Nate Phelps, the son of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, recently did an interview about his awful upbringing — it just shows that even people raised in the most extremist of environments can grow out of it.
Xtra: Was there a fear that you would become your father?
NP: I lived with that fear constantly. It informed my life at every level — if my father did it this way then I was loath to do it that way. I carried with me the idea that corporal punishment was okay, it was necessary, even though I was starting to let go of the idea that the Bible was the source of divine wisdom. I still had this in me that I was not doing the best for my kids if I didn’t spank them. Then one day I had an encounter with my youngest boy, who was about five at the time. I had tried to do it a different way, trying to let the kids know that I loved them, but he was still terrified. So I talked to him about it, I talked to my wife about it, and I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Some things I let go easily; some things I clung to for a long time.
Xtra: What got you into gay advocacy?
NP: It’s circumstances, really. We grew up being taught that the gays were the ultimate evil. I mean, you really saw them as a separate class of evil, and I carried that idea with me into adulthood. I never really questioned it, never challenged it, and then I got out into the real world and had to think through for myself what I really believed. The humanist ideology doesn’t really allow for this notion that we can treat one group of people different from another because we disagree with their lifestyle. The fact that that was the issue they focused on — it just seemed like the perfect fit for me to go out there and try to counter some of the damage. When I started talking, I was getting emails constantly from gay kids all over the country, all over the US and Canada, some of them terrified because of the messages they had heard… It was a natural thing for me to fight against that message they were putting out there.
His is a voice we all need to hear.
Phelps is speaking about his life at the Ottawa City Hall next Saturday night (Aug. 27th) — Tickets are $5, but Center For Inquiry members get in for free.
(Thanks to Lisa for the link!)