I previously did one, but forgot my password. Thought I'd like to do another AMA.

Here is the proof: http://imgur.com/8ahhLLq

Now, a lot of people are having a discussion about how to handle my family's upcoming Ask Me Anything. A common suggestion is to completely ignore them, so not a single individual poses one question in their direction. This, however, will not happen. You may personally refuse to participate in the AMA, you may encourage others to do the same, but some people will respond, that's inevitable. It's just how the world rolls.

Sadly, most people want to say very hateful things to them. Recognize something: And this is the truth, and I know because I was there. While their message is very hurtful, there is no doubt about it, that doesn't mean it is malicious. Misguided? Absolutely. When I was in the church, I was thought that what I was doing was not only the right thing to do, but the ONLY appropriate and good thing to be done. They've seen uncountable middle fingers, it only makes them feel validated in their beliefs as Jesus Christ was quoted as saying, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first."

Instead, create a dialogue of love. If you truly want the church to dissolve, that is what you need to do. You need to sincerely show them love. "Ignore them and they'll go away" is a slogan I frequently have read on this site. Wrong. The WBC has been picketing in Topeka, Kansas every single day for over two decades. As you can imagine, their shit got old a long time ago, and besides the occasional shouting and honking, they're pretty much ignored, yet they still do it every single day. They are absolutely convinced that they are doing God's work and that publishing their message is the only thing that will give them a hope of not being burned at the most egregious temperatures for eternity. When I first left the church back in February, I believed that I was going to go to hell when I died. They're all so afraid of hell and they're more than willing to be despised to avoid it. Also, as anyone who has done research on my family knows: They're bright people. They own a law firm and many work as nurses, computer programers, and have all sorts of high level of career, responsibility, and family. Consider the fact that a large percentage of people still there are young children. What do you think the kids are to infer from seeing their parents, and then seeing crowds of people screaming vitriol and wanting to bring physical harm to them?

Now, maybe what I'm suggesting isn't practical right now, either. However, I want to share it, and I will do my best to advocate it to the point of reality. Love them. You may say that you "cannot" do it. Let's be honest here. Yes, you can. You just really do not want to do it. Let go of the anger; it's not good for your soul.

I love and care for you all.

-Zach Phelps-Roper, grandson of the late Fred Phelps Sr.

Anyways, I'd be more than happy to answer whatever questions you may have. And before anyone asks (again): No, the Westboro Baptist Church does NOT picket for the purpose of enticing people to hit them, sue, and make profit.

EDIT: I am interested in doing media; so do contact me if you're a representative and would like to involve me in a story. :)

Comments: 3946 • Responses: 81  • Date: 

Emerald_Empires1921 karma

Behind closed doors, does anyone in the church ever come right out and say "what if we're wrong?"

Has it happened, and if so, does it result in immediate rejection?

YesThisIsHappening1448 karma

No, you wouldn't openly express skepticism in the authenticity of doctrine. That is a trait of someone who gets kicked out and can no longer see their family. When you leave, at least you've tried to prepare yourself and you've made a conscious decision to change your life. When you're kicked out, you are betrayed by the only people who you get really close to your entire life. Imagine living every day with the same people and in the same way, and then being banished and out to live on your own when you're thirty. I've seen it happen.

So, no, those types of things are typically private. However, most of the people who are of age and are stern in their beliefs would say that the notion that they're wrong is simply a vain hope by the rebels of the world to avoid obeying the standards and judgement of God.

Fb62122 karma

So do they allow people outside of their religion into their sermons? Sorry if this has been answered already.

YesThisIsHappening207 karma

Yes, outsiders are (usually) welcome to attend as long as they contact WBC beforehand, dress modestly and are quiet during the sermon. No one has ever acted "crazy" during a sermon before, in case you were wondering ;)

RoseBladePhantom161 karma

I really want this answered. In my opinion, self doubt isn't a bad thing. It shows you're thinking from more than just a close minded angle. If you're not questioning if you're wrong then how can you be certain you're right?

YesThisIsHappening507 karma

I do believe in self-doubt; it is my entire philosophy to humbly question whether I am doing the right thing in every circumstance of my life, and I try to heed wisdom.

