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If you wanted to be a Westboro rebel, then you should've been a Baby Boomer

by Jeremy Hooper

Shirley-MirrorEarlier this week, after reading an article about one of Westboro Baptist's young charges, Jacob Phelps, this writer sent an email to WBC doyenne Shirley Phelps-Roper to see how her family would react if one of their flock came out as gay. Unsurprisingly, she assured me that that person would be kicked out:

"...if there is any among us that is not walking orderly on ANY front – forget fag – on ANY front – we daily, hourly are calling upon our God to show the face of any misconduct, and our God is faithful (also, in the midst of the execution of his judgment, his beloved called him great and terrible and also dreadful) and he keeps covenant and mercy with them that love him and that keep his commandments. So he is faithful to show us what we ask him. And every person that is a rebel in our midst will be unearthed (or HAS been unearthed), and they will be (or have been already) OUT!"

This response got me to thinking: "Hey, didn't Shirley herself have a child out of wedlock? Why was that standard not applied to her act of apparent "rebellion"? And why wasn't she kicked out?"

So I proceeded to pose those very questions to Shirley, assuring her that my questions were sincere. What follows is the conversation that proceeded to play out. See what you think about the family's seemingly changing standard:

8/6, 12:40 PM
Hey Jeremy –

This is Megan, one of Shirley’s daughters. I was going through my mom’s e-mail, because she left for a four-day trip to San Antonio. I was going to leave this for her, but then wanted to answer you myself.

Your question is fine, and here is the answer: “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18.

The people of God are not distinguished from the people of this world by the fact that they’re sinless; no human is without sin (Romans 3:23). The elect are distinguished by the fact that they strive against sin, rather than giving themselves over to it. In other words, when they get understanding (light) on an issue, they don’t return to their former ways of thinking and behaving (darkness). That is willful sinning, and leads you into great peril. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” Heb 10:26-27. If my mom had hardened her neck and insisted that she was going to live out her days in direct defiance of God’s plain standard, she would have been excluded. There is no forgiveness without repentance. But God had mercy on her and on us, and gave her repentance, and she put away that sin!

Our God has brought this church through many experiences since its inception, each one designed to edify the body of believers and to teach them a thing; it is the very picture of the Proverbs verse I put in bold above. WBC has much more light today than they did when my mom was younger, and there is a huge amount of learning, teaching, reading, studying, etc. that goes on for every single person that pertains to this church. Therefore, if I were to do today what my mom did thirty years ago, in the face of all the light that I have, I would be that person that sins willfully after having received the knowledge of the truth, and would have only “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” No one in this church would be able to truthfully say, “I didn’t know the standard,” or “I didn’t understand what would happen when I started down that path” – because our parents and elders taught us daily, hourly, how we ought to be living according to the Scriptures! Here’s the verse: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:15.

While these standards were taught at WBC from the beginning, some were not applied as we now see that they must be applied according to the Scriptures. The people in this church strove against sin as best they could with the light that they had. It is by the grace of God and through careful, diligent, continuous study of the word of God that we have much better understanding of how we ought to live our lives. Our God is merciful to forgive His people, and He promised that the Spirit of truth would guide us into all truth (John 16:13) – and that is what we ask Him to do.

Here’s where we are today: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” 2 Peter 3:11-12.


8/6, 9:33PM
Hmm, I don't know, Megan. That "light they had vs. light you have" logic seems a little too convenient to me. And frankly, I'm a bit surprised by it.

But thanks for the candid response. I'll probably do something on it tomorrow morning.

Nice connecting with you. Be well.

8/7, 11:44AM
Oh, don’t misunderstand - the standard on that issue was as clear to my mom then as it is now; who doesn’t know that fornication is wrong? My point wasn’t that she had an excuse; my point was that today we have even more light than they did then, which makes any willful sinning of ours far more grievous; that when you have waffling standards or ones that aren’t consistently applied, it’s much easier to comfort yourself into thinking you can do what you want without consequence, or that there are exceptions to plain standards. I was simply saying that that has changed; there are no inconsistent standards, or equivocating as to what our duty is at this hour. Our God has caused us to see our own foolishness and misconduct and to put it away – that’s the only important thing: when you know you’ve done wrong and sinned against God, are you going to put it away and repent? She did. She’s taught us better. The end.

By the way, this whole conversation condemns your own willful sinning. You obviously see that what you’re doing is a sin, but you don’t repent. You obviously see the issue here: what’s your excuse?
8/7, 11:53AM

I've never purported to answer to your standards, Megan (which I know you reject, which is ur right). But you and your family do certainly have a set of standards. And I did, do, and will likely continue to see this reasoning [as being] a little too convenient. I get what you're saying: I just find it uncharacteristically mendacious in terms of your standard and the application thereof.

But again, thanks for the candor.

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Your thoughts

I don't understand, how did she "turn away" from it? She got married? And what, proceeded to show the world how incredibly sex crazed she is by having like 374994 kids?

Isn't "lust" a sin? Maybe that was Shirley's sin...and then by getting married she could justify it as being a good wife, when in reality, she's just a major nympho trying to make it okay in the eyes of WBC after she got knocked up and caught. "Just a couple kids who wanna f*ck trying to make it honest! I get it!" (Wedding Crashers).

Also, regarding the article about the possible 'mo in the family, I wouldn't be surprised. Shirl's brood ain't a pack of WBC angels. Remember Josh, the outcast? He lives with his wife and child (he got his college gf pregnant, then got married, he's very happy with his family now andhis son is ADORABLE) and is basically banished from the family. I know for a fact he is dying to reconnect with his sibs again, but I think the older WBC crazies are putting a kibash on it.

