Everyone knows Fred Phelps is a vile, obnoxious, cruel and probably psychopathic Christofascist (one of the well known subdivisions of the worldwide fascist movement, which includes Islamofascists, Judeofascists, Hindufascists and many other religiofascists; it is an ecumenical movement, which even includes godless fascists like Christopher Hitchens). For those of you lucky enough never to have heard of him, Phelps is pastor of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, famous for picketing the funerals of Iraqi war soldiers with the claim that they died because the military tolerates homosexuality. He makes the same claim about 9/11: it was God’s vengeance on a gay-tolerant America. And now he is making his way to Minnesota:
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., plans to stage protests at funerals of victims of the 35W bridge collapse to state that God made the bridge fall because he hates America, and especially Minnesota, because of its tolerance of homosexuality.
The church and its pastor, the Rev. Fred Phelps, have become notorious over recent years for their claim that the attack of 9/11 was an act of God’s vengeance and their determination to make that case at the funerals of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq.
In a press release issued the day after the bridge collapse, the church called for protests at the funerals and outlined its feelings about the relationship between God’s plan and the sins of Minneapolis and Minnesota, which it calls the “land of the Sodomite damned.”
Reached at the church, Shirley Phelps Roper, who is both the daughter of the pastor and one of the attorneys for the church, said that America, and Minnesota especially, have alienated God by its tolerance for homosexuality, and that the bridge collapse was an act of God’s vengeance. She said:
“The bridge stood in place by the word of God and it fell by the word of God…Each of these little events is just a harbinger of the coming destruction of this American experiment. We are delivering the final call of the doomed nation.”
She said, as they have done for years, members of the church would stand “lawfully and peacefully on the public right of way” near the funerals and “put in the air words of praying and instruction and warning.”
The signs that the protesters will wave will read:
“God cast down the bridge… Thank God for 9/11… America is doomed… God hates fags… God hates fag enablers… God hates Minnesota.” (Minnesota Monitor)
It is an interesting argument. Al-Qaeda said the same about 9/11. Virtually no one, prior to the destruction of the twin towers, thought it possible to bring down to the ground these huge buildings with the impact of an airplane. Not even the hijackers thought this would happen. The fact that it did was promoted in the Islamic world as a “miracle” and a divine validation.
Obviously no reasonable person would or could think such a thing. Which brings me to the point: if you are a believer in God’s omnipotence — if you believe God does things for a reason — if you believe everything is part of God’s plan — then what is wrong with the inference? If you are a believer, do you reject it because you don’t like the event and it “reflects badly” on God? When family members pray their loved ones are not the victims of a disaster when the identity of the dead are not yet known, what are they asking God for? The event has already happened. Are they asking God to rewind events or to reverse the order of causation? To make God a cause that works after an effect? If God can do those things, why did He stand by and let the towers and the bridge collapse?
Yes, I know these are hackneyed arguments, and they have been “answered” countless times by theologians. Let’s leave theologians out of it for the moment. They are professional explainers in the business of explaining anything and everything. For the ordinary believer, the resolution of the problem of evil boils down to a simple argument: God works in mysterious ways that only He understands. So how do we know that one of those mysterious ways is not the one the despicable Fred Phelps infers from the evidence?
Obviously no reasonable person would or could think such a thing.