The reason I think I am right to approach WBC from the angle of unconditional love is two reasons: first, when I was a member of Westboro and left about four years ago, my cousin (who wishes to remain anonymous) showed my undenying loyalty and kindness in his words, "Zach, I just want you to be happy," and that showed me that he cared about me and that I could come to him if I ever felt like leaving again. Second, the reason I believe WBC will shut down if they are shown unconditional love is that they think they are being persecuted like Jesus Christ is thought to have been in the Bible for preaching the gospel, and they honestly think the world hates them simply because the Bible is true. But I have read and been shown numerous things that could be wrong with the Bible's interpretation of the world, not the least of which was, "There is no peace for the wicked," as it says in Isaiah... I felt like a wicked man coming out of WBC, but every day since then, I got a little bit happier and less burdened by negative emotions as I received compassion from others. I can tell you that I live a life of very great peace these days based on the smile I wear, and a conscience that is free from anger, and much sorrow, shame, and fear. And, I have heard that the Biblical concepts of Hell were invented by men only in the last 1,000 years, for example... The Bible is a book, and it may be that it has been tainted by men in power who wanted to control the hearts and minds of their followers.

Troyandabedinthemoor449 karma

Trust the man who seeks the truth, and doubt the man who claims to have found it!

Edit: Andre Gide said this

YesThisIsHappening184 karma

I agree wholeheartedly.

chilled_alligator1116 karma

What are your current views on homosexuality after having left the WBC? Thanks for doing this Iama.

YesThisIsHappening2798 karma

I am a full supporter of gay rights. :)

really_scary986 karma

Are the people of the Westboro Baptist Church happy?

YesThisIsHappening1144 karma

Some members of Westboro claim to be very confident and happy, I think... and some may legitimately be so.

Others, I have experienced firsthand experience symptoms of depression when other members of Westboro have left... my mother is the classic example to my mind. She felt very sad when my sisters, Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper, left in November 2012, for a period of what I thought must have been 6 months... daily, she was in tears because two of her daughters were gone... and I know she was in tears when I left as well, as she gave me a hug and cried when I approached her in March, a little time after I left the church on February 20.

oddbuttons942 karma

Your AMAs have completely reshaped my view of Westboro and, as a person who tries to understand the core motivation of people with perspectives I consider destructive, I believe you're doing a very good thing by contextualizing their perspective.

I'd always wondered how a grieving loved one hadn't gone on a homicidal rampage at a funeral protest, and I think many people wondered the same thing. But that anger comes from the "they're litigious trolls provoking a response by being sadists" perspective, which you've debunked quite well.

I believe most people who oppose their message don't want a scared, earnest, misguided group to suffer more. I certainly don't. Thank you for helping us understand and communicate properly.

Beyond meeting their message with love, is there anything else we can do to help them rejoin society? I feel like floral arrangements with a nice note after every protest as a new tradition might be an interesting tactic? :)

YesThisIsHappening405 karma

Anything that is approached to them should be done with love; that shouldn't limit you. :)

insertbadjoke757 karma

Why are they so preoccupied with homosexuality in particular? There are plenty of other sins to go after.

YesThisIsHappening1143 karma

Because culture agrees that theft and rape are wrong, but doesn't do the same for homosexuality. Therefore, they feel compelled to further assert that it's sinful according to the Bible.

TheTalentedMrTorres709 karma

Did being classified as a hate group have any direct impact on the WBC other than leading to being barred from entry into Canada and the UK?

YesThisIsHappening689 karma

By the Southern Poverty Law Center? That didn't bother the members at all; they believe enmity with the world is one of the goals in serving God.

smorgan213637 karma

Thank you for doing this - this is the first time I've understood why they do what they do. Comparing themselves to Noah - I totally get it now. I completely disagree with them, but I understand how they can keep going when faced with such hatred.

What caused them to start picketing military funerals?

YesThisIsHappening786 karma

They view America, a nation with abortion, divorce and remarriage, idolatry, and same-sex marriage to be a nation that defies the commandments of God. Based off of a verse in Deuteronomy, they believe that the Lord is responsible for every single death that occurs.

