One Veteran's Voice

21 May 2006

God Hates Fags, Bourbon Street, Abortion, the Iraq War, Soldiers, and YOU!


Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. is the spiritual leader of a small church in Topeka, Kansas. During the 60's he was a civil rights attorney, advocating on behalf of blacks. Inexplicably, he now spends his time protesting the funerals of American servicemembers killed in the War on Terror, asserting that their deaths are divine retribution for the American military's morally ambiguous "Don't ask, Don't Tell" policy towards homosexuality. At the funerals, church members hold signs proclaiming "God Hates Your Tears," "Thank God For Dead Soldiers," "God is America's Terror," "Thank God For 9/11," and "God is Your Enemy," among others. Increasingly, Phelps' church has been met by overwhelming numbers of counterprotesters, a group of motorcyclists calling themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, who block the pickets from being seen by funeral goers.
"At that service for Staff Sgt. Mark A. Wall, who died April 27 of a heart attack in Iraq, riders formed a line in front of the protesters and kept their backs to them. When members of the church group started to sing a doctored version of 'God Bless America,' some riders revved their bike engines."
The protests have led various state legislatures to adopt laws restricting the right of people to picket funerals. Many experts in constitutional law warn that, when challenged, the laws won't hold up in court.
"'Our position is that you don't honor fallen heroes by trampling on the constitution that they swore to uphold,' said Marv Johnson, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union."
As someone who values civil liberties, I have my own reservations about laws restricting protest, but my tolerance has its limits. Phelps incenses me, which means he wins, I suppose, but screw it-- some people need to be rubbed out. People like Osama. People like Pastor Phelps.

Legal Disclaimer-- I do not advocate violence against anyone whom the government does not.


Being a former soldier, I abhor Pastor Phelps' message. It strikes a deeply personal chord and tests the limits of my restraint. The Christian thing to do would be to show only Christ's love and forgiveness to the Pastor and his misguided flock, all of whom seem to have forgotten that fundamental aspect of their religion.

But as I've said here before, I'm not a Christian. I believe in extending the olive branch until the other guy extends the sword, at which point the hand behind my back hiding the sword swings into action and cuts down the other guy before he can cut me. But Phelps hasn't resorted to violence, just preaches it, and so we, who claim to be a free society where such civil liberties are protected, must allow Phelps to continue to exist and protest, even if he disgusts us. Despite the lessons I learned in Iraq, I am still (somewhat) civilized, and resolved to use physical violence only to defend myself from the same. My days of killing for ideology are over. Sometimes I wonder if I was shooting at the wrong color religious wackjobs when I was an ideological killer-for-hire. Maybe I should've concentrated my efforts on the homefront. Too late now--damn humanistic morality compelling me not to kill--always making life complicated. I guess it's easier to blame the fags. It's definitely easy to blame Phelps. Hating dead soldiers isn't too popular these days.

After the rage subsides, I think about the recent statements of other, more respected, American fundamentalists:
Katrina gave us a preview of what America would look like if we fail to fight the war on terror. "Did God have anything to do with Katrina?," people ask. My answer is, he allowed it and perhaps he allowed it to get our attention so that we don't delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is put things back the way they were and life will be normal again.

~Charles Colson, former Nixon special-counsel and radio commentator

It seems clear that the prophetic times I have been expecting for decades have finally arrived. And even worse, it appears that the judgment of America has begun. I warn continually that the last days lineup of world powers does not include anything resembling the United States of America. Instead, a revived Roman Empire in Europe is to rule the West, and then the world.

~Hal Lindsey

But have we found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected in some way? And he goes down the list of the things that God says will cause a nation to lose its possession, and to be vomited out. And the amazing thing is, a judge has now got to say, "I will support the wholesale slaughter of innocent children" in order to get confirmed to the bench. And I am sure Judge Roberts is not going to say any such thing. But nevertheless, that's the litmus test that's being put on, the very thing that could endanger our nation. And it's very interesting. Read the bible, read Leviticus, see what it says there.

~Pat Robertson
These assertions are, unlike those of Fred Phelps, believed by millions of god-fearing American Christians. Reading God's mind and interpreting His will isn't entirely confined to the right wing, either.
And as we think about rebuilding New Orleans, surely God is mad at America, he's sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane and it's destroying and putting stress on this country. Surely he's not approving of us being in Iraq under false pretense. But surely he's upset at black America, also. We're not taking care of ourselves...
We ask black people: it's time. It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans...This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be.

~Recently re-elected Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin
In a strictly logical sense, a sense the faithful don't seem to exercise, Phelps, who identifies the death of Americans in battle as proof of God's disapproval of our military's policy towards homosexuals, is on the same tenuous ground as Nagin, who identifies Katrina as proof of God's disapproval of an immoral war in Iraq, or Robertson, who identifies the same event as proof of God's wrath against legalized abortion. The men who advance these views all claim to know the will of God. Fred Phelps is really no different from Pat Robertson, he's just more in your face. The proof of God's wrath identified by Phelps, dead soldiers, is simply more narrowly defined (and politically unpopular) than Robertson's, which includes entire cities and nations as being potential targets of God's wrath. The premise of these fallacious religio-historical arguments is always the same-- God is angry, I know why, and the proof is [insert catastrophe here].

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their [the clergy's] hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

A portion of this statement (not the part specifically identifying the clergy, of course) is inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial, and the phrase, "sworn upon the altar of God," has been taken literally by conspiracy theorists eager to prove that Jefferson was a member of one of the free-thinking secret societies existent during his day-- all interesting tidbits to consider when religious conservatives invoke the memory of Jefferson and the other founding fathers to justify theocracy. An especially ironic coincidence is Jefferson's choice of the word "abortion" to describe the destruction of the clergy's hopes for an American theocracy. Now, abortion is the great political rally point for Christian fundamentalists desirous to impose theocracy.

