Phreaky Phred Comes to Town

 Westboro Baptist Church at the Billy Graham Crusade, 2 , by RSEanes @ FlickrFred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are coming to town today. They’re protesting at the base because of the young pregnant Marine, Corporal Maria Lauterbach, who was found murdered here recently.

What one has to do with the other, who knows? I don’t.

I had intended to go down and take some pictures, mostly out of morbid curiosity but also for future Photoshop enabled ridicule and humor value. Of course, with Phreaky Phred et. al. Photoshop would almost be superfluous. Whatever, that’s neither here nor there really.

Yesterday’s column by Timmi Toler had me thinking twice for a while. She advocated ignoring them completely, thus removing their only real power. It’s true that they are little more than attention seekers with a message of hate, and it’s true that without attention they would probably just fade away, and deservedly so.

But after thinking about it, here’s my problem with that strategy. Phelps is just a less publicly palatable version of Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney or any one of a number of very prominent Christians. Removing Phelps from the public view is akin to locking up crazy old Uncle Joe in the closet so he’ll stop telling the family secrets to dinner guests. It doesn’t really do anything to cure the family disfunction.

My response, which can also be found here on Timmi’s blog where she reposts her columns (highly recommended blog, btw), is below the fold.

Timmi, I appreciated this column a great deal, and have been turning its premise over since it went up.

I find it interesting that there is such a strong response here in Jacksonville to this protest. As far as I can tell, the uproar is directed only at the idea that these people will be directing their protest at the base, and a quick look through the letters to the editor on the Daily News’ site, and the comments at the ENC Forums seems to be reflective of what I’ve heard in the community at large.

So for the most part, it’s not the message of hate and bile with which Christians here disagree, it’s the choice of venue. These folks are the very public face and voice of Christianity. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, the late Jerry Falwell, the preachers in Jacksonville’s pulpits: these people are just more polite when they deliver the exact same message, yet they have the undying loyalty of a very large percentage of Christians in America.

Until Christians like you take that voice away, the message is quite clear: Christians hate “the other’, be they “fags”, atheists, or even Christians who don’t support tearing down the Constitution in favor of the Bible, and anyone who disagrees with them deserves to be tortured for eternity. This is not a message of love, no matter who says it or how they say it.

It’s distubing enough that this attitude is seen as acceptable in public discourse, but it is being condoned by people with credible opportunities to be in a position with enough power to bring about the legislation of it.

Sweeping Phelps under the carpet and ignoring him, or even standing against him just because he chooses to spread his hate at Camp Lejeune will not return that voice to you. It is the message, coming from more refined and successful hate mongers, that needs to be marginalized and denounced. It is their power that threatens not only me, but also you, and dressing their excrement up in a three piece suit and putting it in a church or on a campaign trail makes it no less so.

When no Christians stand and protest against Phelps and he fades into this afternoon’s sunset, it won’t make his ideas go away, it will just make them more comfortable to support in his more genteel brethren.

I would encourage Christians to attend Phelps’ rally and say, “No. You do not speak for me.” Say it today to Phelps. Say it tomorrow in church. Say it loudly over and over until the voice of Christianity is no longer one of hate and division, but one of love and inclusion.

Until then, Phelps has your voice, and Phelps has the mike.

From whence came the art:

That photograph is titled Westboro Baptist Church at the Billy Graham Crusade, 2, by RSEanes.

11 Responses to “Phreaky Phred Comes to Town”

  1. Imago Dei » Blog Archive » Take Back Our Voice Says:

    […] Lou FCD has another solution: Taking back our voice from the ones who try to speak for all of us. I find it interesting that there is such a strong response here in Jacksonville to this protest. As far as I can tell, the uproar is directed only at the idea that these people will be directing their protest at the base, and a quick look through the letters to the editor on the Daily News’ site, and the comments at the ENC Forums seems to be reflective of what I’ve heard in the community at large. […]

  2. Lou FCD Says:

    So, went to go see Phreaky Phred. It’s raining, I’m hurting, but what the hell.

    I have to park about a half mile from the protest, which is being held across the highway from the Beirut Memorial. ‘Bout half way up there, a cop has the road blocked and won’t let anyone through, even on foot.

    He says he’s there to protect them and me, and their First Amendment rights and mine, and asks if I’m a protester. I tell him no, that I just wanted a few pics of the whack jobs.

