My name is Nate Phelps. I'm the 6th of 13 of Fred Phelps' kids. I left home on the night of my 18th birthday and was ostracized from my family ever since. After years of struggling over the issues of god and religion I call myself an atheist today. I speak out against the actions of my family and advocate for LGBT rights today. I guess I have to try to submit proof of my identity. I'm not real sure how to do that. My twitter name is n8phelps and I could post a link to this thread on my twitter account I guess.

Anyway, ask away. I see my niece Jael is on at the moment and was invited to come on myself to answer questions.

I'm going to sign off now. Thank you to everyone who participated. There were some great, insightful questions here and I appreciate that. If anyone else has a question, I'm happy to answer. You can email me at [email protected].


Comments: 5331 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

NatePhelps2096 karma

I never engaged in the God Hates Fags protests. I left on the night of my 18th birthday.

Kevinsp771524 karma

do they know that everyone hates them and the god hates fags demonstrations just make them look worse?

NatePhelps2240 karma

Sure they do. We were taught that enmity with the world was the goal. They would be profoundly disturbed if the world embraced their message.

TheBlankedFile624 karma

So if people suddenly, in total mockery of course, joined them in one of their protests, would they be confused?

NatePhelps1029 karma

They're pretty smart and have seen a lot. You would have to be very convincing before it would confuse them.

-xCaMRocKx-1480 karma

A lot of people say that the WBC don't really believe in what they preach, and instead are trying to provoke people in order to make money through lawsuits. As someone who grew up in this environment, how do you respond to this claim?

EDIT: This is answered lower down, but since I'm higher up and more visible I figured I'd paste the answer in here:

The lawsuits happen. Their lawyers, their litigious as hell. But the lawsuits are only there as a way to intimidate and protect themselves. They sincerely believe what they are preaching. Well my father sincerely believes siblings have been told to believe it. I see a difference.

The theology is Calvinism which centers around the doctrine of absolute predestination as you say. It's a twisted idea because it basically says we have no control over who we are or what we do, but we get all the consequences for it, temporal and eternal.

NatePhelps751 karma

Answered above...twice I think.

Frajer1392 karma

Do you think your dad is a bad guy or just ill-informed?

NatePhelps2582 karma

I think my father is a hateful person first. The religious beliefs gave him a forum and permission to be cruel to the world.

intensenonsense754 karma

Is there any REASON he is so hateful? I know this sounds dumb, just curious if you have any insight into this!

NatePhelps1002 karma

No idea. His mother died when he was five. Maybe that explains something, I don't know. He was raised Methodist, but not seriously. Good student, Eagle Scout, appointment to West Pointe that he squandered when he went to a revival meeting and found Jesus. Attended Bob Jones University and Prairie Bible Institute (coincidentally only an hour and a half north of where I live now) then started his career as an itinerant preacher. He showed signs of hatefulness almost from the beginning. Some people from his home town talk about having the tendency early on to piss people off.

magikker1164 karma

Have you seen the Louis Theroux documentary about your family? If so, what did you think of it?

NatePhelps1320 karma

I've seen both of them. I have two copies of the new one in my desk, sent from Louis' producer.

I think he did a good job. You get a pretty accurate idea of who they are, especially my old man.

legendisreal376 karma

Was thinking of asking this myself. Were you in any of the documentary in the background somewhere?

NatePhelps607 karma

I interviewed with Louis for a day while he was putting together the second documentary. It wasn't used, but I'm hopeful.

KaylisOfficial1059 karma

Are members submitted to any form of abuse as punishment for 'sinning'?

NatePhelps1500 karma

When I was growing up there it was a very violent environment. It wasn't constant, but it was often enough and unpredictable enough to be very destructive. It is my opinion that this is the primary reason my siblings stay there and parrot my old man's theology.

MexicanWaterGod747 karma

Any specific memories from your childhood that you can share?

