13 March 2008

Fred Phelps

One of my (more time-consuming) hobbies is watching documentary after documentary, in the hopes that I'll learn a little more about a number of issues I care about. Once in a while I'll watch one that makes me furious by the time it's over. Jesus Camp is a good example of one. And now I want to discuss the one I just finished, Fall From Grace.

Fall From Grace is the story of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. He and his congregation have devoted themselves to hating homosexuality, on which they blame all of America's troubles. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists them as a hate organization, and with good reason.

One of the things that they're most famous for is protesting at funerals. The people of Westboro Baptist Church frequents the funerals of soldiers killed in action to protest homosexuals, whose fault it is, according to WBC, that the soldiers are dying. According to Phelps, "I'm thankful for all that get killed over there in Iraq, I just wish it would be not 2,000 but 2 million." They parade around at these funerals and anywhere else they feel the need to spread their influence with signs reading "God hates fags" and "Thank god for dead soldiers." These are the people responsible for the hate website godhatesfags.com.

According to three of Fred Phelps children that separated themselves from the family say that abuse was prevalent. From the SPLC:
Mark and Nathan Phelps and sister Dortha "Dotti" Bird offer plenty of brutal details - details that their father has long dismissed as "a sea of fag lies." Nathan told the Intelligence Report that he was beaten with a leather strap regularly. Then, he says, Fred Phelps switched to a mattack handle - like an axe handle - and beat Nathan until he "couldn't lie down or sit down for a week." The three charge that Phelps also beat their mother, forced the children to fast and more.
One of the things that always strike me when watching this sort of documentary are how brainwashed their children are. Jesus Camp, which I've already said above enraged me, is a perfect film to show the effects that fundamentalist Christians have on children. These children are taught to hate people different from them. They don't know tolerance, and will probably never know tolerance, because they're taught from the time they are old enough to understand that it is okay to be hateful.

Since I became aware of politics in high school, there has been one things I've feared more than anything else: the Christian far right. Separation of church and state is very important to me, as I imagine it is for many Americans, and Christian fundamentalists want to control all aspects of American life, which means that non-Christians will essentially lose all their rights. This threat is real.

Fall From Grace
Jesus Camp
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg - one of the best books I've ever read. I highly recommend this.
Southern Poverty Law Center
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

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