Spark in Darkness. Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.
So, there’s a petition going around to try and getting Obama or various other powers that be to officially designate the Westboro Baptist church as a hate group.
Which I agree with. The Westboro hatefest are vile in their homophobia, they’re hateful and they exist entirely to spread and promote hate and, in turn, violence and degradation of GBLT people. I would love to see them designated as a hate group.
But, despite that, I have some nagging thoughts at the back of my head – namely “why them?”
We could say it’s because of the extremity of the rhetoric of Phelps and his ilk… but is it so extreme? Is it even extreme? The only thing that sets the rhetoric of the Phelps clan apart from the rhetoric of the mainstream Christian churches is that Phelps is willing to use the slur f*g.
In terms of message? The pope used World Peace Day to attack gay people. He has called us a threat to the future of humanity. The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales – Archbishop Nichols, decided to use his Christmas message to attack us as well. I thought Christmas was supposed to be something of a thing with Christians – but, apparently, hatred is more important. Luminaries from Anglican Archbishops to Catholic Cardinals have called our rights “Orwellian” “dictatorship” “fascist” and even “nazi.”
More, while Phelps and his crew mouth off, it’s these mainstream churches that are spending millions to fight hate crime laws, anti-bullying measures, non-discrimination laws, marriage equality, adoption, the recognition of our families, to allow and encourage “conversion” torture (including of children) and even laws that deny our existence or push for our murder. Phelps makes noise and lines his own pockets – but it’s the mainstream churches that have their boots on our necks.
When it comes to hatred against GBLT people, the Westboro Baptist church isn’t extremist – it’s a mainstream Christian church.
What isn’t mainstream is its antics and tactics. Picketing funerals, saying terrible things in the wake of tragedies, etc. The Westboro’s are foolish/clever*** enough to offend, insult and outrage straight, cis people with their targets. They don’t narrow their hateful rhetoric to just GBLT people, their actions wound straight, cis people as well (though, I have to say, not usually as much as the mainstream church’s power hurts GBLT people)
The Westboros are called a hate group because they’re offending straight, cis people. If their hatred of GBLT people didn’t splash on to straight, cis folks then there wouldn’t be this petition, they wouldn’t get this attention and, in general, no-one would give a damn – because there’d be little setting them apart from mainstream Christianity.
I am happy this petition exists because the Westboros are vile and their tactics beyond unacceptable – but let’s not pretend their rhetoric is ridiculously extreme or that the actual targets of their hatred – GBLT people – are more hurt by them than by the Catholic church, the Church of England, the Orthodox Church, the Mormon Church or the vast majority of other, mainstream churches.
***A matter of definition. The Westboro’s antics win them no supporters – but they do win them incredible national attention for such a small, minor church. It does nothing for their political agenda, but it’s grade A trolling on an international scale.