NatePhelps1942 karma

okay...let's see. I remember running around the track at Topeka West. A kid came on the track with his bike and was riding around the outter edge of the track while we ran around the inner edge. My old man yelled at him to get off the track. When he came around again, he ran out to the kid and knocked him off the bike. The kid ran away crying and a half hour later a truck came roaring into the parking lot. The kid's father got out, decked my father and knocked him down. We left the track and when we got home he went into a rage and took it out on our mother.

NotUnderYourBed548 karma

Whoah... what a complete dick. It's good that you are gone from that situation. Did anyone ever try to press charges for the abuse? Either your family or somebody else?

NatePhelps1146 karma

Charges were brought in 1971 after a particularly brutal beating he gave to my brother Jon and I. The police picked us up after school, took us to the station, took photos and pressed charges...then sent us home.

A lawyer was appointed to represent us but our father threatened and coached us for days before we were to meet with him. I remember I was scared to death and hated that man when he walked in the door.

The charges were dropped.

RyanKinder602 karma

What was the nature of the violence?

NatePhelps1597 karma

He would grab us by the arms, lift us up and drive his knee into our stomach. He would beat us with his fists on our face and body. He would kick us. He would spit in our face. He would beat us from our lower back down to behind our knees with a mattock handle, often splitting the skin and causing bleeding.

Raual791 karma

Your father and the rest of WBC are of course hateful to homosexuals. I understand that your father worked to help African Americans during the civil rights movements. But why can he, and the rest of the family/church work to help "children of Cain" and not the LGBT community?

NatePhelps1572 karma

My father was very successful in helping flesh out the parameters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was good at what he did and he saw a tremendous opportunity to earn money and gain notoriety as a defender of the black community. He still held strongly to his convictions that they were a cursed race and regularly displayed his bigoted attitude toward them in private. I have no doubt he would be happy to represent a gay person in court while still considering them evil and damned.

MondoBuck756 karma

When's the last time you've spoken to anyone in your family still associated with WBC?

NatePhelps1359 karma

I spoke in Topeka in March...I think it was just over two years ago. My family held a protest in my honor at Gage Park and I went and watched them from across the street. My sister Margie and my brother-in-law Brent Roper (Shirley's husband) crossed the street to give me a tongue lashing. That's the last time I've spoken with any of them.

throwinawayTheBig123713 karma

I actually know your brother-in-law. I work where he works. I was actually dumb founded when I found out he was a part of the WBC. A bit odd, but seems like a nice enough guy.

NatePhelps1282 karma

A lot of people say that when they meet members of my family. They can be really nice then their eyes glaze over when the word of the lord comes over them.

[deleted]414 karma

wtf? why did they protest you?

NatePhelps399 karma

They knew I was there. A film crew was filming me and garnered an interview with several of my siblings. After they finished pillorying me in the interview they told the film crew they would be at Gage Park later to protest me.

Gyrolin102 karma

To protest YOU? That has got to feel empowering.

NatePhelps87 karma

It was interesting. Margie's main purpose was to challenge me on my claim that none of them had the capacity to choose. Her argument was that since she is a prolific reader and has two degrees, she surely is able to make her own choices. My response was that she didn't understand the nature of choice if she justified her argument with the intake of knowledge.

BoldElDavo740 karma

Can you tell us about Jael?

She posted that IAmA, and it was immediately filled up with hate. I was wondering if you could offer some insights into her activities in the church. I think most people over there kind of just assumed she deserved hate without thinking and I was wondering about your opinion.

EDIT: Added link to Jael's AMA upon request, thanks to TimMensch and haikuginger for finding it quickly.

NatePhelps1242 karma

When Jael's mother became pregnant out of wedlock she was summarily shown the door at WBC. Jon, my brother, was guarded zealously, watched every where he went and given limited access to money to control him and keep him from her. Paulette contacted Mark and I in California and we flew back to Topeka to try to help. It's a fairly long story, but in the end my father caved when Jon threatened to leave. Paulette was allowed back, but has been treated like a 3rd class citizen since.

