Phelps particularly highlights John Calvin's doctrine of unconditional election, the belief that God has elected certain people for salvation before birth, and limited atonement, the belief that Christ only died for the elect, and condemns those who believe otherwise.
An asshole is someone who cuts you off in traffic. Phelps was not an asshole: He was something more complicated.
A bigot is someone who hates for no reason. Phelps was not a bigot: He had reasons.
A charlatan is someone who acts under false pretenses for their own gain. This is perhaps a much better description of the man, but it doesn't encompass the (for lack of a better word) evil he brought to the game.
Nate Phelps says the perception in some circles that his father was once this champion of civil rights, railing against discrimination, is laughable. “We would all call black people ‘DNs’ at home. It stood for Dumb Niggers and was our private language,” he says. “We thought it was clever to call them that in front of them. He was deeply prejudiced, and he believed the Bible said they were cursed.”
Nate says Fred Phelps saw an opportunity with the passing of the Civil Rights Act to cash in. “There was a lot of money, and a lot of opportunity,” he says. “And suddenly my father was the man to go to.”
Asshole one-upmanship was exactly the WBC/Phelps stock in trade and lifework.
It's amusing to see people choose to continue in his example rather than finding the only thing that can eliminate it: indifference.
I don't see any need to forgive him. I don't see any reason not to be viciously, viscerally angry at the things he did and the attitudes he reinforced.
I do see a need to be better than him, though.
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