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By Leslie Robinson
Some people argue that the best way to handle the ever-present, ever-protesting members of the Westboro Baptist Church is to ignore them.
That sounds sensible. I just can’t do it.
The truth is I find Fred Phelps and his congregation fascinating. I get that they’re among the world’s biggest media whores — they could even give Donald Trump pointers — and will push any boundary for attention. Yet they still manage to surprise me.
Like just recently, when they journeyed to North Carolina. Since Westboro’s religious creed is God Hates Fags, and since North Carolina passed the anti-gay Amendment One, a person might assume the Phelpsians visited the Tar Heel State simply to sniff the heady air of bigotry victorious.
That’s not the Westboro way. North Carolinians don’t want gays to marry; Westboro members don’t want gays to live.
So they went to North Carolina to do what they always do, stage a protest. Their target was obvious, a man famous for supporting gay rights, a man who practically bleeds rainbow colors. Billy Graham. See, fascinating.
The elder statesman of Christian evangelism a friend of gays? Right. And Billy’s son and heir Franklin is a part-time imam.
While Graham has taken fewer political stances in his career than, say, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, he jumped into the Amendment One battle.
“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,” Graham wrote in an ad that ran in newspapers around North Carolina. “The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8.”
Yup, he’s on our side, all right. Downright ready to head up a PFLAG chapter.
So why, if Westboro and Graham are anti-gay bedfellows, did the Phelpsians protest Graham? Because the reverend isn’t anti-gay enough. Westboro has high standards.
About a dozen church members picketed the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and other Graham-centric locations. On Westboro’s website, according to WBTV, the church said Graham should use his influence to tell the world “it’s not okay to be a fag, it’s not okay to divorce and remarry, it’s not okay to fornicate, it’s not okay to kill your babies.”
The man is 93. How can he be expected to remember all that?
Protester Paulette Phelps told the Asheville Citizen-Times that Graham cares more for money and power than preaching God’s truth. “The true Gospel says if you don’t obey, you’re going to perish. There are consequences for not obeying. Homosexuality is all bad, all day.”
She makes it sound like a radio format.
Either Paulette or another Phelps — because most church members are related–held a sign reading “God H8S Billy’s Cow.”
I was baffled as to why God would hate dairy products, unless he’s lactose intolerant, but it turned out that a “talking” cow offers stories and songs to young library visitors.
All part of Graham’s money-grubbing, claimed the Phelpsians, who asked, “How many children can you lead to Satan through Bessie the talking cow?”
I guess that depends on the quality of Bessie’s stories and songs.
Only after I’d ruminated over Westboro’s attack on Billy Graham did I remember that this isn’t the first time the cult has targeted a prominent evangelical. In 2007, these folks protested at Jerry Falwell’s funeral, in part because of Falwell’s warmth toward gays.
Yes, Falwell adored us.
How could I forget they protested him? Because their reasoning is so bizarre I can barely wrap my mind around it. But I won’t forget again. When Pat Robertson dies, I’ll expect the Phelpsians to picket his funeral. Since Robertson has always overflowed with love for gay people.