I've never known Jael personally. I think she has a sweet disposition and, like so many of the other young people, she is as much a victim in all this as the many people who they protest. At some point she must take responsibility for her choice although there is not much choice perceived their.

I say don't hate them...pity them.

pottergirl27715 karma

I saw you speak at the Reason Rally, it was an excellent speech!

Where did you go after you ran away from home?

What is something you miss about the religion that you were raised in (if anything)?

NatePhelps919 karma

Thanks! The first three nights after I ran away, I slept in the bathroom of a gas station near the high school I attended (Topeka West). From there, my brother's (Mark) mother-in-law offered me a room at her home. Very little I miss. It was so destructive and took years to undue. I have talked about the sense of security and belonging I can recall feeling from time to time when we were having church services on Sunday evenings. Something about being tucked in that building that's half buried and feeling like we're the only one's that god's hard to articulate.

tmurf5387698 karma

At what point did you know you were going to leave and why?

NatePhelps1202 karma

I knew when I was 16. My older brother Mark had left and that was the first time I thought it was possible. I left because the environment was so violent and hateful. I was at odds with my father for years.

povsky414 karma

Are you still in contact with your brother Mark?

NatePhelps66 karma

Yes. He lives with his wife in the Phoenix area now.

NatePhelps660 karma

Can someone explain this whol voting down and voting up thing?

Flelchdork332 karma

If something is upvoted, it becomes more visible. It is kind of dragged upwards towards the top of the page. In the opposite, if something is downvoted, it becomes less visible. Because this comment has no upvotes right now, it is at the bottom of the comment page.

NatePhelps514 karma

Thanks you guys. I was starting to take it personal :)

dat529644 karma

How did you find the balls to leave? How much did your consciousness change when you left the family? Was there a moment where your mind was blown by how the world actually works versus the way in which you were raised?

NatePhelps1237 karma

It's hard to answer that. I felt so miserable as a human, I despised my father for all the pain he had caused, I hated myself and knew that it came from being in that controlling environment.

I have "mind blowing" epiphanies all the time when I peel away another layer and realize that I've lived with certain bizarre, false assumptions based on ideas I was raised with.

867-5308807 karma

Can you give an example or two of these epiphanies? This sounds really interesting.

NatePhelps58 karma

In spite of the violence I clung to the idea that corporeal punishment was a necessary part of child rearing. I spent years agonizing over the problem of how to spank them without leaving them feeling like I did when I was beat. I created this ritual that I thought would solve the problem. Then when my youngest boy Hunter was shaking on my lap one day I just had this moment when I let go of that messed up thinking. I learned that there were myriad options for how to teach my children to be good citizens without ever causing them to fear physical suffering.

I have four exceptionally balanced and happy young adults as a result.

superhockeyguy14550 karma

How do you feel about the rest of your family that obviously decided not to leave the church? Are you at all as resentful towards them as the rest of the general population?

NatePhelps1274 karma

I despise the harm they are doing. I get emails and messages constantly from young people who have read and seen their message. Many of them are terrified. On top of that this whole hate thing adds immensely to the social idea that gays are lesser citizens or humans. This idea is what some people use to do harm to these people. I hold my father and siblings responsible for this harm.

nick_drake533 karma

What made you become an atheist exactly? Was it in the back of your head for some time?

NatePhelps1577 karma

I spent years searching for god. I attended an Evangelical Free Church and Chuck Smith Jr's church out in southern California. I read and questioned top leaders in the church out there and was constantly frustrated with the lack of answers.

It was a long process but I think I could point to 9/11 and when I read Michael Shermer's "The Science of Good & Evil" as the key turning points for me.

Watching people respond to an act of blind faith that killed 3,000 humans by turning to their blind made no sense to me. I remember thinking at the time that the mechanism of faith could very well be one of the greatest risks to the survival of mankind.

