Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Countering the Hatred of Fred Phelps

As the Supreme Court considers whether Fred Phelps and his family have the right to protest the funerals of soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's worth considering the hate-filled beliefs of Phelps himself.  I tend to dismiss him and his folks as buffoonish caricatures who are so over the top that they are hardly worth thinking about, but doing so, I realize, has risks.  Not only are their some who agree with this group's hatred towards LGBT people and many other groups, but there are also people--especially young people--who are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality who take seriously his declaration that all LGBT people are going to hell.

With this in mind, Religious Dispatches has a fascinating reflection from a gay man who grew up in Topeka, KS in the shadow of Fred Phelps and who thought he was evil because he was gay. The piece offers reflections from a MCC minister and a UCC minister who are respectively serving in Topeka and are pro-LGBT. Their churches get picketed regularly by Phelps’ crew.

Even more interesting are the thoughts of Nate Phelps, Fred’s son, who left the fold and spends his life trying to reach out compassionately to LGBT people who are condemned by religious people like his father.  He tells of the physical and emotional abuse suffered at the hands of his father and believes his father's hatred towards the world outside his own family is an extension of his father's abusive personality.  Here’s a taste of Nate Phelps:
“Too many Americans cling to this idea that homosexuality is a sin against God, but because they aren’t cruel and evil about it like Fred Phelps, they’re okay. I say bullshit. Most folks don’t have a freaking clue how hard it is to be gay in America today,” he says, citing disproportionate suicide and addiction rates for gay youth. “The people and groups who stand up and fight for gay rights, they’re the real heroes,” Nate says.

Nate Phelps has a website and a blog that are worth looking at, especially if Fred Phelps' message of hate seems at all reasonable to you.   Nate is now an atheist.  Go figure.
Grace and Peace,

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