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Fred Phelps' Personal Hell

By David Cogswell
Opinion | January 26, 2010

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Tonight I read that Fred Phelps, pastor at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, said that God hates Lady Gaga. It was striking timing for me personally because next week I'll be coming home myself to Topeka, the city of my birth. The Phelps story also comes a couple of days after I myself discovered Lady Gaga. And I must admit I think she is brilliant, an amazing artist and a very intelligent and earnest human being. Besides being an extremely gifted and accomplished musician, she seems to be a person who sincerely cares for other people.

I can see why many people might be uncomfortable with Lady Gaga's performance style. It's not everyone's cup of tea. Her videos and lyrical content are sometimes overtly sexual, on the extreme edge of sexual liberation that is permitted in mainstream culture. A few years ago, the allegedly inadvertent exposure of Janet Jackson's breast during half time at the Super Bowl almost got her drawn and quartered.

But to me, Lady Gaga's videos are much less offensive than the Viagra ads the netorks flash on prime time TV. Remember the Bob Dole ad for Viagra that showed him watching Britney Spears on TV? Senator Dole is a family friend and I don't want to go into it, except to say it was a poor choice of causes for him to rent his hard-earned prestige. Any society that calmly accepts Viagra ads when children may be watching seems disingenuous when professing shock over the teenybop sex fantasies of Lady Gaga.

For someone to reject Lady Gaga's work, or disapprove of her morals, is to me a perfectly acceptable difference of opinion. But when Rev. Phelps makes a pronouncement that almighty God hates Lady Gaga, he sounds ridiculous at best. At worst his actions represent a foul insult to Christian teachings.

It's very sad to be from Topeka and to meet many people who have no direct experience of the place and only form their mental pictures of it based on news stories such as these reports of the antics of Rev. Phelps. For some people, Fred Phelps may be the only thing they ever heard about Topeka. It's sad for me because this and other lurid stories that make the national news from Topeka give a very bad impression of a great place that I know and love. Topeka is so much better than that.

I take to heart the Founding Fathers' idea of freedom of religion, and I have nothing against anyone's religion. I have no desire to engage in religious arguments with anyone. But I don't have words for someone who goes to funerals and marches around in front of the bereaved carrying signs saying, "God hates fags." The obsessiveness of this man's hatred and cruelty is unfathomable. To think that a man like this designates himself as a spokesman for God himself -- putting his own message of hate in the mouth of God -- might be a pathetic joke, if it were not so lethal.

This man is not just opposed to homosexual practices, he is obsessed with the subject. He has dedicated his life to stirring up hatred against homosexuals, and worst of all, he has the nerve to present himself as a man of God.

Phelps is so hateful it's startling. I half expect a bolt of lightning to strike him -- how can the natural laws tolerate such a blatant contradiction as this man whose life work is all about hate, and who claims to speak for the Prince of Peace?

I wouldn't want to venture near an argument with Phelps on who is more in harmony with the teachings of Jesus, him or Lady Gaga, but it's hard for me to imagine anything more in opposition to the spirit of the teachings of Jesus than promoting hate. Perhaps Phelps believes he hearkens back to the Old Testament God, who could be quite testy at times. But if that is the case, Phelps should not be calling himself a Christian minister. It's about as ugly a lie as I can think of.


1 Comment

My Dad, who passed on 40 yrs ago, used to cringe when the Mr. Whipple's squisably soft commercials came on. Can you imagine how he would have reacted to the under wear and Viagra adds or Lady Gaga antics of today?

He was a strong Christian man, who did not approve of homosexuality nor did he approve of divorce. But, I never heard him ever call for God's condemnation on them.


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