I'm sure that's gonna piss some people off. :)

KaylisOfficial509 karma

Are there others who have left and converted like yourself? Also, do you still keep in contact with your radical family?

NatePhelps866 karma

My older brother Mark (he lives in the Phoenix area and has changed his last name), and my younger sister Dortha (she still lives in the Topeka area but also changed her last name).

woeb0t326 karma

Have you considered changing your name as well?

NatePhelps237 karma

Nope. Dortha did it because she has to live and work in that city. Mark did it because he moved back to the Kansas City area in 2000 and was concerned for the well being of his two daughters.

intensenonsense458 karma

Did you ever share the beliefs of your WBC family or did you always doubt them? How did this (either way) affect your growing up?

NatePhelps925 karma

As a young child you have no real choice. It's how the world is. I was terrified of god and hell, even when I ran away from home. I left convinced that I would live until the year 2000 (that's when my old man was saying Christ would return) then have to deal with death and eternal suffering. I only let go of that fear within the last 8 or 10 years.

Spiff225451 karma

What did your dad say when christ didn't return?

NatePhelps540 karma

I don't know. I wasn't there. But that does raise an interesting subject. Shirley has effectively announced that the beginning of the tribulation will start on July 22 of this year. You have to bear with me here. She didn't actually say those words, but she has clearly declared Obama the Anti-Christ and announced that he only gets 42 months to rule. Here's a link to her making those comments (about 4 minutes in):

So in their own special way, they've picked their own end times prophecy.

Another aspect of this sordid part of the story. My father believes that he will never die. Recently there's strong evidence to suggest that they now believe none of them will die. They are here to prepare the way for Christ's return and they will be taken up into heaven just as Jesus comes back and gets midevil on us. Just one reason why I think the whole system will suffer a fatal blow when he passes.

tony_orlando401 karma

Did you ever discuss your doubts or criticisms of religion with any of your siblings before leaving the family? Were you alone in your feelings? Is there anyone in your family you know had doubts but are still involved with the church?

NatePhelps792 karma

It wasn't safe to discuss doubts. The environment there was such that any of us kids would throw another one under the bus if it kept us from facing Fred's rage. If you didn't want the old man to find out, you kept it to yourself.

Another component acting on the situation was the message we learned early on. If we thought for ourselves, if we questioned the message we were taught, that very act of thinking or questioning was evidence that god had not found grace in us. So you stayed away from that behavior and minimized it's validity when you did entertain the ideas.

goonadvocate399 karma

I remember reading somewhere that your father treated your mom like trash. Can you give examples if what he did to her and if that played a part in you leaving?

NatePhelps909 karma

He pulled her arm out of the socket. He beat her with his fists, his feet and a mattock handle. He cut all her hair off, down to where her scalp showed through because she wasn't in subjection. He screamed and threw things like a child having a temper tantrum.

Imagine that as the image you have of the person who defines your world and how safe you feel in it. I don't mean to get melodramatic, but I only have so much time and opportunity to impress the reality of the situation on you.

Jcrooklyn372 karma

  • why does the WBC picket at military funerals?
  • how big is the WBC now?
  • any experiences having your life threatened by either family or outsiders?

NatePhelps594 karma

Picketing at funerals gets a lot of attention. They can connect anything bad back to homosexuality. In this case they say that American soldiers are fighting for a country that is tolerating homosexuality.

The church boosts around 50 members now. Nine of my siblings, their spouses and offspring + five members of the Drain family and a few odd ones thrown in the mix.

NatePhelps443 karma

No threats to my life...yet :)

lucas-hanson313 karma

How much of the "God hates fags" stuff is real and how much of it is baiting for lawsuits?

NatePhelps433 karma

This was asked above. They believe what they preach and use lawsuits to keep people from harassing them.

mobileagent281 karma

Well this is an interesting turn of events! Thanks for coming!

