So this morning I was wasting some time on the internet before I was going to go to Meeting
, when I saw that Westboro Baptist
, of "godhatesfags.com" fame, was going to be picketing a couple of churches
, and some other folks had put together a counter-protest
. "OMFG!" I said, "Sorry Meeting, this is way more interesting", grabbed my pride flag, and headed out.
A little background: I am fascinated by fundamentalist Christian propaganda. I have a collection of Chick Tracts
, Jesus Camp
is one of my favorite documentaries, and in college I used to watch Jack Van Impe Ministries
to hear about the imminent end times. I marvel at how perfectly intelligent people can hold such extreme views, and by the amazing powers of the human mind to pick and choose bits of a text in order to put together support for just about any world view. We live in the same universe, but draw such massively different conclusions about it. The chance to see the extreme of the extremes -- an incarnate reductio ad absurdum
of fundamentalism -- was too good to pass up. Plus in high school I did a lot of gay rights work, marched in a couple of Pride parades, and identified somewhere higher on the Kinsey scale than I do now. It was like old times to be able to go chant "hey hey, ho ho, homophobia's got to go" again.
So we're there, and the Westboro folks are across the street, outnumbered at least 10 to 1 by the counter-protesters. Everybody on both sides is actually enjoying themselves. The Phelpses are singing "God Hates America" and are plainly pleased to have riled people up; the counter-protesters are singing "if you're happy and you know it, shake your butt" and are chatting among themselves about the awesome insanity of it all. I got a picture!
Among the Westboro people is a lady with various signs
, one reading "BITCH BURGER". After hearing two gay men separately wonder, "what is a bitch burger, and where can I get one?" I decided I may as well ask. Now, I was taught early on that it is not nice to make fun of crazy people, so even though these crazy people are awfully belligerent, I went the polite route. I left my pride flag on our side of the street and went across.
"Hello," I said, "we were wondering what 'bitch burger' means". "Well honey," she said with rather a lot of condescension, "if you'd read the bible then maybe you'd know". I couldn't recall any biblical references to bitch burgers off the top of my head, but fortunately she continued. It was pretty rambley but the upshot seemed to be that women (presumably not Phelps family women) are bitches for our various crimes against our children, like aborting them and failing to teach them about god's universal hatred. From up close it was easier to see that the picture on the sign was of a baby in a hamburger bun. It seems to be related to their thier sign and talking point: "YOU WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN"
. I thanked her and went back across the street.
From there they packed up and moved on to a very gay-friendly Catholic church, and we marched down to meet them. Apparently today is Corpus Christi, so we were sure to stay across the street so the congregants and chorus and bagpipers (!) could process around the cathedral. It was really lovely, a lot of the churchgoers and holy folk waved at us and we waved back. Things got a little more shouty between the WBC and the counter-protesters, and after about 15 minutes they packed up and left, giving us time to eat the delicious free food, and stand around chatting amongst ourselves and with passers-by. I had a nice chat with a seminary student about what churches can do to counteract this kind of hatred, and I explained the nature of Westboro to a few horrified churchgoers.
In the end, though it was spurred by a few very hateful people, most of us ended up feeling pretty good about humanity and the power, cheesy as it is, of love. Hooray! *bubbles*
More updates to come as other people post their pictures!
Some nice photos of the crowd: http://www.centraldistrictnews.com/2009/06/14/phelps-protesters-at-mt-zion
Bitch Burger lady giving a much more coherent answer than she gave me: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2009/06/14/westboro-baptists-video-part-i