Fred Phelps: The Symptom of our Sickness

 “I’ll explain, and I’ll be sure to use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand. You wart-hog-faced-buffoon!”

– The Princess Bride

Buffoons have their place, but they shouldn’t. They contribute nothing but noise and, accomplished only in the art of the obnoxious, they pass gas and call it an insight. They both earn and love our contempt; they’re revolting. So when they exit, tears are hardly expected.

Fred Phelps, founder and head buffoon of the Westboro Baptist God-Hates-Fags cult, has exited, and tears are few. His notoriety was achieved through a putrid combination of street theater and sadism, as he and his small following of family members picketed the funerals of AIDs patients and American soldiers, hoisting signs that celebrated the deaths being mourned as good, even delightful.  No one was spared his bile, neither the parents of openly gay Matthew Shepherd, whose murder Phelps made an industry out of, nor the families of innocent children gunned down by a madman in an Amish school.  The guy was, in true satanic form, an equal opportunity tormentor.

Two days ago he went to meet his Maker whom he never represented and, quite possibly, never knew. I cannot say rest in peace. I’ll only say God’s will be done.

But enough about him, because he’s not the problem. We are. If there was no audience there’d be no buffoon, because without the court, where would the court jester be? He needs attention like the floating balloon needs helium. Drain the helium and the balloon shrinks, fizzles, falls. So if you don’t like the buffoon, blame the public, not him, because they’re the ones who keep him going.

And why they keep him going, who knows? Maybe buffoons make us feel better about ourselves. Next to their childish zaniness we look pretty good, so comparing myself to Phelps is like standing shirtless next to Jackie Gleason – I’ll come out looking OK, but I really should set my sights a little higher.

Or maybe it’s the buffoon’s entertainment value. Extremism is, after all, profitable. The more virulent Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin, Charlie Sheen or Sean Penn get, the louder the crowd shouts “More!” And the political/social Right can be as guilty as the Left, so I’ll reluctantly note how off the charts Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly can get, too. The more extreme, the higher the ratings, or so it seems from where I’m sitting. We still sit up and take notice when someone yells “Fight!”, just as we did in junior high school, which says more about us than the fighters.

But noise isn’t leadership; volume isn’t wisdom; and a man’s boisterousness hardly qualifies him as a shepherd worth following. It’s up to the public to discern and appreciate the difference. So if my television is tuned to Jerry Springer more than Masterpiece Theater, can you really blame Springer? The sickness is our penchant for outrageous entertainment; the entertainment itself is just the symptom.

And the cure was prescribed when Paul urged the Phillipians to think on those things that are “true, honest,  just, pure, lovely, or of good report.” (Phillippians 4:8) So if there’s a takeaway lesson from the life and death of this strange, sad man, I’d say it’s that we make celebreties of buffoons and, conversely, we can choose to unmake them. I dream of an America where grace, intelligence, industry, kindness and beauty will advance a person’s career, while repulsive words and actions
abort it.

I’m not holding my breath; only the Lord’s coming will usher in the truest beauty. Meanwhile, when the buffoon sells his wares and himself in the public square, I can choose to turn away, keep walking, change the channel.

I can’t stop the sickness. But I surely don’t have to feed it.

Hope we’re all feeding the right things this weekend. God bless. Thanks for
being here.




Ann* | Mar 22, 2014

Surely appreciated this Joe. A pure mind thinking on what's great feels really good. -I wonder what God's Mind feels like?! HE must feel Wonderful!

Julie | Mar 22, 2014

While I understand your point here and much of its true...I can't agree on the Phelps thing. He went places shouting his hate where it could simply not be ignored. How could anyone attending a funeral, standing at a graveside where they were saying their last good byes to a loved one ignore him and his group shouting what they did? Those at a funeral shouldn't be forced to walk away in order to just ignore him...they shouldn't be robbed of that personal and deeply painful time...those last good byes. In situations like that, its not about changing the channel or walking away. This cult has intruded where they weren't wanted and had no business being but the law gave them that 'right' to intrude on us funeral goers rights. Its a wacky and unfair world we live in for sure!

But what they meant for evil God turned into something good. People in large numbers came together to block their 'protest'..their hateful posters and words so those attending a funeral could do so in peace. I am not even sure the last time this cult actually 'protested' anywhere. They threaten too alot but then always end up being a no show...though people still show up in large numbers to protect those grieving just in case they show up. They get enough 'media attention' they don't even have to show up anymore. :/ They have been very cunning in using the news media AND our own laws to do the things they do. They sue anyone they, use the money to travel and cause more problems (at least in the past they did).

Two things: it may be too that I am wrong and that they have given up actually going anywhere to protest because those rallying around them block them so well, they have become ineffective. The other never ever made one bit to sense to 'protest' at funeral. Protesting means you are against something..protesting a funeral would logically mean you are against death! Didn't want the person to die. But they never said that, nor did their signs say that..they weren't actually protesting anything..they were glad those people died! They see it as a punishment on us...well you know why. But they couldn't very well say we are going to a funeral to rejoice in the death of someone. :/ Peaceful protesting IS protected in our Constitution...which is why they used that terms to start with. They found and used a loop hole to try to hurt people. :(

In recent years people have pledged with the news media to stop covering them because it is feeding them..its like the saying goes, don't feed the troll. But the news never listened, they never will. They are part of the problem. People could stop watching the news sure, but 99.9% of the time the news isn't talking about Phelps or his cult and some of the stuff on the news we do need to know...

Thanks for all your hard work on here!
God bless

Add Comment