Those of you who've been thinking they're going to have to break it to me just how passe my last post was: worry no more! Once again I've discovered just how far behind in popular culture I am. (Is that the appropriate rubric: popular culture?) As we walked the two and a half mile circuit around Seward Park this lovely spring afternoon, Tom informed me that the people besieging funerals have been doing this for years, as anyone who ever watches television news shows would know. And also, that this gang of "hate-based Christianity" are the same people who vilely picketed at Mathew Shepard's funeral. (I hadn't realized they were the same people, given that neither soldiers nor miners nor accident victims ordinarily rub Christian fundamentalists the wrong way.) Checking out the wikipedia entry on them, I see that they also picketed Jerry Falwell's funeral. And they have chanted "1,2,3,4, God hates the Marine Corps" at Camp Lejeune, NC. Moving right alone, I wasn't at all surprised to discover that they've recorded a song called "God Hates the World." Or that they hate Mormons and Jews, too.
Phelps also claimed Jews were "one of the loudest voices" in favor of homosexuality and abortion and that “[Jews] claim to be God's chosen people. Do you think that God is going to wink at that forever?” Phelps concluded by stating, in an apparent reference to the Book of Revelation, that all the nations of the world would soon march on Israel, and that they would be led by President Barack Obama, whom she called the “Antichrist.”Of course, they're apparently not alone in thinking the POTUS the antichrist: a recent Harris Poll reported that 24% of Republicans think that the President of the United States may be the antichrist.
And how could I have missed their activity in my own home state in December 2008? I think that was the year that Seattle got shut down with snow, so maybe I have an excuse. On the other hand, fusses about holiday displays have been going on for so long, that they all tend to blur in my memory. (And of course no local protest about holiday displays can, in my memory, compete with the uproar that resulted in the removal of murals based on classic Greek mythology decorating the State Capitol on the grounds that they were "obscene.") The wikipedia entry also notes that six months later, at Seattle's best-known high school (about a mile from my house), they surpassed themselves. (I was out of town during that incident.) Hundreds of students, happily, responded with slogans like "Don't Hate on Our Youth."
And then there was this:
On April 10, 2008, a 6-person representation from the Phelps group picketed at the University of Wisconsin–Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin—only 15 minutes into their scheduled 1 hour picket, the group retreated from the campus with a crowd of nearly one thousand students marching behind them shouting "go home, go home." According to the group's primary website, the picket was spurred by a recent house fire that occurred in Menomonie killing 3 students. The deaths were labeled as "fires sent by God" by the group who claimed that parents were to blame for "teaching them to be whores and bastards".They seem to especially hate young people. Maybe because they believe young people are enjoying life too much? That they're not feeling the divine hate as they ought to be? Because apparently, it's really all about the hate:
In the BBC documentary The Most Hated Family in America, filmmaker Louis Theroux questioned Shirley Phelps-Roper as to whether she had considered that Westboro's technique of protests were more likely to "put people off the Word of Jesus Christ and the Bible."Do you s'pose that in their Bibles they've redacted every passage that quotes Jesus? Or is it possible they consider everything but the Book of Revelation worthless? You know, I feel sure it'd be possible to find sects resembling this one in pre-Modern European history. They'd've been called heretics, of course... And they wouldn't have lasted beyond a single generation. (If that.)
In response, Phelps-Roper said as to the purpose of the protests, "You think our job is to win souls to Christ. All we do, by getting in their face and putting these signs in front of them and these plain words, is make what's already in their heart come out of their mouth."
Later in the documentary, Phelps-Roper agrees that the $200,000 the church annually spends to fly to funerals to protest was money spent to spread "God's hate."
But anyway, the walk in Seward Park, which occupies a peninsula sticking out into Lake Washington, was joyous. The water was dark blue and choppy. I saw two blue herons fishing, scores of people out enjoying the day with as much pleasure as we were, leaves unfurling in the trees and green things springing out of the ground. And the frosting on the cake? All the mountains were out, and some of the nearby Cascades were showing fresh snow, which may make the looming drought milder than predicted.