When someone joins the military, he or she is supporting a country that has made God its number one enemy and therefore, God curses the army with dead soldiers. Now, when a soldier has died, the typical message is that the deceased individual is a blessing by God. They feel a commission to go in proximity to these funerals and call the person's death a curse from God and to warn the family that if they do not repent, they will join hell like the military man or woman.

That's their rationale behind military funeral pickets.

valleyshrew354 karma

Why are they so anti-American? Aren't all countries violating the word of God? For example, all ~120 Christian countries disregard the commands to love your enemy and not to resist an evil person by having a police force.

YesThisIsHappening562 karma

You're right. They view every nation as wicked. In fact, they have a website called www.godhatestheworld.com

TheRocketDog66 karma

What Deuteronomy verse is it?

YesThisIsHappening127 karma

Deuteronomy 32:29

"See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand."

baardvark610 karma

Is there any person or group other than themselves that Westboro actually approves of, even looks up to?

YesThisIsHappening849 karma

Besides a biblical figure? No.

moombathon522 karma

What was your reason for leaving?

YesThisIsHappening1414 karma

Because even though I fully believed in the God that they believed in, I couldn't stand serving a God so wicked and vile. I left the church believing I was going to hell.

GummyPandah453 karma

Because even though I fully believed in the God that they believed in, I couldn't stand serving a God so wicked and vile. I left the church believing I was going to hell.

1 John 4:8 "...God is Love" Do they ignore this?

YesThisIsHappening637 karma

No, but they believe that God is only love for the elect, which is a minority of people.

Lost-Chord333 karma

What about the start of John 3:16 "For God so loved the world..."?

YesThisIsHappening557 karma

They believe that "world" in this context (kosmos) refers to the world of the believers (the elect).

moombathon254 karma

And how was their response to your leaving? Are you still in contact? Or did that result in them shunning you?

YesThisIsHappening865 karma

I have been completely cut off from my family and I miss and love them all dearly. :(

wheresyourtowel86152 karma

For whatever it's worth (which may not be much, because the love of one's family is not easily emulated) you are loved, by myself and many others I am sure, for your love and the truth you share. Be you, you give me hope.

YesThisIsHappening84 karma

Thank you kindly, my friend =D I really appreciate that.

MotherFreud394 karma

What was the hardest part in developing your own world views and new perspectives after being so instilled with your family's extreme beliefs and growing up in such an isolated community?

YesThisIsHappening718 karma

The fear that thinking differently than what I had been taught would result in my eternal damnation.

RevCo32387 karma

Do they genuinely believe that what they are doing makes a difference or does some form of good? What is the motivation behind it? Do they like being so reviled? Do they attract new members with these displays?

YesThisIsHappening667 karma

They actually see themselves as comparable to Noah's family in the story of the ark; they believe that the entire world is soon going to be destroyed and they must preach to every creature and condemn them for their sin for if they do not do it, their blood is on their hands. That's the entire goal: To preach.

Making the doctrine pleasing and converting people was never the goal. However, a few people have joined the church as a result of the picketing.

nice_new_account584 karma

So you're saying instead of treating them like hateful people, to treat them like scared people.

YesThisIsHappening548 karma

That's definitely a better way of looking at it!

MightAsswell303 karma

What do you think the goal of the Westboro Baptist Church's AMA will be? How do you feel we should respond to it?

YesThisIsHappening478 karma

Their goal will be to preach. As I stated in the description: respond with love. :)

_heartPotatoes285 karma

When was your "ah-ha" moment, I need to separate myself from this group?

Are you still in contact with your family who is still with the church?

YesThisIsHappening580 karma

There where tons of subtle things that made me question, but what made me stay was fear of hell.

Sadly, anyone who leaves that church loses their family, too. I gave up a lot to leave, but since having left, I've gained so much. :)

bonkette200 karma

What a horrible choice to make. I truly congratulate you on having the courage to break out of the hatred and ugliness even if it means giving up their love.

YesThisIsHappening57 karma

Thank you kindly; I appreciate that!

MikeR0tch264 karma

Zach, what is your favorite color?

YesThisIsHappening1022 karma

Seriously?

You know it's impossible to choose between burnt sienna and terracotta.

YesThisIsHappening56 karma

LOL! I was just pulling your leg... my favorite colors are Blue, Silver and Black.

ed8484260 karma

What's the worst thing to happen to you at a demonstration? What's the worst thing you've done? How do you feel now looking back at both of them?

