General Question

Riser's avatar

Should selective equality be reformed?

Asked by Riser (3485points) March 19th, 2008

I just finished a documentary that was released in 2000 called “Hatemongers: the story of Fred Phelps.” The director, a member of Phelp’s church, created a relatively unbiased image of, what he calls, a “misunderstood man.” Various segments of the documentary featured gays, Billy Graham crusade attendees and politicians attempting to deface and devalue Rev. Phelps’ approach to evangelism. In response, Phelps argued that it is his mission, in this life, to preach the gospel of “fire and brimstone” against the “fags, fag-enablers and backslidden Christians of Godless America.”

At first, because of my own orientation and Christian background, I was outraged and immediately branded Mr. Phelps a closed-minded, simplistic and evil man but then I began to contemplate his message, scriptural validity and personal history.

In 1985 one of Phelps’ own sons was propositioned for gay sex in a family-friendly park in Kansas. Shortly thereafter Phelps began a small campaign to protect his town’s children from the same dangers by picketing signs that warned parents about the secretive homosexual activity taking place in this park. Within hours he and his family were attacked and dismantled. This urged Phelps to begin studying exactly what, he believed, the Bible said about homosexuality. His “discoveries” challenged him to begin educating the world through the use of banners that spoke of “the truth” about God’s hatred for homosexuals and homosexuality.

An overwhelming sense of heartbreak consumed me as I realized this man is not championing for God but rather is moving on a fuel of hatred that began when his own son (his children are precious to him) was propositioned. He has not forgiven those men and has perverted God and the “word of God” because of his own self-denying passion to protect his children. Can I argue with that? Can I call a man who will sacrifice the foundation of his faith and belief, for the love of his son, evil?

Then I began to think about the vast majority and their desire to rid the world of the likes of Fred Phelps and his message. An action that, if successful, would shatter the very foundation of democracy as we know it and risk destroying the integrity of “precedents.” Yet, in the name of our own comfort and desire for tolerance, we are willing to abolish opinion and create “selective equality.”

Please understand that my views and opinions do not parallel Mr. Phelps in the least but I believe that if this country does anything to stand in his way (democratically speaking) we risk losing our own freedoms and the freedoms of the generation we leave behind. I believe in reformation through the transformation of the heart and mind through education and friendly exposure but how can one pursue equality if, part of the driving force, is to segregate its meaning and apply labels to people like Mr. Phelps?

Is there a compromise? Is it even possible to reform selective equality before it infringes on this democracy? Could it be democracy itself needs reformation?

I want to be able to legally marry my fiance in the state of California. I want gay pride fairs to, some day, be irrelevant to society because of the advancement in tolerance. I want a country that does not fear their children being shot because one boy gave another boy a valentine but I don’t want any of that if it means governmentally silencing Fred Phelps.

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24 Answers

trainerboy's avatar

You want to advance TOLERANCE?? You want people to tolerate you as a gay man??
What if they ACCEPTED that you are gay? Wouldn’t that be more progress than people merely putting up with you?

Riser's avatar

This isn’t about gays or tolerance toward them. They already have their place, firmly held, in the political spotlight.

I am talking about reforming equality so it doesn’t shut out people like Fred Phelps.

trainerboy's avatar

How about advancing acceptance for all instead of tolerance. With acceptance, the door opens up automatically and nobody is shut out. With tolerance, it has the appearrance of being open, but tolerance itself say we will put up with you , whereas acceptance say we accept this as how you feel without judgment.

squirbel's avatar

Personally, I have yet another reason to admire the genius of Riser. He has put a voice to a thought that has weighed on my heart.

In this democracy, we are blessed with the right to free speech. But we are a melting pot of many different cultures, ideologies, religions. This alone wreaks havoc because there is always a majority opinion, and a minority opinion. Should the minority opinion be scathed simply because it doesn’t cohere to the standard of the majority? Is it wrong, simply because it is not the majority?

I commend you for seeing Phelp’s battle as a personal one. He is just a man, just like the next guy, and prone to protect what he feels is threatened. Some will call him a bigot. By society’s standard, he is. But vis a vis, mano a mano, he is just another guy with a different world view.

In this democracy, I have been watching great swathes of people being derided and criminally punished (punishment by the citizenry and in courts) for maintaining certain views. This saddens me, because it puts me on the wrong side of the tracks. I will never speak, and my voice will never be heard – out of fear.

I do not condone those who blindly hate. Those must be sifted from those who hate with a cause, because those who hate with a cause are more capable of being reasoned with. They can be turned away from hate without changing their views.

