesn’t have to torture people for all eternity. Or he could have just not tortured us from the start being all-powerful and all. Not that it matters since it is all fiction anyway. But my point is that Phelps isn’t any more of a religious extremist than most other Christians in America. He is just less polished about it and it is embarrassing for most other Christians.
This is why so many Christians hate Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Huffington Post’s religion section is filled with religious writers who are distancing themselves from Phelps today. CNN’s Belief Net is no different. In fact, pretty much every religious forum of writers are denouncing Phelps today… not for what he believed, but for being so crass in preaching it.
I want to remind my Christian readers that according to the Bible, Phelps was a liberal. He may have preached that God hates gays, but that is because the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination and says that they should be stoned to death and then tortured for all eternity. But even Fred Phelps had to draw a line somewhere. The Bible was a little too hardcore for the Westboro Baptist Church. Far from being an extremist, Phelps wasn’t out there stoning gays or anyone else.
Phelps reminds other Christians just how hateful they themselves are and just how horrific the Bible actually is. Phelps is guilty of going off the approved talking points, but his actual beliefs really aren’t so different from most other Christians. He just was able to call negative attention to the hate that so many Christians have and that the Bible actually preaches. Christians hate Fred Phelps because he embarrassed them by exposing just how hateful and silly the Bible actually is.
- The Strange Life of Fred Phelps (skepticink.com)
- Theists Will Drown In A Lake Of Semen (skepticink.com)
- God’s Messenger (skepticink.com)
- Don’t Praying For Me (skepticink.com)
- Christians Gonna Hate (skepticink.com)
- When Religious Believers Get Hateful (skepticink.com)
- God’s Not Allowed In Our School (skepticink.com)