Talking to a Leader of Westboro Baptist Church November 30, 2010

Talking to a Leader of Westboro Baptist Church

Is it useful to dialogue with Christians who strongly disagree with you and will probably never change their minds?

It’s debatable, but I generally think it’s a good thing.

This video takes that to the extreme, though.

Atheist vloggers MannixThePirate & xCrowMagnuSx sat down with Shirley Phelps-Roper (daughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps) for what appears to be a very civil conversation.

A crazy, *face-palming*, this-is-going-nowhere conversation, but a conversation nonetheless.

There are moments where Phelps looks like she’s genuinely considering what the atheists have to say… before falling back into the usual fundamentalist rhetoric.

So, was anything gained from that conversation? I don’t know. But I do think this is ultimately more useful than a shouting match or counter-protest that might generate positive publicity but won’t really change any minds.

Phelps-Roper is about as Christian-crazy as someone can get, but the atheists made an effort to reach out to her and she accepted. At least they’re trying, right? I think they deserve some credit for that.

(Thanks to Ashley for the link)

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  • Claudia

    The only use that come out of the WBC is that they are fantastic spokespeople for gay rights. They are so odious that many conservative Christians would rather be considered pro-gay than get anywhere near the WBC. They are red-herrings come alive.

    Useful for conversation? Not so uch.

  • You’re right, Claudia – they have the effect most Poes only dream of.

  • Alex

    This book’s kindle edition was free for a while, but no longer for some reason. It reads like a playbook for christian debaters.

    The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask

  • JulietEcho

    They protested in my town recently, and I consider it a positive thing, because it drew a huge counter-protest which took place several blocks away and was more of a gay rights/pride rally than anything else. The signs keep getting better and better at these things too!

    Anyway, there were hundreds of pro-equality protesters and probably like 6-12 WBC protesters (like most of the counter-protesters, I never even saw them… we tried to make sure they weren’t given any attention) and the show of support was the big story.

    If WBC hadn’t come to town, people wouldn’t have whipped up that awesome rally, and I think a lot of good came of it. I felt incredibly encouraged seeing how much support there is in my area for gay rights, and there were both churches and secular people involved.

    Actually sitting down with someone like Shirley? At this point, I don’t see how that can do any good. Breaking through whatever passes for her mental process isn’t something that’s going to happen without a life-changing experience or serious therapy, IMO. We’ve got more than enough sample material from her – at this point, everything that comes out of her mouth is reruns.

  • cat

    “So, was anything gained from that conversation? I don’t know. But I do think this is ultimately more useful than a shouting match or counter-protest that might generate positive publicity but won’t really change any minds.” I disagree. You seem to be confused about who the target audience of such counter-protests is. First, the group being harassed by the original protest gets to feel supported by the counter protestors. Secondly, the fence sitters have a chance to hear a side other than Westboros and see that not everyone agrees with them on the issue. The goal of a public debate with or counter-protest against a fundy is rarely to change the mind of that fundy, it is to change the minds of the bystanders. I have had very public arguments where I knew that I had zero chance of changing my opponents mind, but where I actually did affect change in those listening (including those purportedly on the side of my opponent).

  • Alex

    Talk about your mixed word salad.

  • BamaPolyBiGuy1

    To me, the actual discussion doesn’t do too much good for either of the participants. However, when people see how one side has logical information and the other side just has outdated dogma, then those people might choose the side with the better answers.

  • Dave

    LOL! Phelps-Roper totally PWNed those two kids.
    Whoever takes on Westboro Baptist needs A LOT more experience than they had!

  • NotYou007

    Butt secks makes baby jesus cry. That is as much as I listend to. I can’t stand to hear this woman speak.

  • Nick Andrew

    Very few have the debating skills of Hitchens or Dawkins. Nevertheless I was pleased to see MannixThePirate & xCrowMagnuSx engaging that woman. Next time you do something similar, may you be better at it.

    She has nothing to say which is at all interesting or novel. It’s a litany of denial – evolution can’t be a fact because you can’t explain abiogenesis; chemicals can’t come together to make Man; scientists are just guessing; the Earth is 6000 years old; who says stars are billions of light years away; god is fucking with you atheists: arranging the evidence so it looks like there is no god to test your faith. Not only batshit insane but some of these beliefs are mutually exclusive.

    I didn’t get the feeling that she was genuinely considering anything other than the next words of dogma she was going to speak. As an expose of what’s behind the WBC signs, I think this discussion was a success. If you want to change her mind about anything though, I’d suggest picking one topic (e.g. evolution) and sticking closely to it, not wandering all over the board of discourse by allowing her to move the goalposts every time she speaks.

  • Jeff

    Waste of time. Communication is impossible, and mental illness this profound can’t be recovered from.

  • Heavy D

    Generally, debating people like the WBC is only useful for those that watch it. Sure, you are never going to get them to understand but those that watch and are on the fence, it those that you can reach.

  • Serenity

    a bit off topic right now but Alex posted a link to the kindle book “The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask”. I was reading the review of a liberal christian and they quoted some west wing..and the citation of Leviticus 18:22 got me thinking..”bibliomancy” 😀

    So I got out my book of the combined LotR trilogy and went to work.
    So chapter 18. Thats Chapter 6 in book 2 of the Fellowship. then line 22, “…south the Misty Mountains receded endlessly as far as sight could reach.”
    Now thats something to ponder on I think. 🙂
    It makes me wonder how insightful some of my other big books will be. 😛

  • It was an eye-opener. I guess I didn’t know just how bat shit crazy Shirley Phelps-Roper was. I could-of had some fun with her, though, if I were to interview her.

    God fucking with atheists. Ha. How about an atheist fucking with her?

  • dsdquilts

    Cloris Leachman would be hilarious doing that doing that skit.

  • OMG, that conversation was so inane I couldn’t get through it. Sorry but these two were very lame trying to talk to her and just let her have the upper hand. I’m sorry I suffered through half of it.

    dsdquilts, she sure as hell would! I can see her exaggerating what needs exaggerating on this woman and the resemblence is there, isn’t it? (Sorry, Cloris. I don’t mean to insult you, honey. Love ya.)

  • Geekoid

    These conversations are always about educating the observer.

  • Mark C.

    WBC had some of its members come to my college campus (Kansas State University) the other day to protest a talk by Kathleen Sebelius. Unfortunately, every time they come to protest something, I’m too busy to go interact with them.

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