WHY does Fred Phelps convey his message in such an obnoxious way?

I think I know. And to know you have to learn a little more about him than knowing him as the guy who upsets bereaved military families.

The key to Fred as I see it is that he is just about the last of a long line of preachers who go back thousands of years. He preaches a demanding God rather than a God who just goes around helping people. And the message of a demanding God was the norm within the memory of people still alive.

It's only in the second half of the 20th century that a drastic and sudden watering down of the old faith occurred. And it's not only in the mainstream churches that the old Gospel has been transformed. Even most evangelicals seem to have succumbed to the new message -- though it varies in degree of course. The old binary God who was both a God of love and a God of judgement has largely disappeared. And Fred is one of the few holdouts from the old religion.

And he knows that. And it makes him desperate to see how few people now hear what he regards as the true gospel. So he goes to extraordinary lengths to get attention to his message.

As an atheist I have no dog in the fight concerned but if you want to step into a time machine and hear the sort of preaching that your grandparents heard routinely in their youth, click on the video below. It's still pretty powerful preaching.


  1. Thanks for this: like you I am an atheist, but I too have been guilty of complacency in this regard, just accepting the image of Phelps presented by a media I wouldn't trust on any other topic.
    That video is certainly compelling, and Phelps is clearly is an intelligent, articulate, non-insane man, who believes that the word of God as written in the Bible obviously overrides any ephemeral issue like possible offence caused to earthly sensibilities. If you truly believe you are rescuing people from an eternity of hellfire then your words can only sound benevolent in your ears.
    I just don't understand how he can be so confident in the authenticity of the word, given its piecemeal history, and can't see why that fact alone shouldn't instill at least some doubt and hostility in him, but on his own terms he's rigorously logical and - I was truly surprised to discover - doesn't come across as a hateful character.
    The picketing of funerals, of course, remains beyond the pale in a civilised society, as it would have seemed equally to our grandparents, however little the rest of Phelps's routine would have shocked them.

    On a trivial side-note: doesn't he look like Clint Eastwood.

  2. Idiot error apology:
    I meant 'humility', of course, not 'hostility'.
    Oh dear.

  3. I must confess I enjoyed his sermon
    It is such a classic


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