Some people argue that the best way to handle the ever-present, ever-protesting members of the Westboro Baptist Church is to ignore them.
That sounds sensible. I just canâ€™t do it.
The truth is, I find Fred Phelps and his congregation fascinating. I get that theyâ€™re among the worldâ€™s biggest media whores â€” they could even give Donald Trump pointers â€” and will push any boundary for attention. Yet, they still manage to surprise me.
Like just recently, when they journeyed to North Carolina. Since Westboroâ€™s religious creed is God Hates Fags and since North Carolina passed the anti-gay Amendment One, a person might assume the Phelpsians visited the Tar Heel State simply to sniff the heady air of bigotry victorious.
Thatâ€™s not the Westboro way. North Carolinians donâ€™t want gays to marry; Westboro members donâ€™t want gays to live.
So, they went to North Carolina to do what they always do, stage a protest. Their target was obvious, a man famous for supporting gay rights, a man who practically bleeds rainbow colors.
The elder statesman of Christian evangelism a friend of gays? Right. And, Billyâ€™s son and heir Franklin is a part-time imam.
While Graham has taken fewer political stances in his career than, say, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, he jumped into the Amendment One battle.
â€śAt 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,â€ť Graham wrote in an ad that ran in newspapers around North Carolina. â€śThe Bible is clear â€” Godâ€™s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8.â€ť
Yup, heâ€™s on our side, all right. Downright ready to head up a PFLAG chapter.
So why, if Westboro and Graham are anti-gay bedfellows, did the Phelpsians protest Graham? Because the reverend isnâ€™t anti-gay enough. Westboro has high standards.
About a dozen church members picketed the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and other Graham-centric locations. On Westboroâ€™s website, according to WBTV, the church said Graham should use his influence to tell the world â€śitâ€™s not okay to be a fag, itâ€™s not okay to divorce and remarry, itâ€™s not okay to fornicate, itâ€™s not okay to kill your babies.â€ť
The man is 93. How can he be expected to remember all that?
Protester Paulette Phelps told the Asheville Citizen-Times that Graham cares more for money and power than preaching Godâ€™s truth. â€śThe true Gospel says if you donâ€™t obey, youâ€™re going to perish. There are consequences for not obeying. Homosexuality is all bad, all day.â€ť
She makes it sound like a radio format.
Either Paulette or another Phelps â€” because most church members are related â€” held a sign reading â€śGod H8S Billyâ€™s Cow.â€ť
I was baffled as to why God would hate dairy products, unless heâ€™s lactose intolerant, but it turned out that a â€śtalkingâ€ť cow offers stories and songs to young library visitors.
All part of Grahamâ€™s money-grubbing, claimed the Phelpsians, who asked, â€śHow many children can you lead to Satan through Bessie the talking cow?â€ť
I guess that depends on the quality of Bessieâ€™s stories and songs.
Only after Iâ€™d ruminated over Westboroâ€™s attack on Billy Graham did I remember that this isnâ€™t the first time the cult has targeted a prominent evangelical. In 2007, these folks protested at Jerry Falwellâ€™s funeral, in part because of Falwellâ€™s warmth toward gays.
Yes, Falwell adored us.
How could I forget they protested him? Because their reasoning is so bizarre I can barely wrap my mind around it. But, I wonâ€™t forget again. When Pat Robertson dies, Iâ€™ll expect the Phelpsians to picket his funeral. Since Robertson has always overflowed with love for gay people. : :
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