Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chapter Five, Verses Ten and Eleven.

Yesterday, a judge decided that the father of a dead marine was obliged to pay the legal fees of the Westboro Baptist Church, a small sect from Kansas under the guidance of the Rev. Fred Phelps. The WBC sends its members around the country to stage protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers to publicize their view that the soldiers we lose in the wars we have chosen to fight are not the natural consequence of war, but rather the supernatural will of God to punish this country that does not hate homosexuality as much as the Rev. Phelps hates it. One grieving parent tried to sue the Church to make them desist from doing this to other families. The judge has decided that the WBC members are within their First Amendment rights to the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the right to assemble peaceably.

"Common sense" accepts the view that religion makes people better. I disagree. Religion amplifies people. Those with love in their hearts can find more strength to do good in the world. Those who hate things can make themselves believe that God hates those same things just as much. The WBC have done everything in their power to make themselves repellent even to people who may agree with them about homosexuality. Personally, I think they have just taken the Bible and made some verses more important than others.

It's a big book. It's impossible to do otherwise.

Consider Matthew 5:10-11, two verses from the end of the Beatitudes, the list of the blessed from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This is often put forward as the epitome of God's sweetness and light and the great comfort to the afflicted of this world.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

There is no question but that Rev. Phelps and his followers believe these verses are meant for them. They have no reason to be meek, because they do not want to inherit the earth. They are not interested in the rewards given to the merciful or the peacemakers. They want the kingdom of heaven, so they want to be persecuted. I doubt they believe their actions will change public policy towards gays. Their own salvation is much more important to them.

There is no part of the Bible that cannot be twisted by someone who is intent on nurturing the hatred that any human being can find in his or her heart with just a little effort.

And so, in my modest way, I have added to the persecution of the Rev. Fred Phelps and his flock, though I do not claim I have borne false witness against them. Let me say to them, you're welcome. If you want to thank me, a fruit basket would be nice.


namastenancy said...

I think you've topped even your high standards. What an appropriate post for Holy Week, As for me, I think that church bears false witness and defames the Jesus that they claim to follow.

Anonymous said...

Jesus is Peace. Asshole Rev Phelps wants war. Big difference.

susan s. said...

What a sad picture. I think those children are being abused. The little one is scared to death and the older one is sexualized beyond her years.

The VW = mmesses as in
The WBC mmesses with children, and it's not right!

Karlacita! said...

Dude, God is an asshole!

Lockwood said...

Funny. When I read the bolded verses, I assumed you were referring to the group persecuted by WBC "for righteousness' sake." That is, gays persecuted in the name of being righteous. There is an interesting oxymoronic duality there.

Matty Boy said...

Nancy: Thanks for the kind words.

Z&M: Jesus said to sell your cloak and buy a sword. It all depends on what verses you want to focus upon.

Susan: The picture is incredibly creepy on so many levels. The little girl looks shell shocked, no question.

Karlacita!: Let's remember that in the instance in question, God was dealing with William Shatner, so it's understandable if he was a little peevish.

Lockwood: It seems almost impossible for someone doing the persecuting to think of themselves as the persecuted, but that's just me using that old fashioned 20th Century concept of objective reality. Silly, silly me!

no_slappz said...

Last year the Westboro Baptist screwballs came to Brooklyn and performed.

One weekend morning they made two stops, each time positioning themselves across the street from a synagogue where they ranted about fags. According the the Phelps Gang, God hates them.

Fred Phelps was not with them. But his daughter, son-in-law, some children (possibly the two in the photo) and a couple of other adults were bellowing and holding signs while they stood in their alloted space.

The police gave them a suitably sized rectangle of space marked by saw-horses. More or less on a corner.

A big crowd was across the street on the steps of the synagogue and on the three corners across from these idiots.

The Borough President of Brooklyn was there. There were reporters from local media. But no major media. Even though the Church publicized its plans and schedule, there was no NY Times, no major network media coverage.

Most people stayed across the street from the Westboro clowns. But I decided that was a mistake. Showed way too much deference to these dopes.

So I walked up the the police barriers around them and began staring in the eyes of Phelps' son-in-law. Not surprisingly, he would not meet my gaze.

Unfortunately, the police took a dim view of my activity. An officer came over and told me I had to leave the corner.

"Why", I said.

"Because you're blocking the sidewalk," said the officer.

"You can't be serious. These clowns are blocking it. Not me." I said.

"You gotta move," the officer said.

It was clear the facts of the situation were irrelevant, so I moved. But it was unfortunate to see these screwballs create a public event in which they expressed hate -- using the word "hate" both in writing and aloud -- yet were not arrested for committing a hate crime.

Matty Boy said...

I know you hate religion and these guys in particular, but meeting hate with hate doesn't really work, no_slappz. That's one of the better points made by religion.

And then there's the absurdist take, which I find much more emotionally satisfying, though I myself was not involved.


no_slappz said...

matty boy,

I am all in favor of the philosophy of life aspects of Christiantity and Judaism. Organized religion is, however, something else.

Meanwhile, these nuts from Westboro take things several steps further. Someting truly vile fills their minds, and since they so aggressively spew their hate for homosexuals, it's my bet Fred Phelps is covering up his unspeakable lust for men.

It's one thing to rant and rave in the local pulpit. It's another thing to pack up a group of people and pay to fly them around the country to create angry scenes at funerals, outside synagogues and wherever there is a gay population.