I've seen Megan on the Tyra Banks show before. She's actually ADORABLE looks wise, she's missing out on a whole lot of normal teen opportunities, which is sad. Hopefully one day the kids will get away from the brain washing, but it's doubtful. It must be hard living with that much hostility in your life...day in and day out.

Posted by: Stef | Aug 7, 2009 3:53:04 PM

I could totally see Shirl as some knocked-up, free-lovin, hippy-dippy, skanky chick. That is, except for the affinity she now seems to have for her (possibly hallucinogenically derived from an acid flashback) wickedly maniacal, human torturing, mass murdering deity that makes Attila the Hun, Hitler, Manson and every other despicable cretin that has walked the earth look like a boyscouts.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Aug 7, 2009 4:09:26 PM

It's sort of disheartening really. In a country where you have the freedom to choose to worship any God you want, or no God at all, people will still opt to worship a sadist-and act like one as well.
And I tried to follow the chain of logic in Megan's answer, but it just didn't make any sense: before it was wrong, but forgivable, now it isn't?
Try this: 30 years ago, the family didn't have public image to uphold as a bunch of Holier-Than-Thou Douchebags. Now that they're camera hogs who live to get attention wherever they go, they have a public image to maintain, and it's so vitally important to give the illusion of moral perfection that anyone who falls short of it has to go.
They can parrot all the Biblespeak they want, but at the end of they day, they're still a bunch of misanthropic, self-centered assholes.

Posted by: Bill S | Aug 7, 2009 4:31:23 PM

There's a follow-up question I would really like to ask if I ever had the opportunity to have a similar conversation with Shirley (or someone speaking on her behalf). I realize Shirley was never married to the father of her oldest child, but isn't it a sin akin to divorce to be with a man other than the father of your child? I know that her husband has helped raise her son, and as a strong believer in adoption I find that commendable. But there seems to be some inconsistency here, particularly given their harsh rhetoric concerning both "fornication" and divorce. Even if Shirley has repented what she believes to have been a sin (despite the fact that if she had not sinned, she would not have her son), isn't it also an ongoing sin not to be with the father of that child?

Thank you for printing your fascinating conversation with Megan. As abhorrent as I find many aspects of both their actions and their beliefs, the members of the WBC are still human beings, and I find it much more constructive to engage them in an honest dialog than to try to out-insult or out-shout them.

Posted by: Rachel Snyder | Aug 7, 2009 6:51:03 PM

OMG I wonder just how many beatings, nights without food, and other torture that this kid had to endure to spew out this trivial horse shit?

It is as if you got an answer from a robot and not a human which proves to all once again that religious fanatics are brainwashed, unintelligent people who have turned to this because they are obviously too fragile for regular life in the real world.

Totally pathetic.

Posted by: labrat78 | Aug 7, 2009 7:41:36 PM

Do you think we should be giving members of WBC a platform? Doesn't it legitimize them? There are many opponents of gay rights with whom we should be openly engaging in debate. WBC is not on that list. I think it's a bit like discussing the racial aspects of the Prof. Gates arrest with members of the KKK.

Posted by: Steve | Aug 8, 2009 11:20:43 AM

Steve: The "should we cover Westboro?" question pops up all the time. Some choose to ignore, others highlight the extremism. Both approaches are valid.

This site tends to fall in the latter category, under the belief that attention, calm dialogue, gentle ribbing, reasoned refutation, etc. are productive. In moderation. When I have a genuine question for Shirley, I don't speculate -- I flat out ask it. She (or her children) answer frankly. This is an example of that.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Aug 8, 2009 11:30:56 AM

Rachel: Westboro tends to see these threads. So maybe a member will answer your question.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Aug 8, 2009 11:32:49 AM

Shirley would have made a good biker chick, wouldn't she! I cculd totally see her covered in tats and sans a couple of teeth. And, she's already got most of the 'tude and vernacular down!

Posted by: Dick Mills | Aug 8, 2009 6:44:30 PM

An Eskimo once asked a missionary "If I didn't know about God and sin, I would not go to hell?" The missionary replied, "Yes, if you did not know, you would not go to hell." The Eskimo in reply asked, "Then, why did you tell me?"

Posted by: Owen | Aug 9, 2009 11:12:50 AM

Nice vocabulary Jeremy

Posted by: Jake | Aug 9, 2009 1:54:40 PM

I don't get these people. It would be more logical to say that they would accept a gay member as long as s/he did not act upon, like so many of the other right wing churches do. I think that is mean too, but at least it has a certain logic to it.

Posted by: matthew | Aug 9, 2009 5:04:26 PM

You're expecting LOGIC from these people? They're convinced America is "doomed" but don't seem to have any inclination to leave. They believe God already made up his mind about who's saved and who isn't, but still stand around waving signs and screeching at people. They can't even grasp that the reason people despise them isn't because of their "righteousness" but because they're a bunch of mean-spirited assholes. Nothing about them is logical.

Posted by: Bill S | Aug 9, 2009 6:12:04 PM

Excuse me? Sin, Get forgiven, Sin get forgiven. Sin, Get forgiven. Seems like a stupid way to live. I hope these idiots don't think the rest of us are going to give up our Constitutional rights for their version of a theocracy. It's then I will take up arms and defend my country.

Posted by: Michael | Aug 10, 2009 3:53:08 PM

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