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The expected Phelps reply

You’ve probably heard by now that Megan Phelps-Roper and her sister Grace have publicly left the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s not exactly a friendly place, you know.

An official spokesman for the church has made a statement:

“If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell.”

Well, that was predictable.

I wonder how far their defection will take them? Will we be seeing Megan and Grace at an atheist meeting in the future, along with Nate?

Comments

  1. Matrim says

    @2> I’m pretty sure if the historical Jesus were yanked out of time to the present day that the WBC would find all sorts of reasons why he would be hellbound.

  2. Chuck says

    I’m pretty sure if the historical Jesus were yanked out of time to the present day that the WBC would find all sorts of reasons why he would be hellbound.

    Yeah, I can see the WBC protesting at the crucifixion: “God hates Romans!” “Thank God for Hannibal!” “Thank God for crucifixes!”

  3. David Marjanović says

    Yeah, I can see the WBC protesting at the crucifixion: “God hates Romans!”

    “Romans, go home!”

    *duck & cover*

    (Also, it’s domos, because they’re not all going to the same house.)

  4. Janine: Hallucinating Liar says

    One has to wonder in what directions Fred Phelps’ hatred and madness would have gone in if it were not directed in the hatreds of christianity.

  5. robro says

    Matrim — Or perhaps the historical Jesus would have joined Westboro. It’s impossible to know because the information written about Jesus was fiction to prove one point or another. There is evidence that this character James, “the brother of Jesus” and the leader of the Jerusalem congregation, was a conservative, Levitical observant Jew. Then again, if Jesus was like James, perhaps Westboro would be out because I bet that the folks in the Westboro church, like most Christians, don’t observe all the Levitical laws, only the one’s convenient to their point of view. Perhaps Jesus would have been Hasidim.

  6. Matrim says

    In seriousness, I do appreciate the courage it takes to break ranks with an insular group like that, especially when you’ve been tempered in the bullshit for nearly three decades. I will not forget the fact that they actively contributed to a culture of bigotry and intolerance, but I recognize that this is a step in the right direction and that maybe they can use their previous behavior as a tool for positive action. Hopefully Megan and Grace will end up on the road of free thought, though I don’t necessarily hold my breath; yet this is still a good move.

    That all being said, the WBC is a marginal entity, the complete dissolution of the Church would have few serious reprocussions other than perhaps some people might be able to have a funeral in peace. Religious radicals will still be a major segment of the population; non-Christians, women, homosexuals, and non-whites will still be the victims of marginalization; and social conservatives will still be tearing at the concept of equal rights. It’s good that some more of its members are breaking away, but it’s not of major importance other than as an illustration of the concept that even the most indoctrinated people can break away.

  7. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    Good for them. I hope they find the support they need and I hope that, given that they’ve been raised by a hateful family and thoroughly abused indoctrinated into the harmful beliefs of that family, they are given the chances they’ll need to reprove themselves in the eyes of so many.

    I hope they get better.

  8. bradleybetts says

    It really is fun to watch Patriarch Fred’s toxic little power-foundations crumble underneath him :) I know it’s a little wrong of me to be this gleeful about the schadenfreude, but I am.

    Also wonderful to see these two ladies wading free of the bigotry. That can’t have been easy.

  9. Sastra says

    A while back I watched a documentary on the Phelps clan which had interviews with some of the members. Like good Calvinists (or whatever they are) they were adamant that nobody is good enough to avoid Hell. Nobody. God chooses whom He will or won’t save through Divine Election alone. You could maybe manage to curry favor by constant toadying, proselyting, and proclaiming of God’s authority — but nobody ever anywhere was secure of salvation and safe from damnation.

    That just doesn’t fit well with the admonition that we HAVE to follow the RULES. Or else. There’s no guarantee either way, is there? A God with too much moral authority leads to nihilism and sociopathic ethics.

