Category Archives: wbc

the archbishop & the ‘s-word’

Today in the Sydney Morning Herald in an article entitled Stylish Same-Sex Campaign Glosses over Real Issues, Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen suggests that what he describes as a ‘sustained and brilliantly-orchestrated campaign to radically alter the marriage laws of this country’ is proving so successful simply because it is based on a handful of clever slogans than Jensen says are difficult to refute. In response, I’d like to address some comments to the Reverend Doctor Jensen.

Archbishop, you identified three slogans that have given you particular difficulty and, lucky you, you’d also been given some space in a prominent newspaper to do your derndest to poke holes in them. It was your big chance to explain just what’s so wrong about letting the gays get hitched, and heartened by the title of the article, I was keen to see what ‘real issues’ you had be able to uncover for us. Popcorn at the ready…off we go.

Adam and Eve. Jan Gossaert (Mabuse)

Slogan 1: Marriage Equality

You said:

The reality of the world God made is that human beings are in two sexes, male and female.

Really, Peter? That you still think that you can make statements like this and not be challenged reveals how very out of touch you are with contemporary Australia. I can accept that you have a right to believe that a god exists, that that god created the natural world, and even to believe that the Book your god is supposed to have authored has something meaningful to say about human relationships. But many of the rest us hold dear those beliefs in the very same way we confidently await Santa’s arrival each December. Just because you have devoted your life to Christian dogma (and indeed earn your living from it) does not mean that any of those beliefs form the basis of a self-evident ‘reality’ for anyone outside the evangelical Christian community, or indeed that they ought be valued as the last (or even first) word on human experience or legal provisions surrounding it. The majority of non-religious Australians simply do not accept that ‘marriage is a God-given institution’ as you said in your letter to the churches also released today.

Even if you are simply arguing here that heterosexuality is ‘natural’ while homosexuality is not, you’re on very shaky ground. Pointing at the world and saying, ‘Look! Men…women…duh!’ doesn’t build a case for a ‘reality’ that privileges heterosexual marriage and excludes all other relational variations. It is well-established that homosexuality has always existed in human populations in roughly the same proportion as it does now, just as is true of animal populations. Homosexuality is not normative – it is not a majority orientation – but it is absolutely normal in that it is naturally occurring everywhere, if you care to cast about a blushing glance. Some men are sexually attracted to men, and some women to women. They didn’t choose to be that way, they just are. That’s about as natural as it gets.

And some of those people want to get married. It’s marriage that is the social construct. The fact that there are both men and women in the world does nothing to tell us about the appropriateness or otherwise of any contractual arrangements into which they choose to enter. Humans invented marriage – probably for reasons of social stability. It’s for this reason if no other that you should be glad that some homosexual people would like the right to share in the opportunity of a lifetime of wedded bliss such as that you and Mrs Archbishop undoubtedly enjoy.

You also argue (I’m summarising here):

‘Equality’ is a misnomer: real equality would include pedophilia, incest and bigamy.

Apart from the obvious straw man strategy of equating same-sex relationships (which are legal, adult and consensual) with practices that fail to qualify on one or more of those counts, you have not managed to make any point of refutation here at all. An oblique allusion to the tired, old slippery slope theory hardly counts as a reasoned argument. If I am understanding you rightly, you would like to make people fearful about purchasing Object A by telling them that if they do, they will get Objects B, C, D and E in the package free of charge. Objects B–E are not A, or in reality even like A, but people should know that will arrive in the post together, and we should be very, very afraid about that. In the absence of evidence, generating baseless fear is a common ploy. It’s patently dishonest though, and unless you are Bill Muehlenberg, you probably know it. You probably also know that marriage to a minor, marriage to a sibling, and polygamy are condoned in the Bible. But perhaps it’s impolite of me to mention.

Fortunately, we are unlikely to see the institution of biblical marriage law in Australia any time soon. On the oft-trotted-out subject of polygamy, for example, Law Council of Australia president Catherine Gale has stated:
The Law Council does not consider that the proposed amendments [to the Marriage Act] can possibly lead to the legalisation of polygamy. The proposed amendments only seek to create equality between heterosexual and same-sex couples in marriage. In none of the overseas countries where same-sex marriage has been legalised has this led to the legalisation of polygamy.

