Op-ed: Time for Westboro to Close Up the Conspiracy Shop
Dear Fred Phelps and the whole gang down at the Westboro Baptist Church,
You guys, you know you really had us all fooled for a minute. Actually for a couple of decades, there! The creepy cult-like "church," the relentless picketing of innocent people's funerals, the insanely bad song parodies all presented us a false image. All this time we thought you really believed that God, everybody's guy in the sky, was super mad at LGBT people, our straight supporters, and the U.S. for slowly (and then really quickly) embracing equality.
Wait, where are my manners? I don't mean "gay" or "LGBT," I mean "fag," right? That's the term you wordsmiths use. Nonetheless, I'll go with gay or LGBT, since that's consistent with The Advocate's stylebook.
After your latest outrageous reaction, this time to the bombings in Boston, I had an epiphany. Immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing, the church tweeted, "In light of today's events, I must ask again: How is that fag marriage idea working out for you, America?!?! #oops!" The snipe was accompanied by a gruesome photograph of the bloodied street where the explosion went off. The three fatalities from the attack were caterer Krystle Campbell, graduate student Lingzi Lu, and 8-year-old Martin Richard, who watched on the sidelines with his family at one of the world's most prestigious races. At least 170 others were hospitalized or wounded, according to CNN.
Then, for a little double-double action, you announced plans to picket their funerals. While the FBI might be on the tails of the brothers accused of perpetrating this, old Phelpsy, with a wink and a nod, knows who really did this: "GOD SENT THE BOMBS IN FURY OVER FAG MARRIAGE. #PraiseGod," he wrote.
That’s when I realized: Who in their right mind — especially educated, well-traveled, attorneys of faith such as yourselves — could logically connect the dots between God's wrath over things like the state of Massachusetts legalizing same-sex marriage in 2003 and the Boston Marathon bombing a whole 10 years later? Ten years. I mean, the Bible doesn't exactly have date stamps in it, so maybe we're just not used to God's timing. Hey, who really knows how long those wild cities Sodom and Gommorah were partying like it's 1999 B.C.E. before it all came crashing down?
But then I realized, Hey, silly goose! The Westboro Baptist Church's claims are so illogical they are helping. Do Phelps and family realize they are actually really early LGBT rights activists? If they're sent on a mission by God, then maybe he’s in on it? Only a mastermind in the clouds could foresee that the gay rights movement actually would benefit from a visible target that was so vitriolic, idiotic, and full of hate that those un-gay people who irrationally hate us would see an extreme form of their own hate reflected back at them. Phew!
If any God really is on all this, it’s required a supernatural level of commitment to uphold this form of performance art through the decades. Looks like some of your former members, though, like Nate Phelps, Lauren Drain, and Libby Phelps Alvarez, could not stand holding those signs and being made to look like hateful buffoons.
Some of your grandest hits:
- After Hurricane Sandy, Shirley Phelps-Roper thanked God for the billions of dollars in destruction the storm brought to states supporting marriage equality. Even after Hurricane Katrina, you guys blamed the gays but also cheered: "It is a sin NOT to rejoice when God executes His wrath and vengeance on America. Pray for more dead bodies floating on the fag-semen-rancid waters of New Orleans." Kind of graphic, but it really gets the point across.
- Leaders from the church agreed not to picket the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was killed at a January 2011 shooting in Tucson, in exchange for airtime on radio and television. Savvy choices guys, since you still got to picket the other funerals, ensuring maximum disgust in reaction.
- The Westboro Baptist Church blamed gunman Adam Lanza's actions on Americans' acceptance of marriage equality right after the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. When Westboro announced plans to picket the funerals of the 26 dead, however, your darling website was hacked, and members of the hactivist collective Anonymous posted all of your accounts and phone numbers. That must have been an indication people were really, really deep in dislike for your message.
- Drain recalled in her memoir, Banished, that Freddy taught, "The September 11 attacks were God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality. Gays were the reason God was so angry. His judgement against them was evident everywhere, even if the ignorant couldn't connect the dots." Way to alienate an entire nation!
After all of these decades of nasty emails, faxes, letters, statements, tweets, demonstrations, and appearances on The Howard Stern Show, your God’s plan is finally working! We've repealed "don't ask, don't tell," LGBT people are starting to become better represented in the media (hell, we actually run a lot of media), kids are feeling more comfortable coming out at earlier ages, some states are recognizing marriages or at least partnerships of same-sex couples, and at some point soon, all of America will have full-on, legalized same-sex marriage. More people than ever before in the history of this country agree that marriage equality is the right thing to do. And guess what? Those poll numbers are only going to keep going up.
Really, there are countless ways in which LGBT rights have advanced since you picked up those first signs and picketed funerals of people who'd died of AIDS complications. Actually, how's that picketing thing going? From what we're seeing, more and more people come out every time to counterprotest you, so good work, guys! The other side is finally linking arms with us and skipping gayly under the rainbow of equality!
So, Westboro, I think it's time for you to put down those hideous signs. (Seriously, who is your designer? Fire that person, because they're really lacking depth, imagination, and the flair for color that our people are really good with.) Your God’s mission is accomplished! Seriously, though, make a scrapbook of all your accomplishments, because you're going to want to remember the time you helped the gay rights movement gain traction, unite against a common enemy, and fight for full equality from sea to shining sea.
MICHELLE GARCIA is the commentary editor for The Advocate. Westboro can reach Michelle with notes of praise and compliments on Twitter at @GarciaReporting.