    There’s probably a cost/benefit to demanding rigid adherence to a set of rules. If people believe that you will be hung the same whether you steal a sheep or steal a lamb, then once you “fall” you might as well keep on going. A church will lose a lot of members that way and no reason they’ll stop reasoning when they get to a more liberal form of faith. But the ones who remain in the cult will likely be very committed indeed. And commitment breeds more commitment.

    Of course, the Phelps family will continue to splinter. What else can they do when they not only condemn every little bit of deviation from the party line, but hold grudges and force people to choose sides? Disfunctional family + disfunctional religion = major disfunction.

  10. recoveringzombie says

    Hi all. Long time lurker here.

    When I read about Megan and Grace leaving, I let out a whoop and jumped up and down. I’m so happy! I myself was born in and raised in the Jehovah’s Witness cult and I know all too well how scary it is when you manage to break free of a high control group. Like Megan and Grace, most of my family are Jehovah’s Witnesses and like the Westboro Baptist Church, when you leave, your family and friends no longer speak to you or if they do, it’s the absolute minimum.

    While I can’t know exactly they’re feeling right now, I have a pretty good idea. I was reading another blog where Megan was talking about how overwhelming it is and how they’re unsure even of what to do next. Their entire world has now been turned upside down and they have to learn everything from scratch.

    That is so common when you grow up in a cult. Your cognitive development and abilities were retarded because you were purposely kept fearful and ignorant. You don’t know how to think critically and have to learn that too. You have to learn how to think because you were told what to think from the moment you were born. It’s horrible and something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone as the scars will last you the rest of your life. Recovery is a long and difficult process.

    I actually live about an hour and a half from the WBC and have stood less than 50 ft from Megan on a couple of occasions.

    That said, I’ve already gotten into “shouting” matches (as much as you can shout online) with other atheists who want only to condemn Megan and Grace for their actions while still in the cult rather than understand that THEY DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE! If Megan and Grace had refused to picket or go to church or do everything they were told, their lives would have been made into living hells. I know. It happened to me as well. I was beaten black and blue once when I said that I didn’t want to “go to the Kingdom Hall” when I was about 13 years old.

    A lot of atheists are snarking how it’s too bad that they’re still “delusional” since they still believe in god. They’ve only been out 3 months! Give them time. It took many years before I arrived at atheism. And who is to say that they’ll become atheist anyway? I also hope that when they’re ready, they’ll reach out to Nate Phelps. I’ve had the honor of meeting and talking with him and his wife. They are two of the kindest and compassionate people I’ve met in a long time.

    I would love to reach out to them myself to let them know that there are those of us who came from a very similar background and who understand what it’s like when you exit. I know a lot of people in the ex-JW community are super stoked right now for them.

    A lot of ex-cult members end up going back because of fear and isolation. I don’t think they will. They’re smart, sharp, and savvy. :)

  11. davidhart says

    Is one of these people the lady who featured prominently in the Louis Theroux documentary? I remember seeing that show and noticing that she seemed to be struggling with the cognitive dissonance of being loyal to an organisation she was so unable to rationally defend, so if it is her, I’m not surprised.

  12. Janine: Hallucinating Liar says

    To be fair, recoveringzombie, but it seems that for people who actually pay attention to the Phelps clan, most of the hatred is for Fred, for the very abusive way he has raised his family, and for Shirley, who has fully embraced every bad thing done to her by her father. I would like to think that most of us here have some empathy for the children and grandchildren who have been raised in the “us and them” madhouse that Fred built.

  13. badgersdaughter says

    My brother said exactly the same thing about me the other day. Since he’s pretty much the only family I have, I feel like I can sympathize as little with Megan and Grace. I’m forced to make a decision whether I want to associate with someone who sees filth and depravity when he looks at me, just because he’s family.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    Robro nailed it back at 9. Assuming he existed at all, we have no real clue what this Jesus person would say about modern issues, and no indication that he’d be any more humane or progressive than his Iron Age contemporaries. I am sick and tired of liberals thinking that the only way to answer the Christian Right is to slap a coat of left-leaning whitewash on JEEZ-us and claiming that he and his insubstantial father would want to nationalize health care, bolster the welfare state, legalize same-sex marriage, etc. all because of some apocryphal passages from an old book about casting stones and something on rich folks, desert ungulates, and sewing inpliments. Proclaiming a divine mandate for leftist objectives from a unaccountable cosmic tyrant is just as nonsensical and authortarian as anything that comes out

    What would Jesus do? WHO THE FUCK CARES?!?!

