Fred Phelps, the Poet January 12, 2010

Fred Phelps, the Poet

An essay in defense of “The Magnetic Poetry of Fred Phelps,” by Josh Garrett-Davis:

… it’s hard not to be drawn in by [Westboro Baptist Church’s] language, both as shocking, stifled-laugh comedy and as fight-picking. I can’t deny the appeal of a line like “For all eternity, Liz Taylor will be tormented with fire and brimstone, everlasting fire, eternal punishment, shame and everlasting contempt, the resurrection of damnation, tribulation, wrath, indignation, anguish…” Or the elegant Calvinist antimetabole of “God does not hate them because they are homosexuals; they are homosexuals because God hates them.” Fred Phelps is Walt Whitman’s evil twin, generating an overflowing word count of hate-filled, exclusionary, overwrought, antique, hyperbolic, unedited provocation. Glenn Beck is a poseur, a Hallmark card, by comparison.

This is the Eagle Scout’s integrity and self-regard, the American bard’s gluttonous, unedited style, and the firebrand’s jaw-dropping rhetoric for which we have such an appetite, all taken to the violent frontier of sanity. I hope Phelps’s oeuvre can be anthologized someday, or put in a museum, so the timber in his eye can reveal the splinters in our own.

It’s a very interesting article that also includes a section on what I find to be the most fascinating aspect of the gay-hating bigot at the helm of the church: he used to be a lawyer who fought for the civil rights of black people. (And a good one at that!)

Why he became crazy, I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend.

(via Killing the Buddha)

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  • Why he became crazy, I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend.


    Allegedly, of course.

  • JHGRedekop

    Read Nate Phelps‘s accounts of growing up with his father. The impression I get is that he was never really in his right mind.

    No man who beats one of his children with an axe-handle just to demonstrate to the others what’ll happen to them if they cross him can be considered sane:

    My father was a strong believer in ”spare the rod, spoil the child” In the early years his weapon of choice was a barber’s strap. However, it was used so often that it eventually frayed at the business end, and his blows would wrap around like the end of a whip, opening up wounds on our hips. So one day he called a meeting of all the children, and presented his newest disciplinary tool. Presumably, the larger the rod, the less spoiled the child, so my father presented us with a mattock handle. He demonstrated its effectiveness that day by giving it a test run on my older brother, Mark. One blow and Mark’s face turned white.

    In terms of knowing how to administer punishment, my father was an adept. Seven or eight blows would be enough to cause the skin to swell and bruise. However, if he administered a few blows, and then waited five to ten minutes before the next round, this gave the damaged tissue time to swell and stretch the skin tight. The new round of blows would cause that skin to split and bleed. When he was particularly angry, it wasn’t uncommon for him to take careful aim at the lower back, or just behind the knees, where the pain was excruciating.

  • Neon Genesis

    As dangerous and deluded as the Phelps are, I disagree that they’re more dangerous than Glenn Beck. The Phelps are just out for attention and even most mainstream fundamentalist Christians don’t take the Phelps seriously. But even some atheists take Glenn Beck and the Tea Party seriously even though they keep pushing the limits of how pro-violent they can be without being guilty of inciting violence. The Phelps would fit in perfectly in Uganda though.

  • DGKnipfer

    Thanks JHGRedekop for that link. It’s good to know that some of Fred’s brood have managed to excape his reach. I hope Nate Phelps keeps right on telling the world what a sick man his father is. Everybody needs to know what a dangerous man old Fred is.

  • muggle

    I’m cringing at Nate Phelps’ description. I wish I doubted it. I don’t. Mainly because I used to think I was gonna die when my mother hit (and now I’m grateful she only used a shoe) because she wouldn’t stop until her arm gave out. When a parent thinks they’ve got to save their kid from hell, it’s a bad, scary thing.

    Neon Genesis, we are absolute agreement on this one. Phelps is a known flake but I’ve been stunned by the Atheists I’ve seen supporting Beck. I just don’t get it.

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