This may sound like babble to some, but it is the first time I’ve been able to voice the concept Riser is pointing at:

Should the majority view be allowed to pulverize the minority? Is that where we are headed?

Riser's avatar

Unfortunately “majority” is an evolving term. How can we govern something that rapidly evolves?

squirbel's avatar

I don’t believe laws can fix this. The only way it can be fixed is if tolerance for the perpetual minority is reprogrammed into the human psyche. And this means it will never change. The minority has always been crushed and oppressed, in every stage of the growth of civilization.

Riser's avatar

As we have seen in the case of homosexual tolerance in America; by the time tolerance perpetuates the voice of a minority the dynamics have already shifted. It’s a never ending cycle.

If you look at the famous evolution trial in the early 1920’s you can see the majority was in favor of a creation based education system, now “creationism” is trying to fight for any viable place in public schools.

squirbel's avatar

I don’t disagree with you. I should better refine my statements to say that while current majority changes, the current minority faces pulverization, and this is a dynamic that will never change unless the human psyche is reprogrammed for natural tolerance.

trainerboy's avatar

I believe the word hate is overused. People believe differently. It doesn’t mean they “hate”. I know many who believe things about lifestyles of people and it is what they believe. It does not make them hateful. Words liek hate, bigot, racism etc are thrown around quite a bit. If I don’t believe in Socialism does that mean I “hate” it?

Besafe's avatar

The problem with discussions of issues like this is many have a problem separating what a person does from who they are. I may not agree that either Mr Phillips actions nor those of homosexual zealots are acceptable BUT that should not stop me from accepting them as people. As a Christian who lives by the Bible I try to remember what Jesus said and what He did. I find that He did not condone sin but he also showed love toward all (with the possible exception of the religious hypocrites). He also boldly spoke the truth to all. My prayer is that I might grow to be more like Him day by day by day. So obviously I do not support Mr Phillips actions and believe that we all should be able to express our views without fear of reprisal.

Poser's avatar

The first amendment was designed to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech doesn’t need protecting.

Silencing the likes of Phelps through the force of law (satisfying as it may be) weakens everyone’s already-weak freedoms.

Riser's avatar

I agree, Poser and Besafe but how do you suggest we approach a move of reforming “selective equality?”

trainerboy's avatar

Hatred, if it is truly that comes from fear. Nobody knows if Mr Phelps “hates” but he may have a fear.
Judgment also comes from fear. To judge him as hateful is no different than what he is doing. Judgment comes from being afraid of what he is saying or believing it can truly hurt. He cannot hurt someone with his words without their permission.
Being a victim or having a victim mindset is based in fear. To say that you are oppressed is being a victim and giving power to those who would want you to fear them.
All perpetuate fear and out of fear we have war.

Riser's avatar

Trainerboy: That is why I was moved toward respect for the man because, while his message is certainly hateful in his own words, He is motivated by a passion to save this country from damnation. I don’t agree with his beliefs but I still respect him.

trainerboy's avatar

we don’t know if it is hate, but it does feel like fear to me. Hate is so overused, just as racism etc, are thrown in to make points. The point is , if we counter with fear, we perpetuate the issue.
You don’t know inside the mans heart and neither do I, so someone could just as easily decide your words are hateful because they see it differently. That does not mean you are, but someone could say so.
You ask some great questions and make some great points.

Riser's avatar

Trainerboy: I am getting used to hitting the “Great Answer” button whenever your name pops up.

There are a large demographic of people who are arguably promoting “hate.” As you said this is entirely subjective however, in the case of Mr. Phelps he has openly said hate is his message with the intention of leading people to salvation. While his motives can be disputed, his message is crystal clear, again I have to respect him for that.