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    Damn ADHD!

    “…as anything that comes out of the mouth of a Republican Bible-humper.”

  16. Dhorvath, OM says

    Ah, Matrim, you are suggesting a comparison of two different entities. What need have the Phelps for an historic saviour?

  17. Azuma Hazuki says

    This is a Very Good Thing (TM). I know Nathan Phelps personally and correspond with him regularly, and he says while he’s not holding his breath on them deconverting or anything it’s a huge step just to get out from under that toxic atmosphere. Nate of all people would know. And he had to do it all alone.

    I very strongly suspect Phred is bisexual and hates this aspect of himself, and has plunged himself into a deep abyss of hate. He may also be plain mentally ill, but I doubt it. In either case I hope he lives to see everyone abandon him and dies alone and bitter and angry.

    And Calvinism is a disgusting bit of gimcrackery. John Calvin is on the “top 10 list of people i would remove from history if it were possible,” below only Emperor Constantine and Augustine of Hippo.

  18. Janine: Hallucinating Liar says

    Actually, Akira, Fred Phelps was a long time Democratic Party operative. But that was a long time ago.

  19. Akira MacKenzie says

    He also was a civil rights attorney. However, as Nate Phelps has point out, Fred is as much a virulent racist as he is a homophobe (Gee, who’d have thought?), and the cases he took were just a means of funding the WBC.

  20. Muz says

    Like David at #15 I want to know if Megan is the one Louis Theroux spent a lot of time with in his documentaries. I can’t recall. If it is her, in the first one he chats with her at length about what it all means and you can just about see the facade cracking. She also got in trouble at some stage for too much fraternising at college (held hands with a boy, no doubt).
    In the second one, she had spent some time away, but had seemingly come back even stronger and been given the task of following Louis around and basically interdicting on his questions; not letting him chat alone or at length with any of the younger members about philosophical stuff and injecting the party line if they were ever lost for words.

    I hope it’s her. Hell I hope it’s all them eventually. But she seemed pretty close to thinking for herself in those shows. It’s a good end to that story.

  21. Rob Grigjanis says

    I liked the end of the article, addressed to the women.

    Welcome home.

    Ditto. I hope they get all the help, sympathy and understanding they need.

  22. cicely (Nothing to see here; move along now!) says

    I wish Megan and Grace the very best of luck. Walking away has to have been hard. With their example, maybe some of their relatives will feel—dare I say it?—Called to do likewise.

    “Romans, go home!”

    *duck & cover*

    (Also, it’s domos, because they’re not all going to the same house.)

    :D
    -

  23. robro says

    It is very brave of them to break out*. From what I gather, WBC is a family affair, so this means, very likely, that they will be ostracized by most of their family. That could be tough for them. I wish them luck and hope they go further, but just going to a more humane church is a step.

    * I almost said “kayfabe” here. I’m cynical enough about these organizations to wonder if there’s a story line going on here. I trust that the split is legitimate but if they repent, well then, isn’t that the expected arc.

  24. alanbagain says

    Just for the exercise, let’s use their own standard, the Bible, and see what it says about Fred Phelps and this “spokesman”.

    The key is in James 4:12 (NIV)

    There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

    If there is a need for repentence and forgiveness from the Judgment to come, guess who might be in greater need – the young women or their accusers?

    /Bible quoting. Back to normal commenting

  25. DLC says

    Phelps is all in favor of civil rights, just so long as he gets them and no one else does. He demands the right to spew hate, and grants no such right to anyone else. Because after all, everyone else is a lesser, ungodly being, or else they would worship Fred Phelps God the way he does.

