As per my passing interest in the Westboro Baptist "Church", I surfed by their website yesterday evening to check out where the future "love crusades" were going to be held. For those who don't know what a WB"C" "love crusade" is, it's the term the "church" uses to describe their pickets of funerals for soldiers who have died in battle. You see the WB"C" believes that every disaster that touches the face of planet earth is the product of God's wrath because homosexuals exist in the world. So whatever the calamity, (9-11, Katrina, mall shooting in Omaha, etc...) God did it because he hates us because homosexuals exist. And the really interesting thing about this is that even though they say their picketing to get our attention in order to get us to repent, they don't really believe in repentance or forgiveness.
The theological reason behind this is that the WB"C" believes in "pre-destination", which is a fancy term meaning that God has already "pre-determined" who is going to Hell and who isn't. What's this mean? Essentially what you do on the face of this earth doesn't really matter because unless you are born, or marry into, the Phelps family, you are pre-destined to go to Hell. What's more, the more they protest, and the more you hate them, the greater the proof is they have been chosen by God, because damned people hate what God loves, OR (if you are following this) the more they are hated by humanity the more they are loved by God. In the end, I suppose, for the WB"C" it's really all about what family you were born into, whether or not they'll share their special gift of being selected by God - and only they are selected by God - with you, and they needing to be hated by you if you won't join them.
Thus, in this twisted kind of logic, the family is killing themselves traveling all over the place to do protests for people who have no eternal hope basically to prove to God that they understand they've been chosen by Him and don't want to lose that "choseness".... although, if you've already been chosen by God, how on earth could you lose it? Oh.. that and they are essentially looking for mates for their children, which is the strangest dating strategy in the history of the world.... ah, but love is not easily explained. They keep making babies, so somewhere out there are people who are willing to throw caution to the wind and become Fred Phelps' latest grandson-in-law.
Well, last month, a parent of young soldier killed in Iraq successfully sued the WB"C" for ten million dollars in a case that raised the issue of whether or not free speech has limits. Spokespeople for the "church" have claimed that this will have no effect on their picketing schedule, as the case is under appeal. Most folks don't know this, but the Phelps family, who essentially is the WB"C" are pretty much all lawyers, trained at a law school in Topeka, Kansas which is near their home. The "church" for years has used the legal system to intimidate its critics, threatening endless law suits members of the family can pursue until the end of time because there are no billable hours involved. I don't think it ever counted a) someone stepping forward with enough resolve to call their bluff or b) a limit being placed on the First Amendment by what they deem as a "liberal godless" court system that holds free speech above and beyond all other things.
I guess they were wrong.
I thought it would be interesting to see how (or if) this reversal of fortune has impacted the "church's" strategy as to get out its message that essential, God hates you (which they claim they are saying out of love for humanity.... how can you make this stuff up?). Surprisingly enough, it has. Instead of funerals, over the course of the next month, the WB"C" will proclaim God's wrath on people attending Billy Joel, R. Kelly, Ozzy Osbourne, (once again, I'm not making this up) Mannheim Steamroller, (hard to write this without laughing) and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concerts, as well as fans attending a basketball game between Kansas and Ohio University (which are all being held in Kansas City).
I'm guessing this probably only temporary until the appellate court rules on the original judgment. For all their bluster, even the WB"C" is smart enough to know that this ruling will mean financial disaster for the family if ultimately it is carried out as you can bet there would be a rash of lawsuits all over the country targeting this "church" which has been merciless to families and communities in intense grief. What's more, I have no idea if the WB"C" is a not-for-profit, but if it is, you'd have to believe that Senator Grassley's probe into pastors mixing their personal wealth with church income would turn it's gaze upon a group of people claiming a tax exemption for an entity that makes overtly political statements. But at least until then, families of soldiers get a reprieve from the stupidity that is children as young as seven holding up a sign that says "Give Thanks For Dead Soldiers". I suppose now there will be new signs...
"God Hates Piano Men"
"Jesus Deserves Better Birthday Music"
"Give Thanks For Canceled Reality Shows"
"Rock, Chalk, Whorehawks"
and my personal favorite
"R. Kelly Is In Satan's Closet"
On another note, if you know someone in the service, or someone who lost a loved one while serving our country, say a little prayer and wish them a "Merry Christmas" this season. Let's hope that maybe they've gotten the gift of the WB"C" being pre-destined to protest instead now at a "Kansas" concert, "American Idol Live", K-State v. Southern Illinois, and the occasional gun or electronics show.