Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


The God of Groucho Marx & Westboro Baptist Church (The “God Hates Fags” Gang)

posted by swaldman

P1010405.JPG(Photo by Gordon Waldman)
The “church” that became infamous for bringing their “God Hates Fags” signs to the funerals of people who died of AIDS and fallen soliders came to town this weekend. Westboro Baptist Church of Topkea picketed my old high school (Great Neck North) and then my former synagogue (Beth Elohim) as well as other houses of worship in New York.
They’ve broadened their message from God Hates Fags to God Hates Jews. They carry some more mainstream anti-abortion and anti-Obama signs so at first glance they can be mistaken for pro-life or Tea Party protesters. But it doesn’t take long to see that Westboro is more akin to Aryan nation than the Southern Baptist Convention.
To the tune of the Beatles’ Hey Jude, they sang (if I heard correctly), “Hey Jews, You Killed Our Lord”, and shouted “Evil Retrobate Jews!” They carried signs saying “Fags are Beasts” and sang, “God Hates America!” It’s hard to overstate how vile this group is.
Yet the amazing thing about this weekend’s Westboro visit: it was downright festive. At least that was the case outside Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope. The crowd of 100 people (many there for a Bar Mitzvah) seemed to view the half-dozen Westboro protesters less as a threat than a joke. There was almost excitement that the youngins got to see this artifact of an earlier era.
The rabbi, Andrew Bachman, inspired the crowd by blowing the shofar, “in the name of the God of love.” But the crowd especially roared when he added, “And in the name of the God of Groucho Marx, we put our thumb on our nose.” He then led the crowd in a sort of modified Bronx cheer (photo below) In response to the God Hates Fags placards, one woman put a sign on her canine reading, “Dog Loves Fags.”
The jovial posture was possible because of Westboro’s small number. If there had been 100 of them, everyone would have felt more threatened. This reaction was just about the best possible. The Westboro folks get off on enraging the crowds. At Beth Elohim, they were treated like a circus freak show.
Here, in the photo below, Rabbi Bachman salutes the Westboro gang “in the name of the God of Groucho Marx”
P1010369.JPG
When the Westboro protesters sang anti-semitic songs to the tune of Hava Nagilia, the crowd responded with the real thing: dancing the hora in a circle, while singing the actual Jewish folk song.
P1010376.JPG
The one facet of the protest that no one could quite work up a sense of humor about was the presence of the young children in the Westboro group. They held signs and would occasionally shout along with the parents. Child abuse.
P1010393.JPG
(Photo by Gordon Waldman)



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:28 am


If anyone ever wondered about the difference between authentic Christians and satanic thugs, Steven Waldman just wrote the illustrated text that covers all one ever needs to know.



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jestrfyl

posted September 29, 2009 at 12:04 pm


If you want to infuriate evil (and some say Satan) don’t fight, argue, or spew venom – simply laugh!
“In The name of the God of Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin, I thumb my nose in your general direction!”



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pagansister

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:11 pm


Excellent response to the “group of hate!” Excellent indeed.
As to the children brought by the Westboro group to participate in this demonstration of hate…truely sad. I agree with you,Steven, very much like child abuse.



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Jay

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:11 pm


I think you underestimate the links between Westboro and the Southern Baptists and other more mainstream Christian religions, nearly all of which trumpet the very same verses when they condemn homosexuality. Similarly, you also don’t seem to realize the history of anti-Semitism in Christian churches. Westboro may be a laughable collection of rude and stupid people, but they are different only in degree to many other Christians. And in the long run, I believe that the homophobia of more respectable churches has harmed far more people than the silly pranks of Westboro.



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Warren

posted September 29, 2009 at 3:13 pm


Jerry Falwell was once picketed by a gay activist group (don’t remember which one now) AND Westboro Baptist on the same day for the same reason. He said it was a proud moment – when both extremes are mad at you, you must be doing something right.
Westboro pickets the Southern Baptist Convention every year, just about. Most of us consider it a badge of honor.



