Who Will Replace Fred Phelps?

Hopefully, he won’t be replaced but there are those who come close.

By now, most people know that the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, died earlier this month (March 19). Phelps was the personification of hatred toward gay people along with the church which was mostly his family members. I am sure others have speculated about who could replace Phelps so this might not break much new ground. However, I thought of this list while reading about Martin Ssempa’s march to celebrate the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

Most people, me included, do not want to see a replacement for Phelps. It is tragic to be known for one’s hatred and such a stance is surely a misrepresentation of Christianity. But there are those who seem to want the position. I’ll start with the reason this post even came to mind.

Martin Ssempa: Today, Ssempa is leading a march in Uganda to celebrate the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill late last year.  A person who would celebrate a law that makes life in prison a possibility for simple affection between two consenting adults has to be on the short list for a Phelps replacement. Once known primarily for his work in Uganda against HIV/AIDS, now he is known world wide as one of the most vocal and absurd anti-gay crusaders. His pornography shows in Kampala and hateful rhetoric rival Phelps for showmanship and degradation. Ssempa seems to revel in his status as an anti-gay icon in Uganda and in the United States. In fact, he is on the list while bill sponsor David Bahati is not, because Ssempa has cultivated his image in the U.S.

Paul Cameron: Paul Cameron has been discredited widely but still finds his way to the media, recently telling a talk show host that he would be open to the death penalty for sexually active gays. In the past, he has suggested that the Nazis methods of handling gays might also have merit. Cameron has for years called for criminalization of homosexuality and has produced mountains of junk studies to attempt to vindicate his views.

Scott Lively: Many might place Lively at the top of the list because he is widely believed to be the force behind the Uganda bill and the tightening of laws in the Soviet bloc nations. He favors laws which limit free speech on homosexuality but doesn’t favor the death penalty as did Ssempa before the law was amended. He says he favors rehabilitation and has often cited NARTH as a favored organization. Where he rivals Phelps is with his historical fiction book, The Pink Swastika, which essentially lays blame for the Holocaust on homosexuality.

James David Manning: Like many people who yell fire in a crowded room, this New York City preacher posted provocative rhetoric and then said he didn’t mean anything hateful. Manning posted “Jesus would stone homos” on his church sign and then said later he is not a hater. We’ll have to see if he escalates his rhetoric once the attention dies down.

Christian Reconstructionists: Many adherents of Christian reconstructionism (like this supporter of Ron Paul)  think gays along with disobedient children and adulterers should be stoned.  I am not sure any one of these fellows is going to rise up to the status of Phelps but their belief in their view of Mosaic law could be a foundation for such a move.

Some might object to my omission of Bryan Fischer. Fischer gets a dishonorable mention because he parrots some of Lively’s and Cameron’s views but doesn’t seem to want to kill gays. Criminalize same-sex relationships yes, but not kill them.

I hope it is clear that the focus here is not disagreement over biblical interpretation or moral objection to same-sex behavior, but rather the obsessive effort to demonize an entire group of people. Certainly, Ssempa, Cameron, Lively and Manning have demonstrated the latter. We don’t yet know the full consequences of their work.

Update on Ssempa’s march: At least three dudes showed up.

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