    I think it’s a good sign that two more Phelps clan are departing the cult, but I do not hold out any hope of them becoming non-believers or moving to the left politically. Time will tell.

  26. birgerjohansson says

    Good luck, Megan and Grace.
    .
    “Fred is as much a virulent racist as he is a homophobe” and is presumably representative for the people who go to his heaven. -All the cool ones goes to hell anyway.
    Let me exorcise the stench of Fred Phelps with a bit of cheerful Doom Metal:
    “Papa Emeritus I hands over to Papa Emeritus II live in Linköping.”

  27. birgerjohansson says

    Oops, I did not realise the image would come up and slow down the download. My apologies.

  28. grumpyoldfart says

    I’ve seen them in the videos, laughing and giggling and having great fun while telling some other family that their loved one is going to burn in hell.

    I predict Megan will eventually start her own church and live off the tithes for the rest of her life.

  29. Sili says

    Who, exactly, does the spokesman for the Westboro church says won’t go to Hell?

    Jesus.

    Pretty sure Jesus is already supposed to have gone to Hell.

    Anyway. The arguments I saw the Phelpses use for leaving the church were very much based on Scripture, so I highly doubt they’ll suddenly turn atheist. They still think they’ve found Teh Truth™. They just don’t think their father have anymore. Plus ca change.

  30. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sili @35: “The arguments I saw the Phelpses use for leaving the church were very much based on Scripture”

    So what? That’s her frame of reference, and she needed to discard the crap, and embrace the wise bits, like “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. It’s not all nonsense, you know.

    Linkie.

    I don’t feel confident at all in my beliefs about God. That’s definitely scary. But I don’t believe anymore that God hates almost all of mankind. I don’t think that, if you do everything else in your life right and you happen to be gay, you’re automatically going to hell. I don’t believe anymore that WBC has a monopoly on truth.

    Looks like a great start to me, considering where she comes from.

    “I highly doubt they’ll suddenly turn atheist.”

    After 27 years of brainwashing, that might be asking a bit much, no?

  31. lorn says

    The church says they are “going [To] hell.”

    Funny …, having read a bit about life inside that church, I picture it more as a departure [From] hell.

    classic coming/going confusion.

  32. Matt125 says

    @33

    Nice compassion you have there. This is why my skin crawls a little bit when I see some of my fellow non-believers claim immediate moral superiority over those who are religious. Try growing up in a hateful cult with such terrible people as role models before you sneer at these two young women, and – before I forget, because I know many of you commenters love this phrase – check your privilege.

  33. robster says

    Is that the best threat they can offer? Hell…if that’s all they’ve got to use as a threat, then they may as well piss in the wind for all the impact it’s going to have.

  34. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    Ron Grigjanis @ 36:

    I don’t feel confident at all in my beliefs about God. That’s definitely scary. But I don’t believe anymore that God hates almost all of mankind. I don’t think that, if you do everything else in your life right and you happen to be gay, you’re automatically going to hell. I don’t believe anymore that WBC has a monopoly on truth.

    Looks like a great start to me, considering where she comes from.

    As far as I’m concerned, that’s most of the way home. Do I think the “Gawd loves everybody, Hell is bullshit, we’ll all have time to work out the details in the afterlife” Christians and other theists are wrong? Yes. Do I think they’re anywhere near the problem that the “My theocratic rules must be enforced on everyone” Christians? Hell no. The former I can disagree with politely (and/or mock in a loving manner), the latter must be stopped as a matter of personal self-protection.

  35. ck says

    robster, I think you underestimate the fear the threat of Hell can pose to someone who has been indoctrinated in it since early childhood. I have never had the pleasure of being subjected to that, but several other regulars here have been, and plenty of them still report experiencing terror and crippling self-doubt when the old fears bubble back up to the surface. It’s best not to diminish the bravery and resolve it actually takes to shrug this kind of thing off.