That’s what an argument based on evidence and professional expertise looks like, Peter. FYI.

Lesbian couple in the act of destroying the foundations of society. With their dog.

Slogan 2: Marriage won’t change

Here’s where you start to really nail your colours to the mast. In response to statements that legislating to allow same-sex marriage will not essentially alter heterosexual marriage you say:

My marriage would be different. It’s no good asserting otherwise. When a society redefines one of its basic institutions, it affects everyone. I would have to find a different word for my marriage, or add the rider ”heterosexual” to the word ”marriage”.

Did you really just say that? Do you tell your friends you have a ‘white marriage’ now that we allow blacks and whites to tie the knot? And gays have been having sex for, oooh, a while now. Do you describe your intimate relations with your wife as ‘heterosexual sex’ just so as to be clear it is distinct from the icky sex the homos get up to? Perhaps you do. And perhaps you just will have to find a new and suitably self-righteous name to adequately describe your own marital status should Australia legislate to remove discrimination against people you’d rather now share the institution with. Perhaps ‘smugarriage’ would do.

You go on to say:

Same-sex marriage is symbolic of social acceptance of gay sex as a moral good.

True, true. Or at least, acceptance as a moral neutral.

Most people still believe the physical make-up of humans points in another direction.

I most certainly am not sniggering at the little phallic allusion you snuck in there, Mr Archbishop, sir.

But they would not be able to prevent their children being taught that consenting sex between any two persons is a matter of moral and physical indifference.

Ah. Now we’re at the crux. Pointy-outy bits should go with pokey-inny bits. And never unless the owners of said bits are married (the proper kind) and never, never should you try to fit together bits of a similar configuration. Ever. To do this is ‘immoral’.

We’re not silly, Peter. Those of us who have lived inside evangelical Christianity know that ‘immoral’ is code for ‘sin’, and that word necessarily embodies ‘judgement’ which inevitably leads to ‘eternal damnation’. What you are really saying here is that homosexual people are going to burn in hellfire for eternity and that the effect on our nation if we fail to tell our littlies that dreadful truth will be catastrophic.

I’d like to say (a) bullshit and (b) have you considered at all the catastrophic effect of telling young gay people they are going to suffer an eternity of fiery torment? Given a choice, I’d rather explain (as I have) to my children that some men love men and some women love women, rather than describe the unending agonies a supposedly loving god is going to wreak on gay friends and family for not being born heterosexual. Legislating for marriage equality won’t change your Book and it won’t change your belief in the sin, judgement and suffering detailed therein, but it will help young Australians – gay and straight – know that the expression of their sexuality is normal, and that it is acceptable to the rest of us.

But once again, aside from a foot-stamping tanty about sharing marriage’s name, there’s no actual evidence or reasoned argument here. So moving on…

Slogan 3: It’s inevitable
You appear, if I may be so bold, to go a little bit mental here, Peter. Here’s what you said:

The stylish and confident propaganda has become pervasive. Federal politics is in danger of being distorted. Those who are doubtful or opposed have been tempted to remain silent rather than be accused of promoting hate. But it is interesting that in 30 US states where the matter has been put to a direct vote (as against imposed legislative or judicial change), the majority voted against ”gay marriage”. There is also evidence of electoral fatigue in Britain and Australia.

Same-sex marriage is not inevitable. It is not even possible. It would be better for us all if the law reflected the truth human beings have always known. Social engineering cannot change realities as basic as these. But the consequences of an attempt may still be painful.

I think you must have missed a bit. Explain to me how your arguments are self-evident, truthful reflections of reality, while marriage equality activists’ statements instead constitute pervasive propaganda? Oh, I know what it is! You’re squeamish about using the ‘s-word’ again. Indeed, the truth behind this article, Archbishop, is not that the apparently frightful cleverness of these slogans makes them too slippery for you to effectively address, but that you find it difficult to argue against them without revealing the cruel religious dogma that underlies your position, without calling homosexuality ‘sin’ (as you truthfully believe it to be) with its embarrassing but inevitable connection to ‘judgement’ and ‘damnation’, without revealing that your belief is, at its core, every bit as repugnant as the views held by members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
The truth is, there is not a hair’s breadth between WBC’s views and your own. No-one is buying your ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ bullshit any more, Archbishop. We know your commitment to biblical ‘truth’ has made you a bigot. Coded it may be but you reveal it every time you open your  mouth.
And, as you seem to be wondering about it, that’s why we say you are promoting hate. It’s because you are.