Does WBC dogma say that homosexuals can be 'redeemed' through going straight? I was curious because of something Jael said (Basically that homosexuals were made so by God at the beginning of time and are basically doomed forever) and ask to try and get my head around how twisted their interpretation of God seems to be (especially to this atheist): 'yes redemption is possible' is bad enough from any rational point of view, since this shouldn't even be an issue, but 'nope, screwed forever' is just bizarre and sadistic.

As a followup, rabid homophobia seems to be a major component of their public face, but how much of a factor is it in 'day to day' private religious activities like simple Sunday services? Or is it a pretty constant obsession?


NatePhelps433 karma

There's a passage in Romans that says something like god gave them up to their vile affections. My father reasoned that this was proof that homosexuality was a sin you couldn't recover from. That made this sin sort of the center piece of much of his ranting against humanity.

To explain how they are in private...they get along alright with most folks, they just think they're going to hell. I can tell you that my niece Sharon (Fred Jr's oldest daughter) was kicked out of the church years ago. One of the reasons cited was the fact that she was friends with a gay person.

razoRamone31271 karma

Were there any black or other minority members? If so, pls elaborate. Ty

NatePhelps462 karma

When I was growing up there it was my family (13 kids + parents), the Davis family (4 kids + parents), and the Hockenbarger family (3 kids + parents). All white.

BackOff_ImAScientist237 karma

Do you know what made those other families join?

NatePhelps166 karma

I don't know. They were there when I became aware of the world. I do know that I recognized a lot of self-righteousness in all of them fairly early on.

theposeph268 karma

Nathan, How do you feel is the best way for people to counteract what your family does? Do you think the counter protests are best? or do you think people should try to ignore them? Do you have a preferred method? Do they feel any shame?

NatePhelps388 karma

Counter protests are better. Counter protests that yield positive, tangible results are best.

No, they feel no shame for what they do.

skeptix264 karma

Would you say your family is genuinely preaching?

From my understanding, the beliefs of the WBC are based on predetermination, wherein we have no control over whether we go to heaven or hell. This seems like a strange thing to preach.

Some have said, the WBC being a family of lawyers, that they are looking to create lawsuit opportunities. Can you speak to this?

NatePhelps466 karma

The lawsuits happen. Their lawyers, their litigious as hell. But the lawsuits are only there as a way to intimidate and protect themselves. They sincerely believe what they are preaching. Well my father sincerely believes siblings have been told to believe it. I see a difference.

The theology is Calvinism which centers around the doctrine of absolute predestination as you say. It's a twisted idea because it basically says we have no control over who we are or what we do, but we get all the consequences for it, temporal and eternal.

TimMensch164 karma

The theology is Calvinism which centers around the doctrine of absolute predestination as you say.

Wow. So if everyone is already predestined to go to Heaven or Hell or wherever, no matter what anyone says to them...why does he feel it necessary to preach? Rhetorical question, mostly, since I don't expect you to be that much into his head. But it blows my mind.

Thanks for the AMA. Much more sane and level than Jael's.

NatePhelps200 karma

They preach because they think that's what god has told them to do. The thing about Calvinism and Absolute Predestination, at least as my father teaches it, is that you never really feel confident that you're okay with god. He scours the Bible for instructions about how to behave. He's especially partial to those instructions that others have apparently missed. They reinforce the sense he has that he is unique. So he places tremendous emphasis on adhering to these obscure, morally bankrupt, behaviors that he's convinced set them apart from all the rest.

PHETZ263 karma

I see my niece Jael is on at the moment and was invited to come on myself to answer questions.

I read that as "Jael invited me to come on". You still speak to her/other members of your family? What's your relationship like?

NatePhelps558 karma

Actually Jael would never invite me to do anything. I only have ever known Jael when she was inside her mother. (see more on that below)

When you leave the WBC, you are cut off completely. If anyone of them tried to have a relationship with me, they would be kicked out of the church as well.