YesThisIsHappening419 karma

Well, I was scared shitless a few times when someone punched a hole in my rather large sign in Topeka one time; he approached me aggressively, and I thought he was going to hit me. O_O

The worst thing I probably have done is protest at someone's funeral, such as Albert Snyder's son (from Snyder V. Phelps, the Supreme Court case), Matthew Snyder. I tried to call and leave a message for his lawyers in order to apologize for picketing his son's funeral... it wasn't until I understood the grief of mourning for someone I lost, that I realized... funerals, to me, are sacred too.

aurustyshackleford254 karma

Do you still believe there is a God or higher power that exists?

EDIT: Wow this is my first reddit post ever and I got 182 points. Thanks redditers! :)

YesThisIsHappening574 karma

Yes, I definitely believe in a higher power. I attend a Unitarian Universalist church.

MikeR0tch252 karma

If you had 10 seconds to tell the whole world something, what would you say?

YesThisIsHappening708 karma

Be kind to one another and do not hate.

YesThisIsHappening365 karma

Actually, scratch that statement... holy shit, I feel like the deer in the headlights =D

"I believe unconditional love for each other will bring world peace. I believe if we could learn to become more open-minded and loving, we would have no wars, no poverty, and we could be as one family."

Gumderwear217 karma

I have heard that the Church will take a "donation" to NOT show up at a funeral or other protest. Sounds lucrative and evil. Any truth to this?? Thanks for doing this.

YesThisIsHappening503 karma

No, the church does not take financial donations and if anyone sends any donations, they are mailed back.

Some radio hosts have offered airtime in exchange for the church to not protest in a particular area, though. On more than one occasion, the church has accepted.

myprettycabinet189 karma

Were you there when Louis Theroux visited for his 2 documentaries? How was it that he was let in and allowed to film and be so candid?

YesThisIsHappening171 karma

I was there both times, and he was allowed to come visit because WBC is all about spreading their message: "Go forth and preach the gospel," by whatever means possible.

DarkXfusion149 karma

Are all WBC kids home schooled? Does anyone ever go to college?

YesThisIsHappening288 karma

No, we all went to public school. I cannot think of a single adult member that is not college educated.

insertbadjoke136 karma

How did other students treat you guys?

YesThisIsHappening94 karma

Most students treated us with respect like normal people, but not everyone ;) I was bullied a few times in school for my beliefs, but they were few and far between

Ironic-ironic-repeat138 karma

Do you have any sort of support for getting out of your situation (job, outside friends, money)?

As far as I know, you're probably walking away from family...Heck, I don't have much but I am so against those folks' views of hatred that I would actually support its disintegration however I could.

YesThisIsHappening276 karma

Yes! Other members who had left prior to me helped me move my belongings.

whoiusedtobee116 karma

How does WBC raise money to travel and picket?

YesThisIsHappening234 karma

They work and have good jobs.

whoiusedtobee121 karma

I would imagine they aren't the favorite people around their offices

YesThisIsHappening340 karma

My family actually owns a law firm and while they're obviously despised, people also recognize that they're very good at what they do. One Westboro Baptist Church member has argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States and won the case.

That's how they still manage to get clients.

ladderlegs289 karma

How can I contact them, I have some shrubs that need trimming.

pm_ur_dicks_girls138 karma

Lawn firm... Ha!

YesThisIsHappening35 karma

oops! typo ;)

Jatz55110 karma

Do you think there are other people who still belong to the church who have doubts about what they are doing?

YesThisIsHappening146 karma

Oh, of course! However, like I've said, the fear of hell is what keeps people there.

Paedor107 karma

So, just out of curiosity, what would an "ideal" world be by the standards of the church?

YesThisIsHappening94 karma

One without sin, in their eyes... one that follows their interpretation of the Bible.

That ideal world, to them, is Heaven.

ForFreshFish103 karma

What was the turning point that caused you to decide you wanted to leave the church?

YesThisIsHappening280 karma

I left Westboro Baptist Church on February 20, 2014, because my parents were getting angry at me for complaining about my lower back and shoulder pain all the time... The pain felt horrifying in the midst of my nursing job, which I had just started... The night I left, my father was yelling at me when I asked if I could go to the Emergency Room.

