The Westboro Baptist Church (or WBC) is an Independent Baptist “church” known for its extreme stance against homosexuality, other religions, and anything else that tickles their fancy. They are also known for their greatly offensive protest activities against fallen service men/woman and high profile aka popular people. In this special section, we will explore their hateful and distorted “divine” teachings and expose them for what they truly are, a hate group who uses religion for personal power.
Nathan "Nate" Phelps (born November 1958) is an author, speaker on religion and child abuse, and an LGBT advocate. The seventh child of Pastor Fred Phelps, Phelps has been estranged from the majority of his family since his 18th birthday. Phelps has since declared himself an atheist. He is known for his open criticism of the Westboro Baptist Church through literature, interviews, public speaking at atheist conventions and his website. He states that his father abused him and the other Phelps children and believes that the church is an organization for his father to "vent his rage and anger." Today I am now happy to present part one of the email Q&A I had with Nate Phelps, otherwise known as the No H8 Phelps.
Question: Having watched a few of your interviews (and site) before, I saw that you spent nearly eighteen years with the church before deciding to leave. Considering the strength of their… convictions, how was it like living with it day to day? Was there any form of community religious events like masses? Was the day to day life affected by the religious beliefs? Was it perhaps a case of “there where good times and bad” or just of series of bad to worse (or good to better) days?
We usually had two church services on Sunday. Beyond that there were regular references to god in our daily lives, verses to memorize, screamed references to biblical passages when our father was raging at us. On regular occasions we either had bible conferences at our church with several families traveling from Indianapolis or we went to their church. It's hard to explain the broad picture fairly. Of course there were good times. We spent an inordinate amount of time away from our home and father when we sold candy and we found ways to keep ourselves entertained. With so many siblings it was easy to feel connected. As a young child I was profoundly curious and disinclined to adhere too rigidly to the rules if it interfered with my explorations. On those occasions that my father found out, I was labeled a son of Belial. My childish misbehavior took on gargantuan, eternal significance. As you might imagine, Fred did not tolerate even a whiff of defiance. Anytime we addressed our father or mother, we were expected to end our comments with "Ma'am" or "Sir". As I said, we had an entire life away from our father that included an understanding that any rule violations occurring outside his awareness would never be passed on to him. It was too dangerous. So we learned and lived with an undermining deceit. We also learned that honesty was dangerous because the consequences were so distorted.
Question: By way of Google news, YouTube, and twitter I have read and seen a good deal of cases and accusation of abuse in both physical and mental sense. My question in regard to this is if there was any truth to this? As much as I would hate to believe any parent harming their child, the WBC isn’t known for their… kindness. Where you ever the victim of such actions and/or witnessed them? If so would you mind describing them a bit?
My father was physically, verbally and psychologically abusive to his wife and children. He used his biblical authority to beat all of us with a mattock handle. Often times the beatings were so sever that the flesh was broken and bled. He would have hours long raging fits where he threw things and used language so ugly and harsh I can't repeat it. He used bible passages to condemn even the slightest violation and swear the violator to an eternal, hellish punishment. When he was in one of his rages he lost all contact with reality and rational thought. Often times the raging would go on so long, I can recall, more than once, standing in his presence, the back of my body swollen, bruised, and bleeding, his spit in my face, watching and listening to him rage and literally falling asleep on my feet. If you had a chance to see the recent video of the Judge beating his daughter, that's a very mild, but apt, example of my father. I think that video goes on for 7 or 8 minutes. My father's violence would last for 2 or 3 hours before he ran out of steam. So...yes...I'd say there was violence growing up there. And I will say, for the record, every time Shirley or Margie equivocates in the slightest on that topic, they are lying through their teeth. An interesting behavior for one of god's elect, no?
Question: The WBC has become infamous for protesting the funerals of high profiles people and service men/women, while displaying their message of “God hates X”. During your time with the church and your family, was this type of actions being undertaken by them? Was the general atmosphere of these protests that take place now, also prevalent in the house hold?
There was never any formal campaign as such, but the same message was taught constantly behind the pulpit and my father was always in a battle with someone either inside our home or out in the community.
Question: With regards to their convictions and beliefs, how did you feel about them at first? Where you much like the other children and accepted what your parents taught? After all who would want to purposely mis-instruct their children? Or did they never really click at first? If possible could you speak about when the sense of “no this is wrong” did begin to form?
Of course I believed it in the beginning. As you say, it's all we knew and a child naturally trusts their parents to reflect the reality of the world. I don't mean this as a conscious decision of the child, it's hardwired in us. By the time I was 10 or so, I was aware of confusion in my mind. I recall being terribly embarrassed by the words and deeds of my father when I was exposed to them in public. I suppose this indicated some fundamental difference between my father's temperament/personality and mine. When I ran away from home on the night of my 18th birthday, I left with a certainty that I was going to eventually be punished by god, die and spend eternity in hell. I also left with a certainty that I knew no other alternative. While I couldn't have articulated it as such, I understood even then that my idea of reality was fatally different from his.
Question: While I can imagine the cult mindset of unquestioned loyalty and belief in Fred Phelps was present, was there any room to bring forth questions about the religion the WBC follows? Where they questions welcomed or shot down?
To ask questions beyond a clarifying form was considered evidence that god wasn't working in your heart. It has cost several members their eternal security (as WBC sees it)
Question: When the sense of wrongness began to form and take hold, how did you first react? Did you bring questions and concerns to you family members or hold them to yourself? Would it be possible to describe what you did with said feelings and if brought to your parents, how they reacted?
As I said before, I didn't openly question them ever. It just wasn't even an option in my mind. Not just because of the risk of being labeled reprobate, but because my relationship with my father was virtually non-existent and what there was of it was one of fear and intimidation. I can recall asking my mother why she stayed in such an abusive relationship and being told that I just didn't understand.