Friday, November 25, 2011

Stop taking the Westboro Baptist Church so seriously...they don't.

(photo @ zimbio.com)


The Westboro Baptist Church has long been synonymous with every form of evil, malice, and disdain that we can possibly come up with.  It is so bad, in fact, that even the Klu Klux Klan thinks that they go too far.  This probably has to do with the fact that they often stage protests in which they declare that God hates just about everybody (except them), especially the gay community.

Their church website, www.godhatesfags.com, can clue you into their beliefs a little bit more if you were still unsure (when it's not shut down due to various cyber attacks).  They even provide a handy schedule of their hateful protests so that you can meet them there and scream your head off.

                                                                                        holytaco
Screaming over the internet is so impersonal


Recently when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away due to cancer, the Westboro baptist church sprang into action.  Margie Phelps, who is the daughter of the the church's founder Fred Phelps, posted this little gem on her twitter account.


As you can imagine, plenty of people were kind enough to point out this ironic failure on the part of Mrs. Phelps.  She responded by saying that God created the iPhone to tell the world that Steve Jobs was in hell.  Shirley Phelps-Roper, another one of Fred's children responded:

"Steve Jobs did NOT create anything-God used Steve Jobs to create amazing STUFF for WBC to preach like a mug!  Jobs vainly imagined HE did it!"


At this point, I became very frustrated and a little bit disappointed.  I have followed the WBC for a long time with a certain morbid curiosity.  While I detest their celebration of dead US soldiers and their racist/homophobic hate speech, I have to admit to being at least a little bit impressed by their legal acumen and their amazing ability to self promote.  That's why this clear and totally avoidable blunder by the Phelps family was so surprising to me.

The only other time that I can recall something like this happening was when a radio show and it's callers dared to question why it was alright for Shirley Phelps-Roper to have sex (and bear a child) out of wedlock while others would burn in hell for their sins (skip to 16:00 to hear Shirley Phelps-Roper get burned).

How could people that are usually so on top of things about free speech litigation and self promotion make such a huge gaffe?  Could it be that occasional instances of hypocrisy were inevitable with so much widespread condemnation?

...or maybe the people from the WBC weren't as ardently inhuman and hateful as they portray themselves to be.  It was at this point that while browsing reddit, I came across a video of Westboro Baptist Church protesting a Justin Bieber concert.

                                                        people.com
An extremely rare instance when the
WBC and I have found some common ground.

In the video below, Shirley Phelps is being interviewed by Scoops, an openly gay DJ from the same area as the WBC.  While you would figure that this combination of people would escalate into an explosion of vitriol and screaming, it was actually...really sweet.  He talks about how the Phelps' have had him over to dinner, danced and sang to Lady Gaga songs with him, and how they worked on signs to picket him TOGETHER.  Shirley affirms all of this, says that their church doesn't hate anybody (they are just "preaching the word") and dang it if she doesn't actually seem...human.  Don't believe me?  Take a look:



Later, at a WBC protest for Lady Gaga, Scoops shows up (dressed in drag) while they are singing a "remixed" version of 'Poker Face'.  This time, he is greeted warmly and dances and sings along with Megan Phelps.  I'm pretty sure he even gives Shirley Phelps-Roper a kiss on the cheek.


.

So maybe this is an aberration or a made up stunt.  Maybe Scoops never was inside their home...

...except that he totally was.  This video shows Scoops having Easter dinner with the Phelps family as Shirley brags about how great her cooking is.  She is still discussing her outlandish beliefs and protest plans, but she does it all with a casual air that most families would love to have at their own holiday feasts.

The piece de resistance, however, is when the oddly attractive Megan Phelps has Scoops come over with a camera (and decently good production values) to take an MTV Cribs style tour of the Phelps home.

                                                                            mjmandalay.com
Don't judge me.  Take out the hate speech 
and you've got yourself a pretty cute gal.

The Phelps family takes Scoops and the viewer on a tour of their "compound", which is in reality is a really sweet pad.  There is a great entertainment room set up, a massage chair, at least one pretty nice bedroom (with a SpongeBob SquarePants pillow, which for some reason makes me giggle uncontrollably), and of course, their extensive selection of signs.



Perhaps the most surreal parts of the video are when Scoops plays at their piano while sporting his very own 'God Hates Fags' merch and when a large number of the younger Phelps children are playing 'Just Dance' on the Wii while Shirley Phelps-Roper cheers them on.

I guess you can't really fault them too much for their taste in music.  This is the same group that put out an AMAZING parody of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'  The fact that kids were all dancing to Survivor's 'Eye of the Tiger' at least gives me hope that no matter what type of messed up values and morals those kids end up having, they will at least be fans of good rock and roll.  It's also good to see that they are active and not just sitting on the couch when they play video games.

Feel the burn...OF ETERNAL DAMNATION!

So why would the Phelps family let an openly gay man come into their home and film them?  According to Shirley Phelps-Roper, it's simply "'cause he asked to come over."  But the Phelps family treating one gay man (that admittedly can provide them with a lot of publicity) isn't the only thing that I found odd about how they conducted themselves.

Members of the church have claimed that even if they believed that their actions were not dictated by God, they would still do and enjoy them anyway.  They make countless parodies of classic and current pop/rock songs that are actually really well done from a production stand point.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I have totally been jamming to their 'Poker Face' remix while writing this.)  In the film 'Fall from Grace', a 2007 documentary about  the Phelps Family, Fred Phelps (who preaches against all types of idolatry, including to the American flag and individual universities) is interviewed almost the entire time while wearing a University of Kansas Jayhawk warm up suit.

Rock! Chalk! Jayhawk! Go KU...STRAIGHT TO HELL!

Could it be that these people are really just a family of like minded exhibitionists, looking for ways to push the 1st amendment as far as it can be stretched?  If you don't believe that groups like this exists, then you clearly have not spend much time on the internet.  People are always saying unthinkably awful and destructive things under the cover of anonymity; maybe the WBC is a real world version of an internet troll.

They probably do hold onto the basic seed of many of their racist and hateful beliefs, but the outlandish condemnation, promotion, and even their entire lifestyle seems like more of product of an insular environment and a desire to be noticed...and strangely, to have (what they seem to consider) fun.

So the next time you hear of the WBC protesting a funeral, concert, school, or religious institution, don't give them what they want by countering their hate with your own.  Test their limits the real way; offer them a warm handshake and maybe even something to eat or drink.  As hard as it may be to find, compliment them on something like their shoes or the way they are wearing their hair.  If you live anywhere near the WBC, ask to come over and bring banana bread with you.

The Westboro Baptist Church has shown that they can give and receive hate better than any group around.  Now maybe it's time to take a page out of Scoop's book and see what happens when you show them a little kindness.  If they can show kindness to an openly gay man to the the point of having him over for dinner and considering him a good friend, there's no telling how far their limits of human empathy can be pushed. Who knows...you may make some very interesting new friends.

                                                                                              pitch.com
...and you may end up with one of the most awkward
and awesome family portraits of all time.