TeachMeHowToSnuggie259 karma

What was the most successful or most annoying "counter-protest"?

NatePhelps839 karma

I remember one of the Shawnee Mission (I think East) schools doing a killer counter protest. My personal favorite is the Jewish Center down in Texas that raised enough money at one of their protests to buy a new ice making machine for the center. They put a plaque on it that said something like: "The Fred Phelps Memorial 'Hell Froze Over' Ice Machine".

statsisi246 karma

Who is your favorite superhero?

NatePhelps485 karma

funny question...I'm not sure I have one. I guess I'd say Sgt. Fury if he's a super hero.

[deleted]241 karma

Do you know if any members of WBC have had problems with substance abuse in the past?

NatePhelps465 karma

My father went through a period where he became dependent on prescribed amphetamines and barbiturates back in the 60's. That's all I know of for sure.

JohnWad232 karma

How many protests have you have been made to go to against your will? And when did you realize that you didnt agree with what your parents believed and were participating in?

NatePhelps441 karma

I never engaged in protests with my family. I had left years before they started this campaign. But I was involved in other disputes with neighbors and others in our town that my father was warring against. We learned early on that we were expected to not only spout the same ideology, but to do it in an aggressive manner like our father did. Those who were too wimpy heard about it often and felt the lash of our father's disapproval.

Pb2Au228 karma

It seems more of the relatives are slowly defecting, such as Lauren as shown in the BBC documentary 'America's Most Hated Family in Crisis.' Do defected relatives have reunions and sort of a support network, or do you not communicate much? Have you ever met Louis Theroux? What do you think of his documentaries on your family, and are there any other reporters whose work you appreciate?

NatePhelps342 karma

I have been able to get together for dinner with four of my nephews, a niece, and my sister recently. There has been one other smaller gathering. It's still very tentative, but I have hope that we can come together better in the future.

NatePhelps278 karma

I spent an afternoon filming with Louis when he was making the second documentary. They ultimately decided to focus on Lauren but his producer asked if they could keep the footage in case they ever decided to revisit the issue.

DuchySleeps208 karma


NatePhelps376 karma

I don't regret leaving. As I've said, I never perceived an option. I honestly think i would have died there. My knee jerk reaction when my children get too close to that situation is to warn them away. It freaks me out to imagine them getting pulled in.

I believe my siblings, some of them, have good hearts. I have fond memories of some of them. It's hard to call it love after 30+ years.

Yes, it's one of the reasons I give talks and speak out against my family. I've had too many people tell me it's helped pull them from the edge when they find out about me and read my response to my family.

luckymcduff165 karma

Do you think that there is a way to persuade more members into leaving the group? I understand that most of them are family, but in the case of those that aren't, or the people you were close with, do you think there's any hope of de-indoctrinating them?

If there was a way for people outside the church to sway them, what do you think that would be?

Thanks for doing this, really looking forward to verification.

NatePhelps414 karma

I have maintained that I will not reach out to anyone in that situation beyond the public speaking that I do. I sincerely believe that if anyone is to leave, something inside them has to persuade them at first. Once they leave, I reach out and offer my support if and when they want it.

You have to remember that even when they leave, many of them will carry much of the crap with them for years, if not forever. They grew up learning that I was evil, Mark was evil, Dortha was evil. They don't suddenly start dancing around and singing kumbaya with us just because they left their. Each one leaves for their own reasons and those reasons are justified in their minds. That doesn't mean they let go of it all at once.

hidden_music152 karma

How did members of the Church justify exaggerating and taking certain Biblical passages out of context while completely ignoring others?

NatePhelps665 karma

The same way every religious person does. They just have a belief system that highlights certain aspects of the Bible and down plays others.

While it's a very positive sign that modern Christianity highlights and focuses on the idea of love, it's a relatively new idea in the history of the religion. I think the focus on love today says a lot more about humans then it does about any god.