    He said, “Thanks for your compassion.” and sends me away. If I want to see them, I have to drive over to the Beirut Memorial and see them from the counter protest.

    I drove over, but as I was arriving I could see there were only about five whackos screaming across the highway, and about forty or fifty counter protesters screaming back.

    It didn’t look worth too much trouble, but since Montford Point cemetery is right next to the Memorial, I went and visited my Aunt Helen’s grave instead.

    It’s interesting that all the outcry here in town is over the Phelps crew protesting at the Marine Corps base, and not over the message of hate they bring.

    Phelps and co.: “God hates fags and America because it tolerates fags”

    Public Outcry: “We support our troops! USA! USA! USA!”
    Public Outcry: “P.S. God hates fags”

  3. Pseudonym Says:

    I take your point about Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Pat Robertson etc. However, silencing Phelps has one important effect: Thanks to the Overton window, it ensures that Huckabee, Romney and Robertson are the extremists. If there were no Fred Phelps in the public consciousness, Huckabee would, quite rightly, be seen as a fundamentalist (which he is) instead of a just-that-side-of-moderate Christian (which he isn’t).

  4. Lou FCD Says:

    Hello Pseudonym. Thanks for your thoughts.

    That’s an interesting take on it, and one well worth considering. I certainly agree with your assessment that some very extreme fundamentalists are being tolerated as “slightly right of moderate”, and that needs to change.

    Good people have remained silent while the country has been dragged toward insanity in their name. Sometimes I see hopeful signs that is beginning to reverse itself. Other times, I’m much less optimistic.

    I think this upcoming presidential election might be an indicator of whether the Republic moves back away from the precipice or accelerates over the edge of Theocracy.

  5. Robyn Says:

    I must be living in a pocket of Christians who are unique because I have never once heard anyone who sounds even remotely like Phelps and no one who emotes hate publicly or privately. I don’t understand why Christians are protesting Phelps and his crazy “church” and standing with the bike group that buffers the funerals, but I don’t seriously believe this dickhead and his small group of insane followers has the voice of Christianity at the moment.

    Maybe true Christians don’t want to protest because the forum would inappropriate and would turn into a circus. I do know that true Christians are writing to their local newspapers and speaking out against Phelps.

    It’s one of the ugliest things I have ever seen regardless of the guys misguided motives.

  6. Robyn Says:

    Oops, I left out a significant word. It’s early morning here. I meant to say that I don’t understand why Christians are NOT protesting…

  7. Lou FCD Says:

    Hi Robyn!

    I’m always glad to have your thoughts. Thanks for popping in.

    I sometimes suspect that the majority of Christians are ones like the ones you know, but it’s hard to tell for sure. That’s the problem.

    There is another comment that I made in response to Timmi at her blog that might be equally appropriate here. Forgive me if it’s a little long.

    I truly appreciate Christians with the sensibilities you’ve presented, regardless of my thoughts on the theology. I only wish that the face of Christianity was yours, or Amanda’s (of Imago Dei and Common Ground – check my blogroll).

    But when I go out into the public, or I turn on the TV or the radio, it isn’t your face I see, or your voice I hear.

    I read the Republican Party platform advocating a Christian theocracy designed to take from the poor and give to the richest of the rich.

    I hear Robertson and Bush and Huckabee tell me that if I’m not a True Christian™ I should convert or get out. I cringe while millions of people cast ballots in favor of the decidedly un-American rhetoric. I think of George Orwell when I hear about government scientific reports being edited for content to fit within some delusional alter-universe where reality is subsumed by an anthology of literature and tradition.

    I watch Dembski and Behe and Bonsall and Buckingham play a disingenuous game of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and stick a poor, rural school district in Pennsylvania with a million dollar legal bill for a deliberate and knowing violation of the First Amendment. I take a little comfort that my kids’ science education is not yet being attacked by a poor comic book fantasy in the Onslow County school system as it currently is in Florida and Texas.

    I see Haggard and Falwell dehumanizing gay people, atheists, people of other faiths, right along with Christians that don’t mindlessly follow them. I watch thousands of people putting cash in the collection plates to support them, closing their eyes and waving their arms in the air, swaying in ecstatic adulation. I wonder just who is being worshiped.