Westboro Baptist Church. They think gay people are going to hell, too.


the stainless steel tube of fundamentalism

The end of the siege. Waco, Texas, February 28, 1993.

As a former fundamentalist, I’d like to comment on another aspect of the recent Jim Wallace episode.

It’s probably perplexing to many that Wallace seemed unable to acknowledge the inappropriateness of his remark, indeed, that he seemed blind to all but the attack of his detractors on himself and, in his view, everything he holds dear.  This article by Bill Muehlenberg is similar in tone. But Muehlenberg ups the ante by using the truly disgusting term ‘gaystapo’ to describe what he identifies as one of ‘the usual suspects’: the ‘homosexual lobby’ and their ‘stalinist agenda’.

Because of my fundamentalist experience, this sort of language is uncomfortably familiar. Indeed both of these men are communicating precisely the way I would expect, although I imagine their pigheadedness must be incredibly frustrating for those who have never sat on that side of the fence. So let me try and cast a little light on it from an ex-fundy perspective. But be warned, what I am about to say may offend both Christians and perhaps to some atheists (thus pretty well knocking out all my friends in one fell swoop). I apologise for that in advance.

Being a fundamentalist is like living inside a stainless-steel tunnel. Truths that may seem perfectly obvious to other people just bounce right off without leaving a mark. Fundamentalists simply don’t see stuff they don’t already agree with. By and large they peer at the world through the very narrow hole at the end of their gun-barrel hidey hole and need to expend very little energy rejecting ideas that are contrary to their firmly-held views. These views are so staunchly inflexible because they are based on an unchanging document which they take to be the Word of God.

Try and see it from their perspective: The Book explains how Christians should understand the world. It tells them about God, about man, about heaven and hell, how to think and feel and act about pretty well everything. Many Christians hold an absolute belief that the words in the Book literally are directions straight from the God they love and serve. If the book says that all homosexuals will suffer hellfire, or that women are to live subordinate to men, who are they to argue? In fact, to do so would be unthinkable. It’s only logical: If God is real, and that really is his book, then the only sensible course is to obey whatever it says, to learn to think as God apparently thinks. He is God and therefore the one who gets to make the rules after all.

Although I appreciate that may sound silly to someone who has never thought that way, my purpose is not to ridicule those ideas or to suggest that people who hold ones which differ from mine are stupid – I know that is not the case. It is simply to say: Those ideas are beliefs. We all have them. And nobody is going to change our beliefs by shouting us. In fact, in the case of fundamentalists, it tends to have to opposite effect: It can make them go all Branch Davidian on you. Looking out of that stainless steel tube as people scream obscenities and throw poop at things that you know for sure are precious to God just makes you surer that moving into you and your kids into a bullet-proof metal abode was a good plan. After all, the Book says that if you are getting it right, ‘the world will hate you‘. Remember Waco? Believing they were under attack just made those poor cult members super-glad they had had the foresight to collect an arsenal, and more determined than ever to defend themselves and their children come what may. Nobody said, ‘Oops, yep, you were right. We’ve been pretty silly about all this. Coming out now. Thanks.’

I understand completely why people find men like Wallace and Muehlenberg and everything they stand for so deeply offensive. And I fully appreciate that offence provokes a deep rage that often finds form in a spluttering, obscenity-peppered response. I’ve indulged in more than one splutter myself in the past few days. As a catharsis, I admit its efficacy; and if you feel you need to do it, far be it from me to suggest you stop. But I do want to point out that screaming at men who have built such a sturdy wall around themselves will achieve virtually nothing…but make them more likely to repeat their offensive actions – and worse – at a later date.

