God Hates by Rebecca Barrett-Fox

God Hates by Rebecca Barrett-Fox

Author:Rebecca Barrett-Fox [Barrett-Fox, Rebecca]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Religion, Christianity, Denominations, Religious Intolerance; Persecution & Conflict, Social Science, Sociology of Religion
ISBN: 9780700622658
Google: mTm2jgEACAAJ
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Published: 2016-01-15T00:45:32+00:00


The nuances of Westboro Baptist Church’s theology of sexuality would matter little to the Religious Right, which adopts a “big tent” philosophy that accepts theological difference for the sake of political expediency, if Westboro Baptist Church was willing to adopt Religious Right tactics—in other words, to come into the tent. However, Westboro Baptist Church refuses to wear the “mask of compassion” that characterizes the “repackage[ed]” Religious Right’s antigay movement.65 It refuses to exchange Bible-based arguments against homosexuality for the respectability of social science or to temper its language. Members of Westboro Baptist Church keep their focus on theology, but, note Carin Robinson and Clyde Wilcox, “doctrinal talk is bad politics,”66 so they make little headway toward the goals they share with the broader Religious Right. Westboro Baptist Church is ostracized by the Religious Right not because of its theology, which the Religious Right could tolerate, or its antigay politics, which the two share (for there is “something about homophobia that arouses a deep religious fervor”67), but because of Westboro Baptist Church’s refusal to adhere to the Religious Right’s tactics. Like anti-Catholic tract writer Jack Chick, whose work has been dropped from many Christian bookstores because it is too divisive, Fred Phelps is “an old-school Christian in a focus group world.”68 However, Westboro Baptist Church’s message of a hyper-Calvinist God who uses national tragedy to rebuke a nation for individual and collective sin has deep roots in American religious history, and Westboro Baptists pride themselves on their place in this tradition.

Many used to preach “as I am preaching,” reminisced Fred Phelps, but “they’re gone!”69 And this is true. Just as Calvinist Puritans of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and Westboro Baptists of today share a belief in predestination that links individual and community tragedy to sin, the Religious Right has shared with Westboro Baptist Church a tendency to dehumanize gay people and describe same-sex contact as “loathsome” and “detestable” and gay people as a threat to themselves and the nation. Individual actors within the Religious Right continue to use this language, as the quotations at the start of this chapter reveal, even as the Religious Right as a movement has adopted social-scientific arguments against homosexuality in order to avoid appearing prejudiced. Over the last two decades, then, Westboro Baptist Church’s rhetoric did not change, even as members are aware that their approach puts them at risk of “being seen as an uninformed person, Neanderthalic, and less evolved in your thinking,”70 but the Religious Right’s official rhetoric changed to sound more compassionate, even if the old prejudices against same-sex sexuality remain. The failure of new preachers to rise up to preach the old message of personal and national destruction as a consequence of sin only reinforces Westboro Baptist Church’s perception of itself as the only remaining authentic voice of Christianity. This criticism of other churches is sharpened by the perception that many Religious Right leaders falsely claim compassion; Westboro Baptists, like many suspicious of the Religious Right’s intentions, sense the hypocrisy.

Despite the


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