Tuesday, March 2nd Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church will be in my hometown of Richmond VA protesting at a number of Jewish sites (including the Richmond Holocaust Museum) as well as at an area high school. There are a lot of groups organizing counter-protests and there is endless debate about the best reaction to these people.
For those of you not in the know, the WBC is an independent church based out of Topeka Kansas that manages the website godhatesfags.com and protests consistently throughout the year against anything even remotely related to homosexuality including the funerals of gays murdered by bigots as well as the funerals of soldiers who fought for a country that in their views is too tolerant of gays. To give you an idea of the extent of their hatred of gays, the WBC once protested a store for selling Swedish vacuum cleaners because Sweden had recently prosecuted hate-speech by an anti-gay preacher. If you require anymore information about these guys, check out their Wikipedia page.
The WBC has been around longer than I’ve been alive and I think Fred Phelps is the only person who is consistently hated more than I am so I honestly have to give credit where credit is due and no matter how you feel about the guy, Phelps is no moron. It is an obvious sign of the importance that a group like the WBC has in our culture that its critics have come up with so many different strategies for dealing with it. Some people say that people like Phelps need to be addressed because their ideas are dangerous. Other say that his group’s protests are so obviously attempts to garner media attention that counter-protesters only give them exactly what they want, an audience. Recently there has been an upswing in comedic style counter-protests, such as the one at the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco in late January during which counter protesters came with signs such as “I was promised donuts” and “God hates kittens”.
I’ve been invited to three or four different counter-protests by various organizations with a multitude of gameplans and mission statements. I will hopefully be at every event to show my support for the WBC, because while I may not agree with the WBC on any points, I think that they serve a very important purpose in our cultural milieu and may be working for the greater good even if they don’t mean to.
People love to define themselves by what they are not, but at the same time most people are so boring and hesitant to take ethical stands that may later become inconvenient that it often takes a group like the WBC that is so absurd, so ridiculously incendiary and universally despised to get people to have an adamant opinion on anything. I meet people daily who would be without a single strong conviction if it wasn’t for their hatred of the “God hates fags people”. If the WBC disappeared tomorrow then the streets, university campuses, and bars of America would be populated by wandering, barely conscious automatons with lukewarm feelings for everything they see, their lack of any inclinations causing them to nearly starve to death as they gaze with glassy eyes, shrug their shoulders, and answer with an unemphatic “ehh” to every question that they are asked.
The public’s hatred of the WBC is useful and worth preserving not just because it provides millions of otherwise boring people with an idea to call their own, but because it may help to serve the purpose of delegitimizing Christianity in the eyes of the American people.
I was a Christian on and off (various parts of my teenage years and my early 20s weakened my faith periodically) for eight years before the neurons in the logic centers in my frontal lobe started to fire and I realized that believing in a benevolent creator and an afterlife was for children and I was made a hasty and embarrassed exit from the realm of spirituality, taking my multiple religious tattoos, theological writings, and certificate of Baptism with me. I think that the primary reason that I didn’t come to the conclusion that religion is bullshit earlier than I did is that I was a part of a very aberrant, progressive, intellectually stimulating church environment. The faith tradition that I came of age in admired people like Clarence Jordan who worked for racial integration, Albert Schweitzer who worked as a doctor in Africa for thirty years, and Walter Rauschenbusch who worked for the poor in New York as a social justice minister. Because of the Christian environment I was exposed to between the ages of 14 and 22, I viewed Christianity as a very progressive philosophy that made up for failures in its logic by addressing the needs of suffering people in practical and selfless ways. I consistently viewed Christ as the paradigm around which my views on human rights, animal rights, environmentalism, and social justice needed to be centered. I referred to myself as a “radical Christian” regularly.
I think that a reasonably intelligent person can realistically only hide behind the good works of some Christians for so long before he or she inevitably takes a good hard look at the narrative of the Bible and realizes that not a single word of it makes any sense. Modern Christians have been forced into creating elaborately coded linguistic systems, metaphors, and semantic acrobatics to account for the fact that the people who wrote the sacred scriptures obviously had no concept of history, geography, time, astronomy, or genetics. For example I was once told by a serious Christian that you can reinforce the seven day creation story found in Genesis with a later passage in the Bible that says that a human day is the blink of an eye for God and by multiplying the number of times you blink each day by 24 hour “human day” periods you can in theory create a scientifically realistic timeline for the creation of the planet. I’ve never looked into the validity of this claim for the simple reason that trying to validate such a claim would open a singularity in space-time and collapse the universe on itself. Don’t try it.
So even though I do not agree with the WBC on any issues, and I agree with progressive Christians on almost every issue, I support the WBC as the model of what the Christian Church needs to be because making the WBC the paradigm of Christianity will only speed the public’s eventual realization that there is no god and that we should stop spending our time worshipping nonexistent deities and work for humanistic solutions to the planet’s problems.I admire ideological consistency in anyone, even people with whom I disagree fiercely and I like that the WBC is ideologically consistent to a cartoonish degree and so for me I recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as the archetype of what it means to be a Christian.
So I would like to bring my friends, readers, and supporters on board with recognizing the WBC as the only real Christian Church for two reasons.
The first reason is that the WBC believes in a literal translation of the Bible and therefore require none of the aforementioned rhetorical gymnastics to make their beliefs jibe with the actual facts of how this planet came to be and how human beings came to be on it. The fact that they are willing to stick with a dogma that makes no logical sense helps to delegitimize the Christian worldview overall and shows a real strength of conviction. It takes more willpower to stand by a belief no matter how irrelevant and stupid it eventually becomes than it takes to try to mold that belief into something else like silly putty to fit whatever new evidence you have at the moment.
Secondly, because Christianity is fundamentally a bat-shit crazy doctrine to believe in, people who are out of their mind should actually be the torchbearers for it. Hardworking, cognitively capable, mentally sound people have no place believing the glaring logical discrepancies that are pervasive throughout all of Christianity. Leave the crazy shit to crazy people because they know better than us how to best steer the religion as a whole. Someone like Shane Claiborne or Rob Bell have no place being the spokesman for a religion that preaches concepts like original sin and advocates stoning disobedient children and homosexuals. Fred Phelps is the only person who has the proper mindset to speak for the Christian religion.
By showing people that the WBC practices the only legitimate, ethically consistent, and scripturally sound version of Christianity, we may be ushering in a golden age of secular humanism and saving the minds of billions of people worldwide. Think of all we could accomplish by holding a mirror up to the Church’s nose and letting them see Fred Phelps.