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Fire and Brimstone —

April 16, 2013

Note: This post is totally off topic from our usual fare. Also, there will be no links in this article to the stories I’m referencing for reasons which will soon become clear.

Back in 1998, Westboro Baptist Church was just starting to get press coverage for their response to the murder of Matthew Shepherd. The first time I heard about their website, “God Hates Fags,” I was a freshman at the University of Missouri — Columbia and they were coming to protest on our campus. I don’t remember why, and I can’t find any news accounts of it anywhere, but I think it’s fair to say that Mizzou did something that God hates.

In any case, at the time, I felt the same deep-seeded rage at the idea that these people are not only claiming to be messengers of God, but that their message was so thoroughly hateful, so intensely hurtful that I wanted to lash out at them. And we did. We all sat around in the days and weeks leading up to the protest talking about how horrible the Fred Phelps and the WBC is.

It’s a completely natural reaction to such unnatural contempt and hatred. As a young Catholic, I knew full well that the God of love was often hijacked by messages of hate by all religions throughout history. It’s a pretty easy gig: anyone can quote God as being on their side because the invisible skyman won’t step in and say, “Wait a minute, I never said anything about hating anyone.”

What’s even easier than that is the formula that the Phelps family follows now that they are able to draw the undivided attention, and ire, of a grieving nation. All they have to do is wait for a national tragedy or the death of a beloved icon, and WBC says “We’re going to protest it!” Follow this with some iteration of “God hates fags” or “Fag enablers” or some other hateful bullshit and the media picks it up, we click on it, and Fred Phelps gets his rageboner.

It’s the perfect troll and it works because few groups are willing to be as consistently and stubbornly hateful as the WBC. It’s a game to them, waiting for the next horrific event that they can glom onto to great and shameless effect. It’s also great for the media outlets because people LOVE to read what WBC has to say (so we can clench our fists and shake our heads), even though WE ALREADY KNOW.

Honestly, if you see a news story that says “Westboro Baptist Church says…” what do you think is going to be different about this story than the last 20 or so? Do you think it’s going to say, “Fred Phelps has repented and wants you to know that God loves all people everywhere because you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.” Nope. They’re going to say that Tragedy X was caused by gay marriage and America turning its back on God and this is God’s way of punishing you.”

That’s it.

That’s all they have to say. Over and over and over again. When Bill Clinton dies, WBC will be there to protest. When a plane crashes, WBC will blame gay people. There’s nothing WBC could say or do at this point that we can’t already predict with 99.999% accuracy.

The same goes for their Twitter feed. They’re now spewing hate in real time and people are responding with their own hatred toward WBC. But this is exactly what Fred Phelps wants.

He doesn’t want to baptize you and convert you to his way of thinking. If he did, then he would probably be the single worst evangelist in Christian history. The only way WBC’s membership goes up is when they have one of their incestuous babies. They aren’t spreading the Good News, they are sewing the seeds of discord and hatred among anyone they can bait into responding. WBC is nothing but godtrolls with WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much time on their hands.

The way that media outlets choose the priority of their online publications is how much attention the story gets. They’re in it for the clicks. More clicks means more ad dollars, so no matter what the actual story, if it drives readers to their pages, then they will keep publishing similar stories in the hope that you will keep clicking.

Westboro Baptist Church is GUARANTEED CLICKS. You see the headline, you seethe with rage, and you click. You can’t control the first two actions because right now, they’re still getting headlines. But you can control that third action. You can choose not to click.

Stop giving the media a reason to make WBC relevant. Stop responding to their tweets with reciprocal rage. Hatred is what fosters an environment where WBC is given a platform to spread more hatred. Do you really want to contribute to that? Do you really want to keep giving Fred Phelps the relevance he desperately needs?

We can’t control what the WBC says, but we can control how we respond to it. We can choose to ignore the WBC (I’ve created the hashtag #IgnoreWBC to spread the word) and to not give their hate any more attention than they need or deserve.

