Further to my earlier post – result. Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper (his daughter) have been banned from entering the United Kingdom. It’s good news, but not great – actually, as the Westboro website (I refuse to use the words ‘Baptist’ or ‘Church’ since the Phelps’s appropriation them demeans all other institutions with the same title) was making clear earlier today, they never intended to send Phelps over anyway, saying that it would be ‘sending our pastor […] into a lions’ den’ (warning – the site is written by crazy bigots and is full of hatespeech). Also, my God, the Phelps clan use smilies. SMILIES. SMILIES AMIDST THE HATE. Do they have mouse-trails made of sparkly kittens? Do the Phelps children have Myspaces with pink backgrounds and winking, glitzy avatars? Is irony dead?
Um, yes. At least in poor Shirley Phelps-Roper’s world. From the BBC article —
Mrs Phelps-Roper told BBC News Online the decision would “bring great wrath upon your heads”.
I do feel sorry for her, really. Sorrier for all the innocent people of all faiths and none that the Westboro mob have hurt over the years, but still sorry for this woman (by her siblings’ account an abused child) who just cannot be happy. I don’t see how any ‘faith’ that preaches so much hate and violence – the antithesis of what Christianity & Jesus Christ is meant to be about – can bring anyone any peace or happiness or grace.
What Westboro says is appalling, but it’d be so much worse if we believed it. The thing is, Phelps isn’t right about homosexuality and God, or America and God, or anything and God, and we know this; we all know this. Even if sometimes we have scared moments about our own status before God, if we apply Phelps’s logic to our friends or our lovers or anyone we know, we judge, you know, less harshly and with more love and common sense than we judge ourselves. We know this guy is wrong. Sane quiet readers of the gospels, and anyone who listens to the still small voice of calm – not the world, not hysterical ranting fundies, not anything, we don’t need anything to know – knows that Jesus would never, ever, ever have been a homophobe, have been anti-gay, have, ABOVE ALL, wanted us to worry about this. He would never have wanted us to waste a moment of our lives worrying about this, because he made us (all of us) in his image. I think it goes beyond religion – the ‘still small voice of calm’ doesn’t need to be about God, only your own conscience, whatever name or word a person gives to their own sense of determining what is right.
I do believe that dangerous and hateful people like Phelps – of all faiths and none – will eventually disappear. I do so wish he could be stopped by something more immediate than the steady and unturnable tide of human goodness and intelligence (and again: of all faiths and wrong), but he’s wrong, and I know he’s wrong, and he has no real power as it is. And given the sway that similar vile and despotic views on human life have held and could hold, I can only say, thank God for small mercies.
Disclaimer: I don’t talk very much about my faith in real life. The incoherence of this post (first written, in part, for another audience and about another nutjob) should tell you why. Be gentle.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.