Monday, August 3, 2015

Warm People, Obnoxious Groups

I heard an interview today with Megan Phelps, the granddaughter of the infamous Fred Phelps, reverend of the Westboro Baptist Church. She and her sister left the church a few years ago, and in the interview she describes what it was like to grow up in and be a part of the fundamentalist, hate-mongering group.

One of the most interesting things she described was how her family (which makes up most of the church's seventy or so members) were as individuals. She describes them as loving, as teaching her the importance of being kind and polite and of getting good grades in school and contributing to society. They see the hateful signs they hold while picketing as messages of love. When they hold up a sign that says, "God hates fags," they don't see themselves as expressing something hateful, but as informing people of the error of their ways so that their fellow countrymen may repent and save their country from God's wrath in this world and themselves from an eternity of torture in Hell in the next. They do this out of love of their fellow man in an attempt to save them, not out of hatred.

I can't help but draw parallels with the Chareidi world. Not with the picketing and hateful signs. Most Chareidim are not so crass. But with the people who are warm as individuals and obnoxious as a group. With the people who say awful things about others, and sincerely believe they are just giving mussar. With the people who justify distasteful attitudes and behaviors with passages from holy texts and a conviction that they are doing the will of God.

It never ceases to fascinate me how different religions all follow the same patterns. The details differ, but the outlines are the same.


  1. Reminds me of the quote:
    "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion." -Steven Weinberg

  2. Absolutely! The torah and gemara are replete with laws on treating people nicely, caring for the poor and orphans, and at the same time, oppress, killn burn, choke, stone individuals and nations, men women and children who disagree with us.

    The rabbis continued this with laws differentiating between jews and gentiles, and it's no surprise that it continues today.

    The 'orthodox ' rabbis and laypeople that are condemning the attacks on the gay rights parade and the Palestinian baby also pray for moshiach to come tomorrow so we can commit mass genocide against all non-believers and build a beis hamikdash and sanhedrin that will execute gays and people who write blogs!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This is a good topic to pursue. I think in some ways it lies at the heart of the conflict people have over religion. Are religions full of good and bad? Are the people good? Are they better than seculars? Are they bad? Do they hold ideas that are terrible? It's the heart of the conflict.