I’m still a Christian.
Those who didn’t know me ten years ago would laugh hysterically at that statement. They didn’t know me before I worked as a corrections officer (both youth and adults) and was actually in the ministry. I didn’t have a foul mouth until I had to police the worst of society’s worst, nor did I have the dark outlook on life that I carry now. I also hadn’t had my heart ripped out by a she-devil in a San Diego PD uniform. I make no apologies much of the time for my rough-around-the-edges personality because that’s not really me. My shrink says it’s a defense mechanism that is basically my subconscious self saying, “well, if you can get past my gruff exterior, then I can trust you!”
I don’t believe that going against the teachings of the church causes an automatic falling-out with God, and I no longer trust everything taught in church. I still believe in the basic tenets of Christianity and believe, from experience, that there are plenty of real Christians in our society that few people ever recognize because they spend too much time expecting Christians to be bible-thumping weirdos. The church is not God, and in the New Testament Christ frequently speaks harshly against religious leaders who think themselves to be better than others.
Then…there’s the Phelpsians. Followers of Fred Phelps, that is. He’s the “senior pastor” of a “church” in Topeka, Kansas, that made their splash onto the national scene in 1991 by picketing gays in Gage Park. Fred later got into a violent verbal row with poet Maya Angelou, who canceled an appearance in Topeka without delay. I guess the attention they received from their first big funeral picket – Matthew Shepard’s- was like a drug, because after that, they refused to quit. Since Shepard’s funeral, their pickets have grown in every way. They’ve brought more people, their signs have improved to be sharper and more eye-catching, and they’ve written new lyrics to well-known songs to get even more attention. Their website is called “godhatesfags.”
If you’ve noticed, Phelps is typically little more than a passing joke here at gayconservative.org (if that). I don’t harp on the Phelpsians’ antics. I don’t follow them much anymore, though before I came out I did, because even then I recognized how wrong, how downright evil they were. I’ve always been a very spiritual person and when I first met Shirley Phelps-Roper in the flesh, I felt a darkness about her that I had not even felt about the worst prison inmates. Something insidious made the hair stand up all over my body. The mere sound of her voice when she first spoke to me (when I offered my hand she said, “I’m not touching you, I don’t know where that hand’s been. You’ve cast your lot with the Sodomites…”) triggered something in some untouched corner of my soul that screamed to get away from these people as quickly as was humanly possible. I’ve seen some pretty eerie stuff, and I’ve felt spiritual fear about people before, but this was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
On that day in downtown Phoenix while I was still barely into my 20’s, I had an encounter that I never expected. Prior to that day I had no idea who these people were, only that they were picketing our state capitol building because we had an openly gay Republican senator (Steve May, my hero to this very day). I began reading every little scrap of information I could about them. What I found was absolutely chilling.
Today, three of Fred’s 13 children have left. All three tell the same story: that Fred had extreme obsessive and psychotically maniacal tendencies, was a drug abuser, and severely abused his children emotionally, physically and spiritually. The man would latch onto an idea and hound it to death, dragging his family the whole way. He beat his wife, even forcibly sheared her hair off once. I know that at least one of his grandchildren has left but have not yet found if more followed. If you care to gouge out your eyes after doing so–I certainly wanted to, I was pretty sure a lobotomy was in order as well–you can click here to read Shirley’s most recent writings.
What strikes me the most about this group, though, is that they’re not out to convert anybody. They seriously aren’t. Sure, they get the occasional email praising their work, but I would be pretty sure at least some are joke emails and the senders hoot and howl when the emails are posted on the Phelpsians’ blog. Some time ago (I think the letter has been removed by now), one person wrote and asked to be allowed to join WBC’s ranks; the letter seemed sincere. Equally as sincere was Shirley’s rebuke, telling this person that WBC had been appointed by God to do great things, nobody could join them, and the writer should have been ashamed for not knowing this before asking. This is in line with their extreme Calvinist views: they’re not out to save people or convert them. They’re out to warn everyone that we’re all going to hell.
It is because of this that I believe these scripture-abusing freaks should largely be ignored. They may call it love even though we know it’s hate. They may never quit. But if you notice, not one writer has said anything to them that is really unique. They really have heard it all, and they’ve got an excuse for everything. They believe themselves to be persecuted when they’re followed and they deliberately do the things they do to attract that persecution. They want you to hate them because it validates their behavior. 95% of the country knows they’re wrong.
Consider this scripture, from Romans 14:10-13: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘as I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.” Or this scripture, from I John 4:10: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” That kinda takes the wind out of their “born into salvation” sail, don’t you think?
Ezekiel chapter 16 lays out why God destroyed Sodom. At no point is homosexuality listed or even hinted at (I’m sorry, but “indulgences” is just a little too broad to make that leap). Jesus Himself said, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Notice, He doesn’t confine that statement–that kills the “thank God for dead soldiers” ideas.) “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Exactly what about their methods can be considered ‘gentle’?) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (What about those who hunger and thirst for publicity?) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Most importantly, I think, is “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (You cannot claim to be a peacemaker when your actions are designed to divide and have absolutely no justice in them.)
In the same passage is where Jesus goes on to bless those who are persecuted. THAT is why we need to just leave these people alone. That scripture is what they hold onto. What about their claim that they do what they do out of love? The bible has an answer for that, too.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
I don’t hate these people. They’re little more than an irritation to me. They don’t get a reaction out of me because I see what they are. I don’t bother writing because they’ll likely have heard it and will show no respect (they never do). In some cases, speaking in protest is needed. In others, such as this case, it is best to ignore them. That will take their power away. I promise if we stop being so upset by them we’ll wake up to some new tactic to get our attention because that’s all they really want.
Don’t give it to them.