Having seen the nature of Westboro Baptist Church from the very beginning, I’ve been disheartened to see their message reach a broader and broader audience as they’ve taken their special brand of hate speech to new depths. At first, it seemed that confronting them head-on would bring some kind of resolution. It seemed like answering their hatred with our own contempt might dissuade them from being so openly hateful. That has not worked.

Now, I propose we try something else, something we haven’t tried before. I suggest that we shut them out of the dialogue completely. I suggest that we let them scream about the hatred of God until they’re blue in the face, but we do not answer them. We already know they are wrong and that they do not represent God. What gives them satisfaction and what keeps them relevant is the fact that we keep craning our necks to hear what they have to say about this world, when what we should be doing is listening to the calmer, kinder voices that respond to hatred with love and kindness and understanding.

So please: next time you see a link to a story about the Westboro Baptist Church or Fred Phelps, don’t click it. If you see a tweet where they’re listing the many things God hates, don’t respond to it. They aren’t worth a moment of your thoughts or a single negative emotion. Let’s start to make them as irrelevant to modern human life as they really, truly are.

With that, I leave you with the greatest piece of wisdom I’ve ever known.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    April 16, 2013 1:18 pm

    The Fred Phelpses of the world live every day with chaos in their heads. What they like best is to spread that chaos to your head and the best reaction one can have to them is to refuse to carry their chaos and misery for them.

  2. April 16, 2013 1:21 pm

    The only difference between Fred Phelps and Gavin Newsom is which side of the extremism coin they fell on.

  3. JennyRose permalink
    April 16, 2013 1:50 pm

    I could not agree more. Fred Phelps is extreme even among hate mongers. But he and his little cult are also clever. Several are lawyers and they are just waiting to have someone violate their rights so they can sue them, they bait people into harming them and trespass just to drive them bankrupt in litigation. I usually think we need to stand up to hate but in this case, ignoring them is better. Fred needs to be in the public eye and be “relevant” like he needs to breathe. In this case DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!

  4. April 16, 2013 1:57 pm

    The whole WBC crew is a group of legal scammers that agitate people past their boiling point, then sue everyone when someone reacts, causing damage or injury.
    This site says it better than I ever could

  5. Theresa permalink
    April 16, 2013 2:02 pm

    Beautiful words of wisdom there. “Desiderata” has been one of my favorites for a long time because of its simplicity and because it speaks to all traditions. I’d just like to add that it was written by Max Ehrmann. Copyright has been disputed over the years but when quoting it I think it’s good to also include attribution.

  6. Duckie permalink
    April 16, 2013 6:30 pm

    I hear that WBC is more about being professional lawyers & victims. They stir up so much shit that any rational person is pushed to the limit of violence and then when some counter-protestor or innocent bystander lashes out at them, they cry foul and sue for assault & second amendment rights, thus making money to support their morality-and-reason-challenged family.

  7. April 17, 2013 2:17 am

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    These twatwaffles don’t believe in any kind of deity that I’d even pass wind in the direction of, let alone give any sort of credence to. We should not give any credence to them either. What I am saying is that they are not Christian in any true sense. They are sick and evil.

  8. Lauren C. permalink
    April 17, 2013 12:32 pm

    I won’t click! WBC came to my small town to protest the funeral of a fallen soldier. They got a permit for a corner, on the square, where the funeral pression was to pass. A biker group found out & decided to not let them disrupt the family. They got to the corner first. When the funeral passed- they held up a VERY LARGE American flag! They blocked the WBC protesters & honored the dead & his family at the same time! It was a brilliant move I suggest the same tactics, if these hate mongers come to your town.

    • lifeonfats permalink
      April 18, 2013 6:08 pm

      I love it when groups come together and block the WBC out during funerals. Usually there are more blockers than WBC and they don’t stay long. They can dish it out but can’t take it. And one member left the group after realizing what jerks they are and has since been blacklisted by them. Good for her. They are truly toxic.

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