[LMB] All things are contained in Bujold...

Eric Oppen ravenclaweric at gmail.com
Tue Feb 11 02:16:22 GMT 2020

I just finished *Unfollow, *Shirley Phelps-Roper's memoir of growing up in,
and eventually leaving, the Westboro Baptist Church.  You know them as the
"God Hates Fags" people.

I was reminded of the passage in *The Spirit Ring* where Fiametta realizes
why angels weep over sinners.  "They do not weep over the evil.  They weep
for the good that is wasted in it."

According to this account, other than their...aberrant...religious views,
the Phelps family, at least by Shirley's time, was a large, loving extended
family, with grandparents, parents, siblings and cousins all living close
together and sharing each others' lives.  The Phelpses are not the ignorant
fanatics a lot of their critics seem to think they are; they follow popular
culture closely (even if in the spirit of "Know your enemy and know
yourself, and in a hundred battles you will be victorious"), and are far
from stupid or unread.  Most of them are lawyers, and you don't get into or
through law school by being stupid.
They're also talented in many areas, and quite literate.

I couldn't help but feel enormously sad, thinking of the good things they
could have done with their lives instead of wasting them protesting in ways
that seem designed to drive even people who might otherwise agree with them
into the arms of their opponents.    And even worse was the last part,
where Shirley and Bekah (her sister) who had left the church and were
officially "unpersoned," found out that Fred Phelps, the founder, pastor
and longtime leader, had been excommunicated himself and was lying dying in
a hospice, his wits wandering, and none of the family there to be there and
reassure him.  The sisters visited him (making sure that none of their
other relatives knew they were in town) and their grandfather recognized
them.  He was delighted to see them, and even more delighted when he got
the news that one of his granddaughters was now a brand-new mother.
Looking at the picture of her newborn, he marveled that he could remember
when his granddaughter had been a tiny baby.  They talked, and when he
wanted to sing a hymn, they sang it with him ("It Is Well With My Soul."
Shirley nearly lost it when she realized that that is a hymn often used at

Make no mistake---I'm no liberal nor leftist, but I am also no fan of the
Westboro Baptists.  But I can't just see them as unmitigated, cackling
villains any more.

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