Sometimes a single document can offer supreme wisdom about a mind-blowing issue. Wisdom which a thousand other articles, documentaries, and interviews can only embellish but not improve. Wisdom with far-ranging application.
I believe that this is such a document.
The following letter by Mark W. Phelps, son of Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, originally appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal on May 19, 1993. I re-post it here unabridged, with the editor’s note in italics.
[Capital-Journal] Editor’s Note: This is a letter Mark Phelps wrote last year to citizens of Topeka and northeast Kansas. It is printed at his request. Contacted by telephone in California July 7, 1994, Mark Phelps said the letter still represents his feelings. He also cautioned people against taking the letter out of context, saying there is “gentleness” in the context of the letter and a hope that the community can better understand Fred Phelps based on what the letter contains.
Many people have been asking me, over the past several weeks, about my father. They want to know what I think about him and “What is he really like?” People’s interest in what I think baffles me, but after careful consideration, I decided to respond.
What is he like? Well, it’s been 19 years since I left home, but his behavior still appears to be the same. He considers his environment to be against him without admitting, acknowledging or taking responsibility for how he contributes to that. He likes to show himself as being moral, pro-family, pro-Bible, but his actions just don’t add up to that.
I believe in God and the Bible, and my father’s behavior doesn’t fit the description of behavior that would show in the life of one who loves God; behavior characteristics such as Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control. Instead, my father’s behavior characterizes, I believe, Hate, Outbursts of Wrath, Contention, Jealousy, Vengefulness, Misery, Harshness, and Selfish ambition.
He mis-states the truth about his own behavior, about others, about the Bible, with apparent ease and regularity. He behaves with a viciousness the likes of which I have never seen. He accepts no genuine accountability in his life and is subject to no one. His lifestyle betrays the sacred trust of what a pastor, husband, father and grandfather should be. I suppose if a comparison were made between the life of Jesus Christ and my father, there would not be much to compare.
I also realize that my father is a very unstable person who is determined to hurt people. And because he is so bound to be hateful and hurtful, and because he’s so untrustworthy, I believe it’s a good idea to respond to him with caution much like the caution used when dealing with a rattlesnake or a mad dog.
You see, the causes that he crusades for, including the Bible, are not the issue here. He simply wants to hate and to have a forum for his hate. If the causes he focuses on were the issue, that is, if they really meant something to him in his heart and he meant for the things he does to be for the good, his behavior would not be what it is. He would not betray his message with his behavior. But, when he needs to, to vent his hate, he readily goes outside the bounds of any previously stated “value” or “cause” he may have supported. He experiences no moral dilemma when it comes to doing what he wants to do. If it weren’t the homosexuals, it would be something else.
Yet checks and balances on his behavior are appropriate, on the part of the community, in order to at least confine his destructive behaviors and to limit his influence. I believe that Topekans are making a good effort to try and stop him and should continue to do so. He can seem very intimidating. He can use foul language and come across with a booming voice to the community, but the truth is, like the Wizard of Oz, when Toto pulls the curtain back, instead of this big powerful individual, it’s only a small, pathetic old man. I feel sorry for my father as I would for anyone who displays this kind of hate and evil viciousness. These can only be the manifestations of tortured, injured and agonizing souls.
– Mark W. Phelps