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Appalachian Prof

posted September 29, 2009 at 5:00 pm


They’re odious. I think this congregation and its rabbi had the right idea–mock them, fart in their general direction. I’m just sorry that Westboro Baptist had to inflict themselves on somebody’s bar mitzvah, their special day.
How do they pick their victims? How do they support themselves? I believe the woman in the green shirt is the daughter of the original founder, is a lawyer and mother of MANY children. I wonder what those dinner discussions are like.
I’m curious about their theology. Their god hates so many people. Is there any way to appease this god? Will repentance do it? Must you repent AND join their “church”? Must you sacrifice your firstborn, or in the case of these delightful individuals in the photo, must you sacrifice ALL of your children to this Molech of theirs?
Is anyone besides themselves going to their “heaven”? They remind me of the dwarves in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, unable to see the beauty all around them, insisting on darkness, smelliness and ugliness. They also remind me of Amos Starkadder:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7Ge0fWvgr8
Truly, there will be no butter in hell.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 29, 2009 at 7:59 pm


Appalachian Prof,
When Émile Durkheim wrote his book On The Elements of The Religious Life, he had occasion to see a newly found tribe living in their stone age as they were developing a primitive form of totem-based religion. The people were observed to ascribe their socially desirable characteristics, that they would inculcate into their children, to animals. Then they built totem poles with these animals and worshipped them. Durkeim concluded that religion is a process whereby man worships an externalized version of his own socially desirable traits. Man worshipping himself.
Of course, Durkheim left no room for the possibility of genuine revelation.
However, that’s all these savages from Westboro are doing. Totem worship of themselves, devoid of and oblivious to the truths of the Christian revelation they would claim to profess.
These hate-filled trolls should contemplate a few verses of the scripture they use to justify their hatred:
1 John 4:20-21 “20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
John 13:34 “”A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Matthew 18:33-35 “33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””
1 John 4: 12 “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
I think your observations are dead on.



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Husband

posted September 29, 2009 at 10:30 pm


Loved the “Jesus had 2 Dads” sign. True, too, when you get right down to theology.



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Your Name

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:59 pm


The only God that they love and obey is Fred Phelps. Fred’s children, like Shirley, should not really be blamed. His children were all brainwashed by him into his distorted and twisted view of Christianity. Fred even beat and verbally abused his children when they were growing up. It’s actually very sad. So, I am not really mad at his children, but Fred…I can’t use the words I want to for him on this blog. Hell is too good a place for him.



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Panthera

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:08 am


The only positive aspect of these people is that they show what the fundamentalist Christians really stand for when they stop dissembling and start telling the truth.
Just as Palin is the ideal expression of the base of the Republican party, so these people are the true reflection of what we truly are confronting.
I’d rather deal with these people than the ones who are oh-so-glib-tongued but still want to dissolve my marriage and take away our children, ‘for our own good’, of course.
The culture wars among us Christians are incapable of resolution as long as the conservative Christians continue to demand the rest of us bow down to the yoke of their domination.
Don’t want a gay marriage? Don’t have one. But stay out of my secular marriage and stop telling my Christian church we can’t celebrate it. Your church can remain as limited and limiting as you like. But a government which today lets you oppress me and my Christian denomination can, tomorrow, have the power to oppress you. Ever think of that? That is the real reason behind separation of church and state.
Don’t want your child to have an abortion – the abortion rate for Bible thumpers in the US where they can abort is appallingly high – then give her some realistic options. And the proper education and means to avoid pregnancy. We now have firm evidence from multitudinous studies that fundamentalist Christians consume more internet porn, have higher divorce rates, have sex just as early and slightly more often than do children of non-fundamentalist Christians. What are the rest of us Christians doing right? Maybe, as Gerard suggests, focusing more on love than hatred is a solution.
The face of Christianity in the US today is not a welcoming one. Living between so-called ‘dead Europe’ and the Deep South, I have seen with my own eyes which Christians really care about manifesting the fruits of the Spirt and which define their love of God as hatred of the Other: The fundamentalist American Christians.
Frankly, if one actually does believe the Bible literally, attacking Jews has got to be the stupidest thing one could possibly do. ‘God’s chosen people’ ring a bell, maybe? Or how about that fact that we Christians are, in the final analysis, a break-away sect of the Jewish religion?
Ah, yes. Family fights are always the dirtiest.



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RJohnson

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:23 am


The folks from Westboro are their own form of weird. The problem is that they spawn off imitators who parrot their evil ways. Folks like Missionaries for the Preborn, who use similar picketing tactics with hate-filled chanting and “God hates…” signage, have taken the tactic of Westboro and duplicated it in places like Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Hatred can always find allies, whether the are clothed in a white sheet, a turban, or hiding behind an inflammatory sign. The only thing that we can do to overcome hatred is embrace love, offer prayer, and stand with those who are the targets of these groups.
Thanks, Steve, for the excellent article. Way to go, Rabbi Bachman!