Like Jefferson, I hope for the speedy return of our country's good sense. This November, Karl Rove and the GOP will attempt to mobilize Christian fundamentalists with homophobic ballot initiatives that seek to prohibit gay marriage and adoption. I know how Fred Phelps will vote. I know how Pat Robertson will vote. They believe that a vote to allow gay marriage is a vote for immorality, a vote that justifies a vengeful God eager to smite down this country with hurricanes and dead soldiers. If you're a fence sitter, like me, on the issue of whether homosexuality is a result of nature, nurture, or some combination-- consider if you can afford to be a fence sitter when it comes to the more relevant issue of gay rights. Will you vote with Fred Phelps and the other tyrants of the mind, or will you assert your American right to overthrow tyranny in all its forms?

Further Reading:
Behind their hate, a constitutional debate
Riders Shield Military Families
Funeral Protests Force Free Speech Debate
Religious conservatives claim Katrina was God's omen, punishment for the United States
Transcript of Nagin's speech

11 Other Voices:

ThePoetryMan said...

Wow... I hope you do not mind me using the picture for a collage on Poetic Justice... I find these tyoes of people holding these types of signs protesting for the benefit of their imaginary convictions to be rather sickening! I loved your write up on the "God hates..." factor. Stay safe, my friend...

Peace.

5/22/2006 08:46:31 AM  
Elmo said...

Pastor Phelp's followers, just like the flag burners, are ignorant fools. But we fight for their freedoms too. Nothing is stopping us from protesting their protests and exposing their foolishness. However, if we deny their voice with law, we start down the slippery slop of tyranny.

That said...I would like to smash the fuckers face in.

5/22/2006 11:38:01 AM  
Bryan D. Catherman said...

I saw a news bit about this guy and people like him. I too believe our system of government should protect freedom of thought and speech, but when that freedom leaps this far beyond the line of respect, especially for a dead veteran, we must draw the line. I joined the Patriot Guard Riders. (http://www.patriotguard.org/) I'm happy to put myself and my motorcycle to better use.

5/22/2006 09:55:28 PM  
Closet Door Dissident said...

No Jew ever asked you if you ever met Moses...
No Buddhist ever asked you if you if you met Buddha...
No Communist ever asked you if you met Lenin.

WHY.....are Christians asking that question. Are they that insecure in their beliefs? The pictures of the protesters appear to be dumb ass, Wal Mart-shopping/walmart-working rednecks. Apparently, someone has nothing better to do than to seek attention and use GOD as a poorly placed name dropper to blame people for their problems.

Anyone who forces their beliefs on others, like the pastor, is insecure in their own beliefs. It is their insecurity, as well as their inability to think outside of their own Wal Mart world, that is the true enemy of freedom, the very enemy that caused Bush to be elected 2x, and cause the great disasters of the past 6 years.

Well, I am generally agnostic...but GOD save us all from those religious fanatics.

5/22/2006 11:28:31 PM  
ThePoetryMan said...

I morphed the picture and added a poem and linked back to "One Veteran's Voice."

I heard about the VA breach! Hope all goes well with that and nothing is used for nefarious purposes. My wife works for the VA and she was upset for the vets!
Peace.

5/23/2006 01:13:41 AM  
BadTux said...

The state of Arizona outlaws picketing in residential areas, holding that there is no public purpose served by doing so, i.e., it's pure harassment. The Supremes noted that there's plenty of public places where people can protest if they want to make their views known, and that picketing on a residential street with only a dozen homeowners as the potential audience hardly qualifies as such.

It could be said that the same holds when it comes to funerals. Unless it is a public event, picketing at a funeral serves no public purpose. It does not educate people beyond the few who are attending. All it serves as is harrassment.

I'm not sure whether that argument is a good one, but it is an argument that can, and perhaps should, be made.

- BadTux the Law Penguin

5/25/2006 01:21:56 PM  
One Salient Oversight said...

As an Evangelical I am constantly struggling with my anger towards people like Phelps and company for their stupidity.

When it comes to the alleged "Cause and effect" behaviour of God, I absolutely concur with your opinion.

Cause: The homosexuals are trying to take over America.
Effect: God sends planes into the World Trade Center.

Cause: The liberals are trying to get more of "their" people into the Supreme Court.
Effect: God sends Hurricane Katrina.

What a load of garbage! If you follow that logic then Atheist/Liberal Europe should be covered with terrorists blowing up buildings and hurricanes wrecking everything.

The Bible does talk about the Cause and Effect nature of sin and God's judgement - that's true. But there is nothing there to justify believing that if America does X then God will do Y.

I wish these clowns would actually read the Bible.

5/26/2006 07:18:36 AM  
Roger The Okcitykid said...

That's an excellent post. I agree, I don't like Phelps either, I'd like to punch him in the nose. But I say, let him protest, just let me punch him in the nose.

5/31/2006 02:58:02 PM  
Puma said...

I highly, highly recommend reading a little Joe Bageant, most particularly, The Revenge of the Mutt People, What The Left Behind Series Really Means, and Poor, White, and Pissed. Actually, read all of his essays :)

5/31/2006 06:38:06 PM  
Charon said...

Here a good scourging for Phelps and his ilk.


Station Charon

6/09/2006 05:31:18 PM  
gonzosports said...

That Thomas Jefferson quotation is absolutely fantastic, as is this blog.

Being a hardcore liberal who has opposed this war from day one, and also being from a military family, who will support the members of the military every chance he gets...it's refreshing to see a blog that isn't scared of critical analysis and is also honest.

Anyway. Phelps. I think one of those guys has a fanny pack. 'Nuff said.

6/16/2006 02:32:13 AM  

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