[Editor’s Note: The managing editor of our brother site Holy Taco recently interviewed a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is notorious for its views on homosexuality and its classless funeral protests. Ian Fortey decided his humor site was not the proper publication for the interview, so we offered to publish it on Made Man, where we often write about topics in the news. If you follow current events or watch The Daily Show, you probably have heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. This week a group of senators introduced a bill to strengthen restrictions on protests at military funerals. The bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling that favored Westboro Baptist Church, which pickets troops’ funerals. This interview explains the motivations behind one the most publicized and reviled religious entities in the country today.]
By Ian Fortey
My website Holy Taco recently conducted its annual Douchebag Tournament, a sophomoric parody of the NCAA tournament that occurs every March. Holy Taco selects 64 miscreants from pop culture and the news – people who have made a name for themselves in a negative way – and has readers vote on the biggest douchebag. It’s good for some laughs and has become a fixture on the site.
The 2011 tournament included the Westboro Baptist Church. The Topeka, Kan.-based church is not actually affiliated with any American Baptist church and consists of fewer than 100 members, many of whom are friends and family of Church founder Fred Phelps. They are infamous for their over-the-top displays of hate and intolerance of homosexuals. They protest the funerals of fallen American soldiers. They revel in the death and suffering of others, of all races and creeds, because it gets them attention. I decided to give them some more attention.
What usually happens is a member of the church appears on a news show and gives interviewers a chance to rail against them. The interview becomes an antagonistic and sensationalist battle of sound bites. In a nutshell, the church’s viewpoint is that America has decayed beyond redemption and all of us, including the church members, are doomed to suffer God’s wrath for the sins we allow to run rampant in our society. And this is where typical interviewers fail to appreciate what they’re dealing with. The church has accepted that it is doomed right along with us, so it cannot be called out for hypocrisy. It cannot be insulted because all it wants is to have people listen. Interaction is meaningless.
It’s like beating a masochist to make him hate being beaten.
I contacted Margie Phelps, daughter of the founder and a lawyer for the church, via Twitter, to drum up publicity for the article on Holy Taco. I was surprised she wrote back. I asked if I could interview her and she agreed. Phelps interspersed her email to me with a smattering of smiley emoticons and “lols.” It was odd, to say the least. This is my Westboro Baptist Church email interview with Margie Phelps.
Ian Fortey: Do the reactions you receive from either the media or the public affect you or those close to you personally? Do the children in the church have trouble understanding why some people react so violently?
Margie Phelps: The reaction comforts our hearts. We are talking a nation of doomed people who have forgotten God. If we were not making them angry, something would be wrong. If they agreed with us, this work we do would not be necessary. The children have grown up in this, and they love it – those that love the King of Glory. They come to years, and some leave and some stay. The ones that leave I assume don’t care for it. But they get the truth, and good loving care, and they know that to be so. The ones who stay can’t get enough of it. No one has any trouble understanding the reaction; they can read.
IF: Are any organizations sympathetic to your cause and if so do you approve of them?
MP: No. If someone peradventure for a minute says/thinks/acts like they are, just hold on a second, and they aren’t. So, for instance, some fundamentalist “church” will approach us; as soon as we say no divorce/remarriage, they’re out of here. Some street preachers approach us, but they seek their own glory, not God’s, and soon that doesn’t work. Many people have come to this little church with various agendas; none of them are serving God; we do not make alliance with them; and we see them to be another form of false religionists like the rest of the 310 million doomed Americans.
IF: Do you have an ultimate goal? I have read that the WBC wants people to understand that we have erred and strayed from God’s word and as a result have doomed ourselves with a social acceptance of things like homosexuality. If everyone heard and understood your message, would there be a second step? What is your ideal result after staging funeral protests and such?
MP: We have been picketing over 20 years. The first ten we entreated this nation to put away its sin, mourn for its grievous offenses against God, and obey. They waxed worse; hardened their hearts; and refused to hear or heed our words. So God dragged them into a war, after smacking them hard with 9/11, and now it’s too late. This nation is doomed. Period.
