WBC: With Blind Certainty


Shirley Phelps

David Foster Wallace said,

“Religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”

Religious dogmatists jail themselves in mind prisons of blind certainty.  Like schizophrenics, they live in warped worlds where their irrational beliefs govern what they see, hear, feel, say, and do.  Both are certain of what they believe without knowing they are caught up in a hallucination.  No mind prison is closer to the insanity of a madman than the mindset of a religious dogmatist.




America’s epitome of spiritual fanaticism today is Westboro Baptist Church. Any devoted member of it suffers from these symptoms.  Their thoughts and emotions, hyper-charged by misplaced hostility, are so impaired that they cannot see reality.  In their religious “zeal,” they are excited, euphoric, deluded, and overactive. Reality, rational argument, and even the Bible repeatedly contradict Westboro beliefs and perception of hate.  All these psychotic characteristics are sourced from their blind certainty.

Wikipedia says,

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is an American unaffiliated Baptist church known for its extreme ideologies, especially those against gay people. The church is widely described as a hate group…  It is headed by Fred Phelps and consists primarily of members of his large family; in 2011, the church stated that it had about 40 members. The church is headquartered in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka…  Its first public service was held on the afternoon of November 27, 1955.

Protests at the funeral of Matthew Shepard

Since November 27, 1955, WBC has engaged in protest activities that enrage the rest of the country, Christians and nonbelievers alike.  WBC “first gained publicity when it picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten to death in 1998 in Wyoming,” says The New York Times.  God was killing soldiers to punish America for condoning homosexuality, apparently.  While protesters wielded signs saying, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” mourners were robbed of the right to bury their loved one in peace.

In 2011 The WBC praised God for Jared Lee Loughner, who went on a shooting spree in Tucson and killed six people including 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.  The WBC threatened to picket the funerals of the Tucson shooting victims, saying, “Thank God for the violent shooter, one of your soldier heroes in Tucson,” according to the Tucson Sentinal.  Tragedies like the shooting are heaven-sent to punish American sinners, in the eyes of the WBC.

Shooter Jared Lee Loughner

When Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006, WBC protested again to prove “that American deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God’s punishment for U.S. immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion,” says CNN.com.  Snyder’s father brought a case to the Supreme Court to combat the WBC, but lost because the First Amendment gives them the right to continue such demonstrations.

There are many other incidents where the WBC took advantage of their Constitutional rights to terrorize people.  They abuse the freedom and justice they receive from their country to inflict injustice and oppress the freedom of others.

To call this group a church is really an insult to religions everywhere,”

says Jeffrey Toobin to CNN.

To even be associated with the WBC as a “fellow” Christian is a scorching burn of an insult.  I feel this way individually, but Toobin applies the insult universally, saying that the WBC is a shame to every religion in existence.  Were I in the shoes of a Buddhist, a Scientologist, a Muslim, would I feel the same way?

The Dhaka Tribune lists the WBC alongside Al-Qadea and the Taliban as religious fundamentalist organizations.  While I nod in agreement with this association, I’m led to believe there are others out their who shake their heads in reaction to the dogmatists of their own religions.  A poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project found overwhelmingly negative views of Al-Qaeda among Muslims in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Lebanon.  As different as Christianity and Islam are, we can at least unite in disapproval of the radical fundamentalists of our realms of religion.

WBC and Al-Qaeda, scourges of religion everywhere, are parallel characters living in similar mind prisons.  Dark hatred governs these prison cells, yet the inmates walk the halls thinking their way is lighted by divine right.

The WBC is so fervent in their anti-gay, anti-jew activity because they believe God is behind them.  Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  The WBC answer: everyone outside our church.  Fags.  Jews.  America.  But the verse asks a question that requests no answer at all.  The rhetorical response would be “no one.”  Christianity is not a cause to rally around in opposition to surrounding sinners.  If we already have God on our side, we should know that all battles are already won; we have no enemies.  Sin itself is the real opposition Christians face, but it is a sin to condemn others thinking you are not a sinner yourself in the first place.  Rather than looking inward to clean the madness of their blind, yet certain, worldview, the WBC looks outward and casts judgment on things that actually mirror their own flaws.

The headline of the WBC’s official website quotes Leviticus 20:23: “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things and therefore I have abhorred them.”  Hate is a reoccurring theme for the WBC; they even have a whole page listing verses that account for the hate of God.  They don’t realize, however, that they are part of the nation which God abhors, the nation that makes a false idol of religiosity, celebrates killing, and refuses to treat their neighbor as they would themselves.

The WBC has lost itself to moral self-righteousness and hubris.  If the WBC knows so much about the things God hates, they should remember that God hates pride.

According to the Dhaka Tribune, contemporary social psychologist Jonathan Haidt offered an explanation for the occurrence of religious fundamentalism.  When it comes to morality, “it makes us feel good to be part of groups and to be able to clearly mark out the ‘enemy’ or ‘other.'”   Fundamentalism is rooted in our deep desire for superiority.  The sad thing about fundamentalism is that it is usually confronted with more fundamentalism, like what happened in Egypt when thousands of people died in the attempt to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood.  It’s either that or the madness of fundamentalism is confronted with more madness, like when punk rock bands shot porn on the WBC lawn, or when Satanists turned a dead WBC member gay.

But we cannot forget that Jesus himself was accused of being mad, and confronted the argument with some madness of his own.

Mark 30:20-29

Mark 30:20-29

If our alternative to combatting fundamentalism with fundamentalism is to combat it with madness, this righteous “madman” proved it can be done.  Jesus spoke in parables that would tickle the fancy of a nutty schizophrenic, but some of their meaning is lucid to me:

In our harsh world of sin and immorality, Christians cannot drive out Satan with Satan.  It takes good to drive out evil. While this goodness is everything the WBC is not, the rest of us can’t drive the devils out by being devils ourselves.  It might take a bit of madness, but we have to combat blind and unethical pride with something more righteous and pure: a humility that acknowledges that we are all sinners and that no one is more or less of one than anyone else in our world.


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