And I don’t think the people involved in that statement consider us born again Christians even fall into that category!! I gather that Fred Phelps is somewhat famous in the US, but we here in the UK certainly hadn’t heard much about him or the church he’s founded until quite recently when the Beeb ran a documentary by Louis Theroux about the weird and mad cult that he runs.
And for those in the UK or elsewhere who’ve not run into this character, I’ll provide you a brief outline. Fred Phelps (now in his 80s) was ordained into the Southern Baptist Church initially before moving on to start his own church (Westboro Baptist) in 1955. He’s termed a 5-point Calvinist but seems less interested in promoting any form of evangelism to the masses, than preaching hellfire and damnation on a grand scale to all sinners (better than the bould Ian Paisley ever could!!). He has propagated rather a large family of 70 odd (incl grandchildren), most of whom make up the church membership, and who are totally beholden to him, their families and the church structure for guidance and instruction. They see the current push of the gay lobbyists in particular a warning sign that the good ol’ US of A is doomed unless they do something to make people turn away from their sin and return to God. And so they take it upon themselves to picket anywhere and everywhere they feel is appropriate – from funerals to weddings, to congress activities etc. They also consider almost every tragedy, act of nature or terrorist alike, as God punishing the wicked, and thus something to be joyful over (again using one or two verses in the OT to justify that stance). Fred Phelps is quoted as saying this:
The Sky Report has secretly filmed one of America’s most controversial Christian ministers praising the London bombings.
Fred Phelps says that terrorist outrages and natural disasters such as Hurricane Rita are examples of God’s wrath against countries such as America and Britain for tolerating homosexuals and homosexuality.
Fred Phelps, who set up the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, told our undercover reporter about the attacks, which killed 52 people:
“Oh I am so thankful that happened. My only regret is that they didn’t kill about million of them. England deserves that kind of punishment, as does this country (America)”.
In all of this they’ve managed to gain themselves the reputation of being one of the most hated families in the US, and if truth be told it’s not hard to understand why.
Shades of Waco was all I could see and hear while watching it – if truth be told I was utterly horrified at 2/3 of the content. Louis did a really good job on trying to find out information from each of those he interviewed, but nobody really opened up to him much. Shirley (one of the daughters) who’s really the leader of sorts, refused many times to discuss questions he posed, other than to continually push forth her rhetoric that practically everyone in the US is a “fag” and she wasn’t aiming that title purely at the homosexual community either. But on top of that what shocked me more was their insistence on picketing as many funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq on the premise that God had killed them because they were fighting an unjust war, and that we should all rejoice in His perfect Judgement on them for that reason (Go figure!). While the war may in some ways have been an errant judgement on the part of Geo. Bush, to consider that every soldier who dies in the middle of battle is then somehow under the judgement of God is just plain arrogance and little else. Louis actually asked Shirley if the soldier could not have been a good person, and her response was basically no – and that Louis just didn’t understand what she was trying to convey to him because he wasn’t capable of it being “of the world”. So a Christian soldier, bought and paid for by Jesus Himself, is still apparently going to end up being under the wrath of God, according to her. In one of his conversations with another younger member of the family, Louis again tried to promote a discussion about this view, but the girl just told him that he was a sinner bound for hell if he didn’t stop his “fornicating” (he’s living with his girlfriend), and that she herself was extremely concerned about ending up in hell !!?? Yet she was adamant about how she and the others in the church really were the only ones likely to not end up there, but for all that she said she just didn’t know for sure. Now, to me that’s another sign that something is heavily amiss in a group that claim to be Christian. Not once did I hear anything about Christ dying to save sinners – if anything, they only ever talked about God’s judgements on sinners as if Jesus had never gone to the cross. They never talked about forgiveness or love, or redemption in any shape or form, and openly stated that those in many churches in the US were equally bound for hell, because the ONLY person teaching the truth was Fred P!!
Another highly disturbing aspect was the heavy use of the very young children (right down to about 3 years or so) being pulled out on the pickets and given signs to hold with some pretty provocative language and symbols that would rival any anti-gay rights march! When asked if she understood what the sign meant, the 3 year old understandably sensibly shook her head, but a slightly older boy (prob only about 5 or 6) said that “God hates fags,” but was unable to say anything that didn’t sound just like the rhetoric he was continually being exposed to all around him daily. While Shirley laughed it off, I just felt it was close to child abuse to start indoctrinating their children with such strong views so young. The language and rhetoric was truly tough to listen to and does nothing to persuade anyone to listen to their views.
Ironically, while I totally disagree with the way they promote their message, as well as certain aspects of what they claim to hold to be truth, I do feel that like so many cults, they have that tendency to have 10% truth mixed with 90% humanistic error which just like the Branch Davidians before them is dangerous. It is true that God’s judgement is on homosexuals, but as I’ve said elsewhere, no more and no less than on anyone who is having an adulterous relationship, sex before marriage or any other sexual sin. His judgement may be on murderers and warmongers, but I doubt you could then take it to the extreme that He’s equally condemning all those who’re in the military who die defending their country (whether or not they actually killed anyone in combat beforehand) purely for that reason. Ultimately we are all under condemnation and deserve God’s wrath against us, for our sins against Him. And that ultimately is the only thing anyone needs to know about and be told.
Louis did actually point out to Shirley that they came across just like a cult, and she rounded on him as having no right to make such a statement. Yet sadly I consider that is just what they are becoming if not already there. In common with all others, they have a singular “father” figure at the head, who leads and directs the will of the people. Phelps (like Koresh) claims to have Divine knowledge and power to fulfill the purpose of God in a way nobody else has. The members are very insular and rarely associate to any degree with “outsiders” preferring the company of their own families instead, although the kids do attend regular schools, but not by choice sometimes, and even at school are very isolated because of their background and views. They center on one specific teaching in scripture (fornication) to the exclusion of all others (with Koresh it was the apocalyptic writings in The Revelation). And they declare that they, and they alone, have the Truth and the only way to God. So they usurp Jesus in that role.
Overall, a dangerous recipe for future problems and danger perhaps. While filming at one point, someone threw a hot drink out of a car which hit one of the kids in the face – a reminder of the danger of putting kids in the frontline, but for them, a sign that they’re doing the right thing! Warped theology big time.
While God does indeed indict those who sin sexually and holds them accountable for their sins, we are no longer living under the Law which would have demanded a high penalty – praise God He paid that price Himself by sending Jesus. But certainly it would be sensible for us to remember that sin has no gradient where God is concerned – as I said above, homosexuality is no more or less a sin in His eyes than adultery or indeed murder. Sin is sin is sin – deal with it!! God’s judgement indeed is upon those who sin unless they accept His gift of Salvation in Jesus. If you want to know more on this topic head here and open your heart to Him NOW.