Our goal is to SAY THE WORDS. Noah preached 120 years to his generation before the Flood. He started with 8; ended with 8; and at least one was a vile reprobate. Heb. 11:7 is a short little verse that tells the story. He built an ark, moved with fear, by which he did three things: 1) saved his soul by obeying God; 2) saved his household – they got on the ark and lived while 12 billion perished; 3) condemned the world.
We bind you with our words; you will have no excuse before God. Ezek. 33 says when God brings the sword – IEDs [Editor’s Note: Improvised Explosive Device, or roadside bomb, often used against American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq] are broken up swords; war is about swords – if you don’t open your mouth and SAY THE WORDS, tell the people to stop sinning, if they die in their sin, their blood is on your hands. Your blood is not going to be on our hands.
IF: Is it wrong to suggest WBC spokespeople seem to enjoy the antagonism that takes place in many of your more public media appearances such as CNN interviews? It looks like you have fun when you’re attacked by journalists.
MP: We don’t enjoy it; we just know it’s part of the job. God has given us talents and personalities that enable us to do the work. It is unnerving to these thin-skinned-enough-to-leak crybabies in the media that we won’t back down. We have flinty foreheads, because God gave them to us (like he did Isaiah and other prophets). We fully expect them to attack; and we hold our ground; and we are thankful.
IF: Many lawsuits have been brought against WBC that ultimately failed. Does that embolden your cause? Do you have a plan for if you lose a case that costs more than you can afford?
MP: Every institution of this nation must have policies of proud sin – that’s the nature of a cursed nation. That includes the judiciary. We know it is a door of utterance. We know it is a place where this nation plays out its rebellion. When God gives us a great deliverance by his outstretched arm – like when he gave us the amazing make-the-ears-of-the-people-tingle 8-1 victory at SCOTUS it energized us. We praise His name! We are thankful! We have reminders and tokens that we serve the Lord God Jehovah, and no one can stay his hand. We have no plans to lose, because God put us on this battlefield and will deliver us in every way and give us everything we need. We will testify until our testimony is complete. Then this nation will be destroyed. That is so comforting and reassuring. We don’t worry about tomorrow; that’s God’s business.
IF: Do you like the public image of the WBC? Would you rather the public had a less negative image?
MP: We couldn’t care less about the “public image.” It’s not our image; it’s not about us; people don’t rage against us; the stones could replace us. It’s God whose image is at issue; and this nation has rebelled and mutinied against him. I know you know that God couldn’t care less about what the creatures he made to do with as he will think about him. They have a duty to obey; that’s the only right thing to think about him; and failure to do so means eternal destruction. You lose; he wins. That’s a pretty good PR campaign and image in my book!
IF: Do you receive threats? Do they worry church members?
MP: Every day in every way. No.
IF: If the world was being run the way you wished, what would you be doing with your time instead of protesting funerals and making appearances on behalf of the church?
MP: It’s not about how I want the world run; I have no wish except God’s will be done. I am so thankful every day that God has entrusted this little Church of the Lord Jesus Christ with this ministry – and that he has permitted me, unworthy though I be, to be a part of this great epic adventure – I can’t imagine anything else I’d do. It’s not on the landscape. Rich, happy, blessed people we are full of rich, happy, blessed days. It’s a good land. I recommend it to everyone!
IF: Anonymous accused you of staging a fight between their “group” and WBC; was that exchange staged?
MP: Of course not; everyone knows better than that nonsense. Anonymous is full of proud peacock lousy hackers. They got a mangy big toe on our front porch and we took our sites down to retool them (which was already the plan). [D]on’t stand too close to those titmice; God is going to undo them in a way that will make people GASP. Stay tuned; it’s gonna get good.
IF: Do you ever watch TV or go to the movies? Any favorite shows or actors?
MP: Yes I look at some TV and some movies. No favorites; honestly I often don’t remember actors names. I love Law & Order even though there are some pervs on it. But the plots are good. And I just saw a couple of really good movies, Unstoppable and something with “Three Days” in the title with Russell Crowe in it, and Morning Glory. And Mega Mind was really good too! I just look at good movies for a minute of respite with my loved ones – and a few good shows on TV – and move on. J
(Ian Fortey is the managing editor of Holy Taco.)