A few days ago, I blogged my thoughts on Gaymercon, and made a reference to the Westboro Baptist Church. Little did I know that on the same day, it was confirmed that Westboro really are planning to boycott, almost a year in advance. What a coincidence! Rebekah Phelps-Roper posted on twitter that the Church had found “What we’ve all been longing for: a fag-focused gaming convention!” and that it was “just another forum for fags to push their crap!” with the hashtag ‘MustPicket’ (I’m sure that’s quite popular in the search engine). She made these tweets from an iOS device, just like she did to announce picketing the funeral of Steve Jobs some time ago. Thanks for giving cash to a pro-LGBT company, Reb! You go girl!
Rebekah included a link to a video by a lesser member of WBC, Charles Hockenbarger, who decried Gaymercon as “yet another area of life where fag filth is intentionally called out and crammed down our throats.” Charles must clearly have forgotten all the games featuring LGBT characters and that Fred probably thinks video games are the creation of the devil, just like everything else that isn’t his vapid flock. I was rather annoyed to find Pastor Fred Phelps hadn’t starred in the video himself, as Fred is a lot easier to laugh at while baked drunk in any state whatsoever.
History of Hate
For those not in the know, Westboro Baptist Church, more commonly recognised as the God Hates Fags people, have been protesting for several years, hanging around outside events singing parody songs and waving signs with remarks such as “God Hates Fags”, “Fags Die, God Laughs” and “Thank God for 9/11”. Other targets of the signs include Desmond Tutu, princess Diana and Barack Obama, who they believe is The Antichrist. Guess they messed up all those years ago when they called Clinton the same thing. They believe the most horrible of diseases, particularly AIDS and cancer, are divine retribution which God uses to kill the sinful. Looks like Fred forgot his mum died of throat cancer.
The hyper-Calvinist fundie founder, Fred Phelps, used to be a civil rights lawyer (yes) before he was disbarred from legal practice for generally being a bit of a dick in court. He had used his position to further personal agendas, send libellous faxes about community members and other judges, exploit civil rights cases to suckle money from others (going so far as to try and get a $100,000 disfigurement settlement for a bruise the size of a coin). His biggest cases were settled out-of-court for cash sums in which he got the lion’s share, while he had his children sell candy he never paid for (in between marathon runs, fad diets, four hour sleep schedules and beatings, of course) and sold a pram to a childless, illiterate black couple. What a hero!
Now the church is run off donations from its members (made up mostly of the remaining members of Fred’s extended family, thanks to his unusually active loins siring 13 kids) and income generated from the family, all educated as lawyers, counter-suing anyone who tries to bite back by manipulating the law thrice as much as they manipulate scripture. They have been America’s greatest test of the strength of its First Amendment (the most well-known case being Phelps VS Snyder]), and have been banned from entering the United Kingdom. Hell, even the Ku Klux Klan thinks they’re a bit too mean.
Fred, cut off from all mainstream churches, has been campaigning and picketing for decades, protesting the funerals of AIDS victims and the openly gay since the nineties. The Church rose to fame when it started picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in service, or ‘fag-enablers’ as the members call them. This has resulted in the WBC being scorned by Christians left and right, despite the fact they were pretty silent about harassing the bereaved as long as they were the family of gay civilians. In recent years they’ve taken to picketing concerts and other events (not even Comic-con is sacred), often encouraging vigilante responses and counter-protests from the Patriot Guard Riders and, on one occasion, the Foo Fighters. The cult is now lead mainly by daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Margie Phelps, while Fred senior (now 88) stays at home in Topeka, partly for his own safety, and partly to perfect his autofellatio and wife-beating techniques while everyone else is out of the house.
If you want to know more about the unhinged loonies, then there’s a wealth of material. Several short interviews from amateurs (atheist vlogger Thunderf00t among them) are up on Youtube, as are clips of them appearing on television (the Jeremy Kyle one being my favourite, owing mainly to the fact it’s the only episode of the show that didn’t involve a DNA test). Nate Phelps, runaway son, has given interviews and speeches on his upbringing (Leaving Hate Behind stands out), like other disowned family members. A series of recollections called Addicted to Hate, once presented in court against Fred, can be read online, going into great detail about the zany pastor. And of course, there’s the (in?)famous documentaries by the BBC’s Louis Theroux, The Most Hated Family in America and America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis, the follow-up that shows the clan beginning to fall apart.
So what’s this got to do with Gaymercon again?
One of the main concerns I raised in my post about Gaymercon revolved around the fear that divisions in the LGBT community could sour the experience. As disgusting as Westboro Baptist Church are, they are their own worst enemy. If anything, they show the ugly truth of religiously-motivated anti-gay hatred rather than strengthen it. Wherever they turn up, they’re turned on – sometimes with jokey counter-protest signs, others with being chased back to the gas-guzzling 4x4s from which they and their spiritually malformed spawn crawled (once with slashed tires). Westboro will give Gaymercon attendees someone to laugh at, then walk away from united.
It must be admitted that first contact with the hate group and their webshites can be upsetting. When faced with the protestors themselves, the harmonious dichotomy is terrifying. Beaming, convinced, smiling lips spout “You’re going to hell, fag-enabler”. Children of preschool age sing God Hates the World in chirping, innocent voices. The most stupid and hateful of ideas come from the calmest of people. The cult members have been brainwashed beyond all understanding. I myself have gone through a phase lasting months of digging up almost anything I could find on them, to the point of it scaring me. I’m just now coming to terms with the full extent of my disgust at Phelps’ lackeys. However, a shared community spirit, a counter-protest, and resolving whispers of “You’re not alone” will turn Westboro’s attendance from a danger to mental health into a laughing stock.
For the first time, I’m glad Westboro are around. They will, as they always have in recent years, serve only to turn the world against them. Counter-protesting these people is something that’s on my bucket list, and with this turn of events I’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone at Gaymercon. I can’t wait to wave a ‘God Hates Lag’ sign in a laughing crowd while, Cthulhu willing, I swap saliva with a fellow-minded geek guy when Fred Phelps’ church cult indoctrination clinic travelling lunatic asylum head to San Francisco in 2013!