And, I imagine, each time they find themselves the victims of twitter sprays, Wallace and friends rub their hands together with glee: It’s a PR free kick: they know they are likely to gain at least few new followers who sympathise with them in their sad persecution. This is why Wallace would focus on the attack and not his comments during his Sunrise appearance: He is ignoring us. He knows who he’s trying to reach and what they want to hear. There are a lot of disenfranchised Australians who agree with these fundamentalist commentators. Shouting abuse at Wallace will probably effectively stop most of those people from openly standing up and voicing their views for fear of becoming a target for attack – but it won’t alter their beliefs. The more Wallace is attacked, the more support I believe he is likely to gain.

I’m not suggesting that views such as Wallace voiced on Anzac Day should not be challenged. Of course they must. I’m not suggesting that everyone should go out of their way to be polite. Wallace and Muehlenberg’s views stink and that needs to be said. My object is not to chastise those who were understandably disgusted at Wallace’s tweet and vented their rage. But I believe it’s worth understanding what the likely effect of hurling abuse will be on Australia’s fundamentalists and the even more numerous moderate Christians: The leaders will hunker down, toughen up and become more hateful in their communications; the followers will quietly grow in number and resolve.

And we shouldn’t think we’ve seen any more than the tip of the iceberg of Wallace and Muehlenberg’s frothing zeal. Their views are almost indistinguishable from those of Westboro Baptist Church and many Australian Christians feel a strong connection to some other pretty scary US-based zealots as well. I suspect the ugliness has not anything like peaked.

My point is, you aren’t going to reach someone who lives in a bullet-proof cave no matter what you say. My advice is to forget about trying. If those fundamentalists are ever going to change their beliefs, it will not be because someone abused them into it. However, there are a lot of Australians who are sitting in the middle of issues such same-sex marriage who will listen and so may be influenced. Frankly, I think they find it difficult to sympathise with the more extreme communications from both camps. Those who want to influence this large, silent public might like to consider that undecided moderates are watching, and beginning to form their own beliefs.

I, at least, think that’s worth considering.


wbc and dummies like me

Apologies for the poor formatting in this post. WordPress is giving me some grief.

In the past week, the members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeca, Kansas have come to the attention of news media even here in far off Australia because of a case being heard in the US Supreme Courtwhich challenges church members’ First Amendment rights. WBC members apparently picketed the funeral of Matthew Snyder, a US Marine killed in Iraq four years ago. Snyder’s father, Albert, subsequently sued the WBC for damages on grounds of mental suffering he claims he endured when his son’s funeral was turned into a WBC debacle. In the current case, Albert Snyder is appealing the overturning of that court decision in which he had been awarded $11 million. 

As probably everyone but me already knew, WBC, led by founder Fred Phelps, regularly pickets military funerals claiming that God had killed the serviceman or woman to make a point, and that he enjoyed doing it. WBC’s websitestates that they have carried out 44, 286 such protests so far. Church members wave large, colourful signs at these events which bear such frank slogans as “God Hates Fags”, “God Hates America”, “God Hates You”, “Your Pastor is a Whore”, “The Jews killed Jesus”, “Aids Cures Fags” and “God Hates Your Feelings”. Subtle WBC is not. 

WBC targets high-profile funerals, such as that of brutally murdered gay student Matthew Shepard, in order to attract maximum media attention. They are doing a great job with that. According to one reportWBC’s membership totals less that 100 adults, over 80% of whom WBC admits are related to each other by birth or marriage. For such a small and exclusive group WBC has a very, very loud voice. 

WBC’s main webite is a fascinating read. There they state their positionon numerous issues supplying a smorgasbord of Bible references in support of each. In a nutshell, if I’m understanding them rightly, here’s are some of their core beliefs: 

  • The Bible is the Word of God
  • Sodomy, sex outside of marriage, adultery, divorce and remarriage are all sins and those who are guilty of them will burn in hell for eternity
  • People who have had an abortion, likewise
  • In fact, God hates everyone who is not among his chosen – the Elect
  • Only God’s chosen will make it to heaven – eternal damnation awaits the rest of us
  • Pastors who preach that God loves the non-Elect are lying whores
  • America supports homosexuality and divorce and is, therefore, doomed to destruction
  • Disasters like 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina & Rita and the Boxing Day Tsunami are all evidences that God’s blessing has been removed from those nations. Indeed, those tragedies were brought about by God to make that very point
  • God laughs when sinners die
  • God is especially glad when soldiers die – anyone who would fight for a country that tolerates homosexuality is, by definition, not a friend of God’s
  • God particularly hates non-elect Jews and will ensure they burn in hell (see WBC website
  • If you’ve missed the hit list so far you should know that sending your kids to public schoolqualifies you for the lake of fire 