  36. No One says

    This extraordinary thing… life…
    “the canvas”
    … and you want others to do what with theirs?
    Criminals, the lot of them.

  37. rowanvt says

    CK is correct.

    When I was as young as 5, I would cry myself to sleep every night while praying out of abject terror that I might have done something to make God angry enough to send me to Hell. I rejected christianity at 13, but still was terrified that I was going to hell up to about the age of 20. It tapered off after that, to just a few times a year.

    Now those episodes of ‘fear of hell’ have turned into ‘fear of ceasing to exist’. This new fear is both more scary and easier to deal with and for the same reason: It’s inevitable. I can’t do anything to change it. Might as well not worry.

    That keeps from curling up and wanting to scream with the depth of the terror and horror I feel, and felt.

  38. Koshka says

    @33

    Nice compassion you have there. This is why my skin crawls a little bit when I see some of my fellow non-believers claim immediate moral superiority over those who are religious. Try growing up in a hateful cult with such terrible people as role models before you sneer at these two young women, and – before I forget, because I know many of you commenters love this phrase – check your privilege.

    I agree with you completely.
    I was born into a situation without religion as an important part of my families life. It was easy for me to reject it. These women have been born into such a horrible situation and appear to be getting out of it. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for them because I had it easy. I wish them all the best for what that is worth.

  39. randay says

    Sastra #13, I don’t know whether WBC is calvinist or not, anyway there are many offshoots of all religions. If they are calvinist, they don’t seem to be following the teachings. Calvinism teaches a form of predestination where it doesn’t matter what your works are or how strong your faith is. It is god that arbitrarily decides, so even gays could be saved. So the WBC members should be aware that god is indifferent to their actions.

    As to Old Man Phelps, he should know that his followers are not beholden to him and that for calvinism, the scriptures are clear enough for anyone to make their own interpretation. They don’t even have to accept a church leader’s interpretation.

    Azuma Hazuki, you may know more about these things than I do, but I am not that hard on Calvin. He was progress in a way in that he did away with the absolute authority of church leaders like Popes and even himself and as I said above, he thought that people could think through the Bible themselves. I was brought up Lutheran, a church which also has a form of predestination, though different than the Calvinist one. Looking back, it seems to me that the Lutherans rather overlooked or ignored that part. At least I don’t remember much about it.

  40. bradleybetts says

    @grumpyoldfart #33

    I’ve seen them in the videos, laughing and giggling and having great fun while telling some other family that their loved one is going to burn in hell.

    I predict Megan will eventually start her own church and live off the tithes for the rest of her life.

    Right little ray of sunshine, aren’t you?

    I am quite lucky in that my immediate family is not very religious, so it hardly took a great leap of logic for me to come to the conclusion that it’s all bullshit. I can’t imagine what it’s like to break free of lifelong indoctrination, to give up every belief that you held sacred all your life, not to mention to alienate yourself from all your family and friends, but I imagine that it is very, very difficult and very, very scary. These two have done something very brave, and you do not have the right to sit there sneering at them and making dire predictions of future misconduct. They did some bad shit in the past because of a combination of indoctrination and peer pressure but they now realise they were wrong, have apologised, and have taken the first step on the road to becoming better people. You ought to be encouraging them.

    Believe it or not, your sneeringly self-righteous attitude is hardly likely to deconvert anyone so much as drive them back into the fold out of nothing more than the need for comfort. Try showing some compassion and being supportive, you douche.

  41. Matt125 says

    Koshka @44 and Bradleybetts @47 put it better than I could.

    As for Megan and Grace, I hope they reach out to their Uncle Nate. Just like them, he got out and now he’s become a fantastic advocate for the secularist/atheist movement.

  42. carlie says

    My family does not know that I’m an atheist. They are starting to get clues, I think, that I’m not anywhere near as religious as I used to be, but they don’t know the extent of it.

    Megan, Grace, and Nate are much braver than I.