Maybe it's just a brilliant scheme? No, it's probably just hate...

Last month, in a post about a school's response to hate rhetoric from the Westboro Baptist Church, I wrote: "Sometimes I wonder if groups like the Westboro Baptist Church (famous for "God Hates YOU" picket signs, and protesting at the funerals of fallen US soldiers) are actually the concoction of a genius, subversive (slightly crazy) liberal thinktank seeking to unite progressives under a common banner of hope, peace, unity and kindness."  


I don't really think that, but it's clear such extreme hate rhetoric has the power of uniting disparate people behind common decency: most conservatives don't approve of this sort of hate speech any more than liberals.


As a started to read an article on CNN.com today, I almost thought my tongue-in-cheek theory was right: 

'Most-hated,' anti-gay preacher once fought for civil rights




Crazy, huh?  The article explains some little-known facts about hate-monger Fred Phelps.  In particular: he was a prolific, very successful civil rights attorney in the '60s, who fought tirelessly for African Americans.


That got me thinking, maybe this hate rhetoric really is some sort of horrible, genius master plan to [rightfully] demonize and bring to the forefront the dangerous insanity of violent, hate-based Christian fundamentalism.



Reading the full article, I'm pretty sure that's not the case.  His family seems quite convinced of his sincerity.  It is a tragedy...




(CNN) -- He is the leader of "America's most hated family," a gaunt, craggy-faced preacher who displays "God Hates Fags" signs at the funerals of American troops, gay men and AIDS victims.
For at least 12 years, the Rev. Fred Phelps has led his Topeka, Kansas, church on a cross-country crusade against gays and lesbians. That crusade ignited a legal battle that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
But there is another Phelps that few know. He was a "brilliant" civil rights attorney in the 1960s who would take on racial discrimination cases that no other lawyers would touch, say longtime African-American civic leaders in Topeka.
He fought for the rights of blacks, they say, with the same passion he now reserves for the condemnation of gays.
"I don't know him anymore," says Joe Douglas Jr., an African-American activist in Topeka who became the city's first minority fire department chief.
"I see him out there, and I hear the venom that comes out of his mouth. If you had asked me in the '60s if he would do this, I would have said never."
The Rev. Ben Scott, president of the NAACP's Topeka branch, says he never heard Phelps talk about homosexuals during his work as a civil rights attorney.
"I didn't even know he was a preacher," Scott says.
Click here to read more.

6 comments:

Rachael said...

Some of his children are estranged from him, and all report that he is an incredibly angry man, and extremely abusive as a husband and father.

Frankly, the stories of him spending weeks being unable to get out of bed in his younger days, combined with his periods of extreme energy, activity, and feelings of "mission", lead me to wonder if he doesn't suffer from bipolar affective disorder, specifically bipolar I.

Of course, nobody could diagnose him on such limited information, but I do wonder if mental illness isn't at the root of this.

WKen said...

I wish that it were so, but I'm pretty sure that by the time he's suing veterans' families to financial ruin for trying to silence him, that the ruse has gone too far.

He has, apparently, disowned half of his kids because they question him. This is a bit too elaborate for a trick.

Peter said...

I agree. It's so surreal - a caricature of hate. Rachael, you might be onto something - I think I man like this MUST be ill. That much anger - even if it were rightly directed (which it isn't) - cannot be healthy.

Rachael, BTW, I dig your Blogger "about me." Since we're both in the Pac NW, we should hang out sometime.

Rachael said...

I would enjoy that a lot, Peter. :-) I have family down around the George Fox area, and am often down for conferences through Emerging Women, AAR, and Episcopal Church stuff. I'll let you know the next time I'll be in the general area.

Lutestring said...

wow! Such confusing and fascinating information, Peter.

My two cents is that maybe you are right on, that this did start out as a ruse to provoke reaction - but that as he got more into it - he actually lost control, believed it, and became it.

Which leads me to a thought that has been in the back of my head for some time. The horror writer (and flagrant racist) H.P. Lovecraft said of himself, "The hatred of evil is what drives my work, rather than love of the good." Sounds OK maybe. But then when you look at his writing - it's horrible, menacing, despairing - painting the universe as filled with monsters and visions of horror.

I can only conclude that as far as you start to live by fear or hatred (even of a supposedly bad thing) and not love, you will destroy yourself.

Only love will do.

Josh Mueller said...

If you haven't seen it already, Don Miller posted a great response from his video contest in the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE-OuQX50zA

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