WBC members consider themselves Calvinists in that they hold to the well-known Five Points of Calvinism sometimes known as TULIP. This means, in part, that WBC believes than mankind is intrinsically sinful and cannot choose to reach out to God of his own volition. In this view, believers – the Elect, are saved by the grace of God, chosen by God to be saved. All those who do not belong to this group are destined to suffer an eternity of fully-conscious torture in Hell. Indeed, these folk were hand-selected by God for Hell before they were a twinkle in their Daddy’s eye.

Although it would, I think, be true to say WBC share some of these views with many nice, ordinary Reformed Baptist and Reformed Presbyterian churches, their extreme Calvinism perhaps accounts, at least in some degree, for the group’s astonishing lack of compassion. Recent posts on WBC’s blog Godsmacks, one of the many websites the group hosts, include one praising God that a Moslem child was killed by a monkey in Malaysia, and another rejoicing that so many gay and lesbian young people are committing suicide. The post which states, “Thank God Fewer Than Half of Americans Oppose Same-Sex Marriage”trumpets that this is great news indeed and clear evidence that the Lord’s return is imminent.

I remember the moment I realised that personal testimonials aren’t worth a smidge of rat doody. It was some years ago as I watched the video suicide note left behind by members the Heaven’s Gate Cult. In it several young men – wide-eyed with rapture – described the incredible happiness they had enjoyed as a direct result of cutting off their testicles. They went on to explain that – joyous day – they were about to swallow cyanide in the happy anticipation of being collected by friendly aliens later that afternoon. The sincerity of their happiness was absolute. So… I’m not the one to be impressed by the glee of two of Fred Phelps’ granddaughters as they explain in this video that, not only is it their God-honouring duty to be thrilled to bits when sinners suffer and die but that, even that if it weren’t for the bonus of that putting them on the same page as God, they would find the sinner’s misery pretty satisfying anyhow. Indeed it would be difficult to imagine even the most TULIPpy Calvinist failing to be a little disturbed at the bright-faced young things’ giggly delight as they envisage the destruction of the damned.

While WBC allows that God can and does save some sinners – them for example – and that salvation, once you’ve got it, is keepsies for good, members are quick to cast out any in their midst who question WBC’s beliefs or practices. This short documentarydetails the shunning of 24-year-old Lauren, oldest daughter of senior WBC member Steve Drayne. It is not so much that Steve and his wife voted with other WBC members to force their daughter to leave both the group and her home that I find shocking, but that Steve apparently experiences no sadness whatsoever about the loss of his child. Indeed, now that he realises Lauren is one of those predestined for Hell – the giveaway was Lauren’s asking some sticky questions – Steve is genuinely glad to see the back of her. 

Nate Phelps is one of only four of Fred Phelp’s 16 children who have turned their backs on their parents’ faith. As noted in this video, Nate’s former friends and family at WBC aren’t all that impressed with him as a result. But Nate is in good company – there are a lot of people who WBC don’t like. Swedes for example. WBC don’t like them *at all*. It’s worth pasting here a section regarding the Boxing Day Tsunami from WBCs FAQ pageas an example of the frothing venom WBC is capable of generating when their dander is fairly up. 