    I see Hinn bilking people by the truckload, conning them into falling down at the wave of his arm rather than seek treatment for their illnesses. I wonder how many people later die needlessly for lack of proper medical care.

    And then I see Phelps obsessing over other people having gay sex and bashing America.

    The only difference between Phelps and the rest is that Phelps isn’t collecting money faster than he can shove it in his pockets. Were he to cut his vitriol loose from its attachment to the military and get on TV to apologize with copious tears, I have no doubt he’d be a millionaire in short order without otherwise changing his message.

    I find it tragic that these are the voices I hear, the faces I see representing Christianity so very publicly. I can’t change that, but you can.

  8. Lou FCD Says:

    I guess the short version is this:

    My point is not “Christians suck” it’s that the people who speak for Christians suck, and while it’s true that Phelps himself does not hold Christianity’s public microphone, the people who do are saying the same things as Phelps, just more ‘politely’.

  9. Robyn Says:

    All the freaks you’ve named–Robertson, Hinn, Falwell, and anyone ever on TBN–do seem to have the public voice of Christianity at the moment, and I know people who still hang on every word that comes out of Dobson’s mouth even though his influence is fading, as is his money (you forgot that one), but in day-to-day living, at least where I live, those people are fringe. I won’t compare them to terrorists, but they have as much to do with the roots of Christianity as the Taliban has to do with the roots of Islam.

    I would like to see the people who follow the words of Jesus stand up and reject those who have hijacked our faith. I’m pointing the finger at myself as much as anyone–when you become immersed in what is equal to a subculture, it can take a lot of courage to speak out against the flow. You know that when you do that, you are labeled a false prophet or a deceived believer or a secular soul.

    I just have to believe that this current state of political churchiness with pass. But what damage it will do to the message of Jesus, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  10. WhoreChurch Says:

    Good post Lou (as usual),

    I’m late to the party, but I wanted to add my 1/50th $…

    Phelps may be considered a wacko, but only because he takes the Bible literally. As a Christian I have to be willing to own up to the teachings of the Bible and not simply label Phelps and his ilk as something foreign to True Christianity (TM).

    One of the biggest reasons I reject literalism is simply this: Even in the Gospels the picture we have of Jesus–his teachings and his actions–are wholly inconsistent with many teachings of the Old Testament. I prefer to think the picture of Jesus is more in line with how I hope to live rather than the stoning, genocidal, smoting God pictured by Moses and his homies.

  11. Lou FCD Says:

    I can’t believe I forgot Dobson, Robyn. Good catch.

    I’m there for ya’ Kevin. The dude in the OT was a frickin’ psychopath five year old with a loaded missile launcher. Goin’ ’round committing genocide at the drop of a hat, tellin’ his peeps to wipe out whole civilizations that were living on land they wanted, etc. etc.

    Even Zeus wasn’t that heinous an individual.

    The J Man is reputed to have said some good stuff. Lots of the “followers”, starting with Paul and straight ’til now, not so much. Plenty of good folks, just seems like all the ones at the top are kinda crappy, and they get all the loud followers.

    Seems like there’s a high incidence of misogyny, weird anal sex fixations, obsessive control issues among the top echelons and in those freaky deeky followers.

    That’s really what I’m bitching about, in the end. How come Robyn can’t be the Pope? Why don’t you have the multi-million household reaching TV show? Why isn’t Amanda on Larry King? scratch that – Why isn’t Amanda on Timmi Toler’s show on CNN? Where are the decent Christians on the Republican ticket?

    Sadly, they’re not there. All we get in the really big time public fora are the psychos and whack jobs. More sadly, they’re strongly supported with money and votes and letters to the editor, which is an indication that they’re not just anomalous.

    I’d like to see your kind of people speaking for and from within Christianity, and being supported with money and votes and letters to the editor. I hope that happens someday, but you’d have a long, uphill battle to make that happen.

    Meanwhile, those of us outside of Christianity will have to continue to scream and kick and scratch and claw for our right to not live under the thumb of Fundamentalist Christianity, and good people who happen to be Christians will get caught in the crossfire.

    I see no good coming from that.

    Thanks for comin’ by, I always welcome and am grateful for your comments. You guys give me a glimmer of hope even when I’m at my most pessimistic (like now).

    (Don’t let it go to your head, I’m not re-convertin’ or nuthin’. 🙂 )


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