I know he didn't mean to scare me... he is always under a lot of pressure. I just couldn't take the pressure any longer, and I had to get out... And I'm very glad I did now, in retrospect... I can see now that I was hurting a lot of people with the message of Westboro, and I no longer believe most of what they preach any longer.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

catsandblankets113 karma

Members aren't allowed to obtain medical care? Even though some of them are doctors and nurses?

YesThisIsHappening29 karma

Well, the problem was, my father thought I was trying to intentionally piss him off by asking about going to the ER... he misunderstood me.

WBC does believe in seeking medical care, but they put their trust in God first, not doctors or nurses.

ScottyRedfox97 karma

You mention that you have no contact with your family; do you think you may post on the AMA they do? Whether you answer yes or no, if you DID post, what questions would you want answered?

Also, could you give us a story of one picketing event that really spoke out to you? Good, bad, maybe someone cooky you encountered.

YesThisIsHappening121 karma

I might. We'll see when that happens. ;)

Hmm.. A crazy picketing event is just bad energy to dwell on. Ha ha. Sorry. You can find a lot of crazy stuff on Youtube, though.

data-stream66 karma

Is that Folgers dark roast in your picture or just medium roast?

YesThisIsHappening20 karma

LOL! I don't drink coffee; that is my friends' coffee, whose house I am staying at ;)

TheTalentedMrTorres62 karma

Also: It seems to me that being disbarred really set Fred Phelps off in a whole new direction- was that the case, or did he always have his "old-school" beliefs? On a side note, how much of that rhetoric was legitimate vs how much was a ploy for attention?

How was it growing up in that environment?

YesThisIsHappening111 karma

I was born way after my grandfather got disbarred, so I couldn't comment on that.

I'd say that besides the religious doctrine I was taught, growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church was fairly normal. Although, my perception of normal may be completely different from yours. ;)

MattyD8550 karma

Do they enjoy the fact that most Americans despise them? Like do they sit around the house and joke about it while watching TV of any other ordinary thing?

YesThisIsHappening81 karma

They see the fact that they're so widely loathed as a sign that they're doing the right thing on serving God.

Mockingbirdmama50 karma

What would a perfect world look like to a WBC member? Meaning, a world where it was no longer necessary for them to picket anything.

YesThisIsHappening82 karma

I don't think I could list everything off of the top of my head but a few governmental policies that they believe should be enforced include capital punishment for homosexuality. No abortion, or divorce and remarriage. No idolatry. And they consider any obsessive use of a symbol to be idolatry.

Bluecrab10524 karma

What did the church think of Pope Francis?

BAinBS24 karma

Do you think there will there be a WBC in 100 years?

YesThisIsHappening12 karma

I highly doubt it. There may not be one in 10 years, if my message is embraced as readily as I hope it will be.

BeatRice1720 karma

I've heard about the Westboro Baptist Church Picketing at many events, do they personally travel to all these places or are there other churches that practice what they believe?

YesThisIsHappening34 karma

No other church is associated with the WBC. They travel all around the country on their own nickel.

catsandblankets16 karma

Is it true that your grandfather was excommunicated shortly before he died, or was it that he voluntarily left? In either case, what was the reason?

YesThisIsHappening22 karma

He was excommunicated for supporting the Equality House, aka Planting Peace. Here is an article about it =D http://www.abpnews.com/ministry/people/item/28747-grandson-says-fred-phelps-changed-mind-about-gays

herosquad9 karma

Were you involved with any of the Howard Stern Show appearances back in the day?

YesThisIsHappening11 karma

Nah.

herosquad11 karma

Is this your mom on Hollyweird Squares? http://youtu.be/WrfaeSKm-oA

YesThisIsHappening17 karma

Yep, my mom and two of my sisters. (Both of whom are gone now)

bigbiltong8 karma

Kevin smith talked about his friend Malcolm interviewing your grandad. Said the grandson was in the room. Malcolm being gay spent the whole interview checking out the (apparently well-hung) grandson's bulge as his own mini-victory. Was this you?

