HALL COLUMN: WBC not like any Primitive Baptist I know

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Discovering what makes a person believe the way they believe usually brings about a sense of understanding that can allow people of differing viewpoints to respect one another and live peacefully together.

Then there are those rare groups like Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. They are the irrational few whose grasp on reality warped, withered and died long ago. They deserve a padded cell in an isolated land where their hatred and inconceivable rhetoric can not be spewed upon weak-minded people and thus breed more sub-humanoids.

The flip side to the above theory is that the &8220;beliefs&8221; of &8220;the leaders&8221; are merely a ploy to prey on the weak-minded in an effort to grow their &8220;numbers&8221; to feed a subconscious need for power.

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Whatever the case, the men and women of Westboro Baptist Church &045; even the weak-minded &045; have crossed a plane of decency where common sense &045; even the weakest form of it &045; would tell a person that their belief set is off base, cruel and wholly wrong.

The members of Westboro Baptist Church are crusaders in their own minds, and they brought their crusade to Alabama to protest at the funeral of one of the little girls who died tragically when her school bus plunged from an overpass.

To the credit of the City of Huntsville, they gave this group a permit to protest. That shows that the freedoms of our nation are still alive, despite attempts by our federal government to limit our civil liberties &045; but that is another column entirely. In Huntsville, the city officials would have lost nothing in public opinion had they denied the permit to these people. Surely few people &045; if any &045; find them less than reprehensible.

So, who are the members of Westboro Baptist Church, and what is their cause?

When we received a fax from them declaring their intention to protest, it was too much for me to pass up. I called to have a little chat and try to understand exactly what would move this group to protest the funeral of an innocent little girl.

Before I ever dialed the first number, I knew I was dealing with nuts. The fax was a hateful piece of work declaring that &8220;God hates fags&8221; and &8220;God hates Alabama&8221;. I’m not sure what the two have in common, but I would later learn that their God takes &8220;vengeful&8221; to new heights.

Westboro Baptist Church actually claims to be an &8220;old school or primitive Baptist Church,&8221; which is far-and-away different from the popular Southern Baptist denominations. I grew up Primitive Baptist, and I’m fairly well versed in the teachings and doctrines. And while the Primitive Baptist Church most assuredly would decry homosexuality, I’ve never been exposed to the hateful language put forth by the idiot with whom I conversed last week.

When I phoned up the number on the fax and got a soft-spoken man on the other end, I identified myself as the publisher of The Demopolis Times, an Alabama newspaper, and explained that I was having a hard time understanding why his church was protesting the funerals of four children killed in a tragic accident or how their deaths had anything to do with God hating &8220;fags,&8221; which I was not sure He did.

The man’s soft-spoken voice disappeared, and he set me straight real quick like. You see, it appears that the Iraq war is an evil war. We (the U.S.) are killing innocent people &045; whom I later learned are going to Hell anyway &045; and for this we must be punished. And, of course, America allows gay people to live alongside straight people, so for that we must be punished as well.

It seems, according to this man, that the deaths of those four children was God’s vengeful wrath raining down on an evil nation.

But Alabama, I told him, is largely a conservative state that doesn’t like homosexuals &045; at least that’s the easy stereotype to paint. We even have a law banning same-sex marriage, for Goodness sake. (Our Goodness, not the WBC Goodness, who appears to be a much different deity than the Savior I was raised to love and worship).

He didn’t care. He said everyone is going to Hell unless they are a member of Westboro Baptist Church &045; the one in Topeka, Kan., mind you, and not another Westboro Baptist Church, like the one say in Ontario, Canada. (Actually, especially not the one in Canada. In addition to WBC’s homepage at www.godhatesfags.com, they operate the site at www.godhatescanada.com as well.)

His declaration that everyone except the parishioners at his church are staring down eternal damnation puzzled me. When asked how he arrived at this conclusion, he told me he had done research.

It is a hopeless case to rationalize with an irrational person, which I told him. He didn’t seem to understand. Finally, he hung up on me.

One interesting note before I proceed further: Westboro Baptist Church was founded by Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., who was born in Meridian, Miss. I’m not sure if that who I spoke with or not.

In the end, these people have the right to spew whatever crap they want to spew, and our soldiers &045; those going to Hell and otherwise &045; are defending that right. And as long as Phelps and his followers can spew their hate speech, I have the same right to point out the ludicrous nature of their ideas &045; and even poke a little fun along the way.

Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about the protests of this deranged group &045; heaping pain upon the mourning of loved ones.

As for the parents who are grieving a lost child, let me apologize. No true Primitive Baptist I know believes as the members of Westboro Baptist Church believe. Neither do any true Christians, for that matter.

Sam R. Hall is editor and publisher of The Times. He can be reached at (334) 289-4017 or by e-mail to sam.hall@demopolistimes.com.