The Westboro Baptist Church is one of America's most infamous hate-mongers, using the bible and Christianity (at least, their brand of Christianity) to justify savage and hateful messages targeted at almost every group imaginable: homosexuals, abortionists, Muslims, Jews, Roman Catholics, even the United States military. When they're not stomping the American flag with soccer cleats or posting hateful parodies of popular songs on their website (the homophobic buggers even had the nerve to parody an Elton John song), they travel thousands of miles from their cozy coven in Topeka, Kansas to picket military funerals, gay pride events and Jewish community centers. They even went so far as to picket the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young man who was murdered in 1998 for no other reason than the fact that he was gay.
I had a crazy whim to get in contact with WBC yesterday. I wanted to know what it was like to talk to somebody who has such blatant disregard for compassion, humanity - and since WBC's website mockingly claims that they lose 0 nanoseconds of sleep over other people's "thoughts and feeeeellllliiiiiiings," I knew any member of the church would be a perfect match.
It took about an hour and twenty failed call attempts to reach anybody from the church. Clever Netizens have posted the personal phone numbers of all WBC leaders online, but the poor saps can probably only take so many prank calls before they have to acquire new numbers, rendering their old numbers invalid. After hearing The number you have dialed is no longer in service for the twentieth time, finally, I succeeded.
This is a transcript of my interview with a member of the Westboro Baptist Cult Church. For privacy's sake (and the fact that I can't afford to get sued), I've changed the interviewee's name [NOTE: this isn't a parody - it actually happened]:
Schmoopie: This is Schmoopie, may I help you?
Danielle: Hi, are you affiliated with the Westboro Baptist Church?
S: I am.
D: Um, I actually have a few questions.
S: You have a few questions?
D: Yeah, I was actually wondering how you guys felt-
S: Is this kind of a personal inquiry or is this a media inquiry?
D: More personal. It's just one question . . .
S: Go ahead.
D: What is your church's view on feminism, women's rights, that kind of thing?
S: On, on what now?
D: Feminism, women's rights?
S: Oh well, uh, God - there's nothin' wrong with women. *laughs* God didn't say it was an abomination to be a woman. Uh, yeah, so women are cool.
[audible laughter in the background]
D: Oh, okay. So what about feminism in general? Do you-
S: You, you mean - well if by feminism you mean, uh, women, uh, trying to be all that and a bag of chips?
D: Uh, no, I mean women who are fighting for equal pay, equal treatment under the law, that kind of thing?
S: Well I think that, uh, everybody ought to be treated equal under the law, and I think that women have every right in the world to make as much money as a man does to do the same job.
S: Yeah, that's all groovy-gravy right there.
D: So, you don't believe that if a woman, or even a man, defines themself as a feminist that they would go to hell?
S: Well, I think that anybody who defines themself as a feminist, uh, probably isn't interested in the bible.
D: Oh, why is that? There are plenty of women who mesh-
S: Did you just, did you ask me a question? Do you want me to answer it?
D: Yes. Sorry.
S: Alright, cool. So anybody who defines themself as a feminist probably doesn't have the, um, a proper fear of the lord. I'm not trying to throw a big blanket over the whole thing, but what I'm saying is, the kinds of things that you've talked about, the kinds of aspects of feminism that you've already talked about - equal pay, equal treatment under the law - that doesn't have anything to do with feminism. And certainly we're not opposed to anything like that, but I will tell you that some aspects of quote-on-quote feminism is, I think the Westboro Baptist Church absolutely has a problem with. And that is, that would be stuff like this: Um, the bible says "I suffer not a woman to teach," so the idea of a woma- of female preachers in the pulpits in the churches . . .
S: Is an absolute no-no by scriptural standards. Furthermore, uh, uh, the wife is subject to the husband in all things in that marriage covenant. So in other words, you know the husband or the father in the house is the authority in the house. He's the final say in the house. So, those aspects of things, that the feminist movement has tried, has tried for a long time now to usurp and to reject. Uh, w-we, we absolutely - look - if man says one thing, and God says another, you know, vis a vis the bible, we're gonna go with the bible.
S: But we don't have, we don't have any problem with the stuff, huh, the [unintelligible] equal treatment under the law, and the equal pay, and those kinds of things. Who the heck would want to pay a woman and a man a different wage for doing the same job?
D: Exactly. Um, actually feminism as I know it is exactly what you said: it's fighting for equal rights, equal pay, equal political opportunities, so I was just curious - what is your definition of a feminist?
S: Well that's a little bit, you know look, I have my definition of feminism . . . You know used to, I used to study, uh, philosophy at the Department - at the, the University of Kansas. I worked on a piece there for a while, so I have a philosophical definition of feminism, but then you- feminism is one of those kinda murky, uh, there really isn't a tightly-wound, uh, you know, disposition there, it's kinda like nailing jello to a tree. If you ask five different people what feminism is you're proba- you're bound to get five different answers. But, so, like I said, those aspects of, of feminism that have to do with equal treatment under the law, we're all for. But when you usurp the bible's authority on some aspects of feminism like, say, putting women in the pulpits, and, and having women- and there's a really good book for you to read on this. I can't think of the author's name, but I can tell you what the, the name of the book is. You'll really like this. It's called, uh, Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers. And that's, that's got kind of a bible view of how a true church of the lord Jesus Christ oughta take a look at the roles of women. Well, I like women though. I got daughters and I got friends, sisters in Christ, and I have a wife. Cool?
D: Okay. Thank you very much.
D: ‘Kay, bye.
Would I have liked a more substantial interview, one where I was actually given the time to sputter out more than "okay" and "mhmm"? Absolutely.
Analyze that conversation as you will, but I just think it proves that the members of WBC are incredibly closed-minded. Schmoopie may have pretended to be progressive and enlightened by oh-so-intelligently proclaiming his love and appreciation for the female sex (and I quote: "women are cool"), but he's obviously no different than the author of the horrendous book he suggested to me: Someone who doesn't think women are fit to teach anyone with a male appendage, someone who thinks wives should keep their mouths shut rather than have opinions of their own, and someone who thinks women shouldn't even be allowed to cut their freaking hair.
I've thought a lot about this since yesterday. I've stewed over it. Rued over it. And as drunkenly ridiculous as this may sound, I think America needs groups like the Westboro Baptist Church to crop up every once in a while. Why? Because they show us the wrong way to live. They show us what hate really looks like, thereby solidifying many of our beliefs in true justice, love, tolerance, and equality.
So thank you, WBC, for being such major jackasses!
And remember kiddies, if the Westboro Baptist Church hates you, that must mean you're doing something right!