I’m sure you’ve seen them before. In the media at the very least. A small group of people whose God-given duty is to spew vile messages and hate regarding what they view (correctly but very poorly skewed and emphasized) as a foundational biblical message. They are members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and their ring leader is a very crafty and vitriolic man whose name appears in the title of this piece.
I am a native Topekan. I was born there, and lived there most of my life. Phelps and his crew were a common facet of life in Topeka: They picketed my High School (Topeka, KS) and my Church (St. Matthews Catholic Church). I went to school with some of their kids (who tried to list picketing as a “community service” for various applications). And after living through their shameless brigade of hatred and less than polite signs and rhetoric, I came to a conclusion:
Fred Phelps and his crew have done more for the legitimization of the homosexual community than almost any other individual. Or at least, he’s worked very well to support the homosexual agenda and give bait to those who need an effigy of the “intolerant hatred” spewed by the “religious wackos” who are opposed to homosexuality. He should probably put up one of these signs next:
Sorry, was that too crude? Not much worse then his regular stock, honestly. I hope he sees it and takes note. Actually, I hope somebody makes a real life version, and stands across the street from him…
So why do I say this? This is why: I watched the people of Topeka go from people who were neither ambivalent nor supportive of homosexuality in general in the 80s and early 90s, to overall a rather pro-homosexual group of people. Why the change. “Because I don’t want to be like that Phelps bigot”. Over and over I heard people cite Phelps as their number one reason that pushed them one way on the issue of homosexuality – and it was always towards the pro-homosexuality side of the issue.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not in favor of the legitimizing of homosexuality. I am a devout catholic, and I believe firmly that it is a distortion of human sexual love and intimacy. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about homosexuality, just for reference:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Phelps, by his ridiculously hateful methods has been the devils greatest ally. He has not only made being opposed to homosexuality seem the most bigoted thing in the world (compared to even 30 years ago when the complete opposite was true), but he has also lampooned in the mind of many Christianity as a small minded, hateful bunch that few people want anything to do with. Heck, for years I hated Christianity because I assumed deep down all Christians were closet versions of Phelps.
Let me make another thing clear: Though I view homosexuality as intrinsically disordered, I do not view people with homosexual inclinations as inherently wicked, any more than I view anyone who has lustful thoughts as a complete abomination unto the lord. I’m in the “love the sinner, hate the sin” camp – heck my mother-in-law is gay. We all face temptation, and some people – be it for reasons of nature, nurture or a combination – face sexual temptations with people of the same sex. It is not WRONG to be tempted, but it is a sign of our damaged human nature that we give in to temptation (and that we are tempted to some things my be also a sign of our damaged human nature – though not all temptation must be such a sign, for Christ himself was tempted thrice by the devil).
The absolute worst thing you could do if you want to “win souls for the Lord”, is make the religions seem like a bigoted, small minded group of saps (this is also my gripe with the Creationist groups); especially because the opposite is true. Christianity in general – and Catholicism in particular – are a sure road to the things that matter most in life: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Peace, Joy, Love….God. We are all called to holiness, to grow to be the best versions of our selves we can be, to be conformed to love and the image of Christ Jesus. Phelps is NOT helping the cause. I don’t know why he thinks what he is doing is working, but anyone can clearly see that it is not.
UPDATE: I’ve gotten a lot of hits on this particular topic, and felt it would be a fair place to re-direct people curious about such “back-wards” thinking as to some of the reasons that I (and moreover the Church) feels that Homosexuality is disordered, and is also the natural fruits of any culture which accepts contraception as a good. See here.
Also, you might reading this book.
I’ll try to respond to comments soon…