YesThisIsHappening15 karma

No. Fred Phelps had over fifty grandchildren.

morbidhoagie8 karma

My main question I was wondering was, when WBC would go to rally military funerals, or basically any event they decided to rally at, what was the level of concern for everyone? Were you guys ever actually concerned with someone causing serious harm or worse to one of your members?

Also, one more question. Did the tremendous amount of hate from a lot of people ever actually get to the members of the WBC?

YesThisIsHappening15 karma

Myself, I was often scared of violent attacks. However, we all told ourselves that the Lord would protect us at the pickets.

I can speak for myself. Sometimes, it was of course irritating to see what people would say about your loved ones. They're human beings, too. They think it would be nice to be respected like everyone else, but they're certainly willing to make the sacrifice of being hated by everyone in order to obtain hope of entering heaven and avoiding hell.

morbidhoagie4 karma

What usually was the response of the WBC when someone would initiate a violent attack on one of the members?

YesThisIsHappening13 karma

It was evidence of them being despised and therefore, a sign that they were truly a servant of God.

VoDomino6 karma

Do you hope to one day have a frank discussion with your family on why you left?

YesThisIsHappening19 karma

I'd love to talk with my family about anything.

Billdog7935 karma

Why do members of the WBC choose to live in nations "cursed by God"? It seems to me that participating in these nations' economy and by paying taxes, the members of WBC are supporting the nation just as much as anyone else (military personnel included).

YesThisIsHappening9 karma

Well, according to them, literally every single country is hated by God. See: www.godhatestheworld.com

They live in America because they need to preach to the nation and it's the only country where they'd be allowed to it.

When it comes to paying taxes, there is a quote by Jesus Christ that says "Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar's and render unto mine that which is mine." They're lawfully required to pay taxes and therefore, they pay their taxes without feeling like they're rebelling against God.

rosycoloredglass4 karma

How have your beliefs changed since leaving the church?

YesThisIsHappening14 karma

Well, in a matter of months, I went from attending the Westboro Baptist Church to a Unitarian Universalist church.

So.. I'd say quite drastically. :)

LED1144 karma

You say you left the church believing you were going to hell. Does that mean Westboro doesn't preach the message that Jesus is the Savior? Or how does that work?

YesThisIsHappening8 karma

They believe Jesus died for a minority of people, the elect. And you never know whether or not you're a part of that small group of people when you're alive.

byronTheLightbulb4 karma

What are the WBC's feelings on incest? I read somewhere that they are alright with it.

YesThisIsHappening10 karma

They believe incest is a sin and they refrain from doing it.

Synaptic_Anaphylaxis3 karma

How does the church rectify being so hateful to others while supposedly following Jesus?

YesThisIsHappening7 karma

They actually believe that they do is not only the most loving this to do, but that it is the ONLY loving thing to do.

When Christ gave the commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself", it was a quote from the 19th chapter of Leviticus where it says that you are to "rebuke your neighbor." They interpret that verse as the justification for what they do.

TheAtheistPOV3 karma

Do you believe in a god? (Not asking for a debate, just a question)

YesThisIsHappening7 karma

Yes.

TheAtheistPOV3 karma

Do you believe a god hates people?

YesThisIsHappening8 karma

Nope. :)

TheAtheistPOV2 karma

What do you think about the part where it says for one man to lay with another that it is an abomination, and they are to be put to death?

YesThisIsHappening9 karma

They support the death penalty for homosexuality.

EDIT: Oh, sorry, I misread this. I thought you were asking about the church. I don't believe in the God of the Bible anymore and I absolutely do not think gays should be killed.

CharlieDeBeadle2 karma

You explained how you think we should act in the upcoming AMA, but in your opinion how do you think we should act if we see them protesting in public? If you saw them, how would you act, considering your history with them?

Thanks for doing this, your previous AMA, and just letting people know what's really happening in the WBC, it really gives me a clich├ęd hope in these people.

YesThisIsHappening4 karma

I, myself, have counter protested my family with signs with messages such as "God Loves You."

I'm a bit reluctant in giving people a script as to what to say. All I ask is that you speak to them with love, without a subtext of "fuck you".

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

YesThisIsHappening2 karma

I go to a Unitarian Universalist church.

Yes, I have, but I still love them dearly.