Do you realize that among the dead and missing are 20,000 Swedes and over 3,000 Americans? Filthy Swedes went to Thailand – world epicenter of child sex traffic – to rape and sodomize little Thai boys and girls. 20,000 dead Swedes is to Sweden’s population of 9 million as 650,000 would be to America’s 290 million population. We sincerely hope and pray that all 20,000 Swedes are dead, their bodies bloated on the ground or in mass graves or floating at sea feeding sharks and fishes or in the bellies of thousands of crocodiles washed ashore by tsunamis. These filthy, faggot Swedes have a satanic, draconian law criminalizing Gospel preaching, under which they prosecuted, convicted and sentenced Pastor Ake Green to jail – thereby incurring God’s irreversible wrath: “He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Psa. 105:14,15. America, who is awash in diseased fag feces & semen, and is an apostate land of the sodomite damned. Let us pray that God will send a massive Tsunami to totally devastate the North American continent with 1000-foot walls of water doing 500 mph — even as islands in southern Asia have recently been laid waste, with but a small remnant surviving. And you wonder if this is the wrath of God? 

But lest you mistakenly assume that WBC actually cares what happens to those ‘little Thai boys and girls’, they go on to explain that no-one is innocent, no matter his or her tender age and anyway… 

…It is God’s prerogative to kill children to punish their evil, Godless, vile, filthy parents and others who were raising them for the devil anyway; they are most certainly better off now than they were in the hands of such evil people… 

Oh, well then. Just so long as they are better off.

WBC see themselves as modern day Jeremiahs preaching an eleventh hour sermon of repentance to a world hell-bent on destruction. They openly scoff at the suggestion that they ought to be praying for the lost, citing as their example the words of Christ in John 17. Remember, that’s the scripture where Jesus states that he does not pray for the world but only for those the Father has given him. WBC accept the unlikely possibility that some may be saved in response to their ‘preaching the truth’ but they admit they don’t care a whit either way. Their duty is just to preach the gospel, and God’s business is to save – or, most likely, not. WBC seem pretty sure there aren’t too many left on earth who are going to escape eternal and firey misery. They frequently make statements to the effect that the ‘day of grace has passed’ for the vast majority of us ‘dummies’. 


I’ve written in the past about drawing a distinction between radical Christian fundamentalism and the caring, intelligent, Bible-believing folk I know and love. But, although members of WBC are undoubtedly less shy about their views than most, as I read through their beliefs and practices, I was struck by how familiar much of it seemed. Certainly I know (and love) many self-professed Calvinists and would once have considered myself in that camp. Further, I personally know many Christians, who, for example, would agree that AIDS is God’s judgement on homosexuality. And it’s only a few months since I overheard a Christian woman at a homeschooling event explaining to the young non-Christian mother with whom she was attempting to share the gospel that the Boxing Day Tsunami was plainly God’s judgement on Islam and Moslems. Evidently she hadn’t twigged to the Swedes. 

So all this has got me thinking: Are the members of WBC an aberration, a bizarre hate group that has little if anything in common with orthodox Christianity? Or are they, as they claim, just a bunch of good ol’ Baptists who are willing to live and die on the ground of plain and honest doctrinal integrity? Are they dangerous fringe-Fundys? Or would it be true to say that many other Christians would agree – just quietly – that WBC’s beliefs do indeed reflect the clear meaning of Scripture? I mean, although some of the fundies I have known wouldn’t be saying so outside of select company, many do believe that God hates gays, and Jews, and Moslems and other unbelievers and that he is pretty chuffed when he sends some nasty suffering or other their way. 

So I’m just asking the question: If God hates gays, where does it leave me…as I don’t? Can I utterly reject the bigotry of the ilk propagated by WBC and yet keep Christ? Or am I going to have to admit that I am teetering on the brink of ditching Christianity altogether? Should I face up to the fact that I can no longer honestly claim to be Christian because there is more than one segment of the Bible with which I am probably never going to happily reconcile? Am I vainly trying to ignore the unpleasant fact that the Bible is, as so many have said, a sexist, misogynist, racist and homophobic document? Am I just attempting to build a new religion that suits me because the orthodoxy of the one I used to hold so dear I now find offensive in so many respects? Is it going to come down to Integrity OR Christ? And what will that mean in real life? What will that mean for me? 

Clearly there is some thinking still to be done. 

Oh, but before I sign off I need to mention that WBC specialises in musical parodies. Would you forgive me if you missed ‘Hey, Jews’, ‘Fat-bottomed Whore’ or ’50 Ways to Eat Your Baby’? Or if you are up for some light reading, you could try this fascinating treatise which takes subject of baby eating further than you can probably imagine.