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 30, 2009 at 11:09 am


Panthera,
“Frankly, if one actually does believe the Bible literally, attacking Jews has got to be the stupidest thing one could possibly do. ‘God’s chosen people’ ring a bell, maybe? Or how about that fact that we Christians are, in the final analysis, a break-away sect of the Jewish religion?”
You mean Jesus, Mary, the Apostles were….gasp….JEWS???!!!! ARRRGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Maybe that’s enough to drive these bigots out of Christianity altogether. Then they can identify under one of the banners that best describes them:
KKK
Aryan Nation
Skinheads
Further reflections for the bigots on this, the Feast of St. Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin
Matthew 7 21-24″21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Don’t get your blood pressure up over this Panthera. The fundamentalists, not of the Westboro stock who are barely Christian, who are inconsistent don’t come in for a thrashing with me. I’m inconsistent too. Most of us are. That’s why Jesus gives us the Church. It’s a repair shop for sinners, not a museum for saints. St Paul illustrates this in sharing his own struggles in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 7: 18-25 “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
It’s always easier to point to the failings in others that are not our own. They may well quote the scriptures that back their condemnation of homosexuality, but these avail them little if not spoken out of true love and concern. And you are most right, and righteous, Panthera, when you expose the vile bigotry that is the base motive for so many of these people’s condemnation of you and your husband, for the beatings you have endured, and for the physical and emotional sequelae that all of this has left as a toxic residue in your lives.
Still, I believe that many fundamentalists are earnest people, not bigoted, who are just trying to put it all together like the rest of us. They mean well, but may be led astray by their clergy who quote the scriptures VERY selectively. I am mindful of Rabbi Gamaliel’s advice to the Jews in Jerusalem on the fate of the Apostles:
Acts 5:35-”Then he addressed them: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’”
God Bless



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Husband

posted September 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm


Phelps is just the tip of the iceberg of hate in America…
http://www.365gay.com/news/fed-court-dismisses-lesbian-hospital-lawsuit/
Not an ounce of human decency in the lot of them. Yet another reason why equal treatment before the law is so important to all citizens – not just the betterosexuals.
Haters! Yet one more example of why equal treatment before the law (you remember the Constitution, don’t y’all?) is so important, and not just for you betterosexuals.



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Husband

posted September 30, 2009 at 12:24 pm


Groucho Marx was at least funny. This American-made anti-homosexual movement is not.



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Panthera

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:02 pm


Ah, Gerard,
There you go again – acting as tho’ that sandal-wearing, long-haired Jewish Rabi were relevant.
Sigh.
Husband is right, the hatred on the part of many conservative Christians is reaching levels which terrify me.
I have sufficient atavistic fears not to put a name to it, but the atmosphere today reminds me very much of Dallas in 1963.
Despite our many differences on rights for women, prisoners and gays, if we Christians who oppose murder and truly support the US Constitution don’t stand together, I fear for what may happen.
I didn’t care for Bush #41 nor RR nor Bush #43. But I always respected the office of the President. Reading the vile filth coming from the religious right these days, O! dear.



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Debbie

posted October 3, 2009 at 5:39 pm


I agree with Panthera, but Gerard said it best. I just hope some of the aryan KKK peeps read it. They already think they know everything.
These are scary people. Anyway-they scare me. Some of them are big jokes, but some are very dangerous.
It is so sad to see the little children involved..They should be playing barbies and baseball. They (the parents) have no shame.
Poor babies….



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iPod Accessories

posted October 7, 2009 at 2:49 am


I am not agree with panthera thoughts and Gerard is right in his thoughts and some of the persons believe that they are everything and making a big jokes and it is very dangerous.



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SpringerRider

posted October 8, 2009 at 9:44 am


Phelps is a shill. His whole church is a fake and so many of yo bought into it. Phelps opnce had a close relationship with Al Gore! Using his invented church allows him to attack the war and appear to discredit the religious right. It is an ingenious strategy but vile.
What is sad is that some many fell for it.



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Your Name

posted October 13, 2009 at 8:58 am


Thank God for the freedom that allows people to thumb their noses at wackos like this.



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Hugh Vincelette

posted October 15, 2009 at 10:18 pm


In a response to a comment following the Westboro v. garden variety Baptist , Steve Waldman states that he disagrees with the comparison. He states that Phelps et al; celebrates the deaths of gays , while ordinary Baptists do not. I could not believe what I was reading. Mr. Waldman , you must be younger than I thought.
I was a resident of San Diego during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.During that time ; conservative Christians of all stripes fiercely and successfully ; opposed the use of any public funds for HIV research. The subsequent delay in acquiring effective treatment options ; denied thousands even a fighting chance at survival.



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