trainerboy's avatar

I know somewhat what Mr Phelps says. Realize though that what he says is still based in fear. He is afraid. I have dealt with people like that. I had a gentleman some years ago whose son was gay and he wanted to know why I turned him gay. (Let me explain, I am not gay, I run trainings and after the training that his son went through, he came out and said he was gay). The father was so angry about it so he thought I “turned” his son gay. His anger though was a mask of his fear. His fear that he didn’t do a good job as a parent, so it was easier to look at me. His fear was also that his son was going to hell. The point is, even though he was angry and one might call hateful, it wasn’t really that. He was afraid that it was him that did something “wrong”.
This may be what is going on with Mr. Phelps and I believe you pointed out some things about this. He is so AFRAID that this reflects upon him as a father, and he is so fearful of the God he believes in, he turns the finger to someone else and it shows up as hate.
This is partly why I made the point about tolerance. people who are self righteous will tolerate that which they hate, to show they are righteous. Even those who are not religious, it has nothing to do with that. However, a person steeped in love, will love the person and accept that this is “what is” right now. They may even believe that homosexuality is a mortal sin, and some do, but they accept that poeple are gay and love them no matter what. I am not talking about those that say “Hate the sin but love the sinner”, but those that acknowledge their beliefs about lifestyle and God, and know others believe differently, accepting it.
My premise is this, there are two driving forces within us, love and fear. If we deal with fear from fear, we expand the fear. Love has power over fear. If we love ourselves enough to simply love and accept that people believe differently, we inspire that. It may not shift for Mr Phelps in thsi lifetime, but imagine what it is like to get up everyday, and somewhere inside fearing so much that yuo are a terrible father, and spewing that kind of venom. That to me, is what hell would be like.

Besafe's avatar

The only way to change any of the reasons for hate fear etc is to change the hearts of people. No man can do that.

Besafe's avatar

I should have added no law or religious practice. We all have “heart diease” so to speak. But——oops that might be bible thumping.

cwilbur's avatar

I don’t think the world needs to be rid of Fred Phelps’s message; I think he has every right to tell the world that God hates fags.

I think everyone else has the right to tell him that he’s wrong. And that’s what I see happening, and so I don’t see a problem.

aaronblohowiak's avatar

i don’t believe that inciting people to violence should be tolerated, but i have no way of enforcing that viewpoint.

okay, no more jokes from me.

@riser, your love for another who would harm you is christ-like in the best way. kudos.

hossman's avatar

I agree with Poser that our Constitution was intended to protect the rights of even the offensive. Much of the current stance of 1st Amendment law was shaped by the offensive and vile insults, masquerading as parody, of Larry Flynt. If we are to protect the desirable, we must treat the undesirable equally.

Mr. Phelps (I cannot find it in me to characterize him as Rev.) has the right to be hateful and vile. I have the right to respond to him with my own constitutionally protected speech.

I will not address how wrong Mr. Phelps is about his approach to homosexuality. I have been more than clear in other threads about my position regarding homosexuality and the Bible. I will address Mr. Phelps approach to Christianity.

Mr. Phelps’ conduct as a Christian is not excusable by anything that he or a family member may have experienced. While God may forgive him, that does not require me to excuse him. I do not condemn or judge Mr. Phelps, but I am required to exercise my own judgment. My review of the Bible indicates that Mr. Phelps is clearly a modern Pharisee who is distorting the Bible in an attempt to justify his own hate and sinful conduct. In the process, he is leading others to potential eternal condemnation, both in those who follow Mr. Phelps, and those who sin in opposition to Mr. Phelps. The Bible is clear that this sort of misuse and twisting of the Scriptures to lead others astray will expose Mr. Phelps to his own eternal damnation, absent repentance and forgiveness. I hope Mr. Phelps will permit his heart to be softened by God’s mercy before it is too late for himself and others.

FlutherMother's avatar

@Riser, it takes an exceptional person to stand up for ALL humans – even those, such as Phelps, who radically oppose everything you are, so my sincerest admiration to you.

You will find that just about everyone will say, “I am all for freedoms and democracy” , but what they really are saying is, “I am all for freedoms and democracy for those who think and act just like me.” And many times, they feel they are justified because they insist that they are morally right. Then they proceed to pick random sentences out of the Bible to support their views. They would say, for example, just as murderers are wrong (“Thou shalt not kill”) and thus they deserve to give up their rights (by going to prison), homosexuals are wrong because it says somewhere (I have yet to find a passage that really justifies hatred of homosexuals) in the Bible so thus, all homosexuals should have no rights. Please! Even the Klu Klux Klan picked out phrases in the Bible to justify buring crosses on lawns of black people and dragging them to their death behind trucks.

But, I guess the issue is whether or not I agree that even those that want to oppress other people in the name of God should be able to express their views without fear of reprisal. I agree. I may not like it, but I agree. I would be such a hypocrite if I was all for my own freedom of speech without granting the same to others.

And Riser, for the record, your fabulous “gay and liberal” self and your fiance would always be welcome to my house for dinner. However, if you plan on bending any of my soup spoons (Yes, I caught your response on the quirks thread), we may have to have a chat before you come over.

Riser's avatar

*gently sets spoon down and conceals it under napkin then proceeds to fiddle thumbs while looking around the room for a conversation piece to focus on

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