RadicaLarry123 karma

How can we best directly combat the hatred they are spreading? Legally, physically (a la those bikers who rev their engines to drown out environment at soldiers' funerals) pr otherwise.

NatePhelps290 karma

I love what the Freedom Riders do. That's effective counter protesting. I don't want them shut up, they have the right to do what they do. I personally think that funerals should be off limits, and contrary to popular thinking, the Supreme Court may still come to that conclusion. (Snyder v. Phelps was NOT a ruling that gave permission to picket at funerals. Read Chief Justice Robert's comments in his majority opinion). But I digress..

Counter protest productively. Show the community that the ideas they put forth are categorically rejected.

oliveboomer93 karma

Do you think that the world's view on WBC is accurate? Are there things that are kept quiet that we don't know about? Or have certain aspects of the WBC been changed to feed the public's anger?

NatePhelps223 karma

The persistent myth that they do it for money is just false. For whatever reason my message of the violence and abuse doesn't get out there nearly to the extent that their message does. I don't know if it's about the constant nature of their efforts or what. I don't think there's anything anyone could say that would better feed the public's anger then what they do and say themselves.

ScoobyDoo2793 karma

I haven't seen this asked from browsing over kinda quick... But what do you think of the movie Red State (if you've seen it)?

NatePhelps135 karma

Kevin brought it to Calgary several months back. I saw it and got to talk with him after the show. It was vintage Kevin Smith, there were some aspects of his portrayal of my father that were chilling, but by and large it was not really much like them.

Yabba_Dabba_Doofus89 karma

Thank you for doing this! So many questions...

Can you explain a little bit about your family's specific focus on homosexuality? There seems to be quite a bit of selective quoting of the bible; are the members of WBC aware of their apparent hypocrisy, or are there some alternate interpretations of the additional passages that they operate under?

If predetermination is a core belief, why is the church so concerned with the actions of others? In other words, what drives them to try to "save" people, when its already decided what's going to happen to everyone?

Embarrassingly, I've blanked on a couple other questions I had in my zeal, but thank you again for taking the time to do this. It seems your nieces AMA turned into a bit of a hate rally, with little real info. =(

Edit: Deleted a question (asked and answered).

NatePhelps228 karma

My father believes homosexuality is a special sin you can't recover from. He get's this from some obscure passage in Romans. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of selective quoting. But this is lost on them because they never really were taught to examine the Bible and decide for themselves. They were taught to believe what he believes. This leaves them wholly unable to truly debate anyone. They recognize certain sounds and respond to those sounds with the sounds they learned. They don't critically analyze the incoming sounds at all.

One of those sounds they recognize is "why do you preach if you don't think people can be saved" to which they respond with the sound "it's not our job to save, only to preach". It's what I call the divine Nuremberg defense.

Yabba_Dabba_Doofus35 karma

They recognize certain sounds and respond to those sounds with the sounds they learned. They don't critically analyze the incoming sounds at all.

Such a perfect description of brainwashed, group-think mentality, thank you.

You've mentioned a couple of times that you think the church will die when your father passes, while also mentioning a growing belief that they may be unable to die until the return of Jesus. Do you think it's possible that, after your father passes, an equally zealous person would take up his mantle? Do you believe the church members would be willing to believe a story about your father's death being necessary, allowing them to hold on to the belief that he and, by association, they are pre-selected for salvation?

I realize I'm asking for quite a bit of speculation on your part. I'm just wondering if these are legitimate possibilities, or if they are too extreme even for the WBC dogma.

NatePhelps44 karma

My observation and reading about other rapture predictions suggest strongly that they will work hard to come up with a justification for his death that lets them cling to their least some of them will.

Mr_Ected76 karma

What's a typical Sunday like in the church?

NatePhelps83 karma

I don`t know about today, but when i was there we would get up, have breakfast, dress in our Sunday best and "present ourselves before the Lord" at 10:30 am. We would sing a few songs, the old man would pray, then he would preach for an hour or so. Then we would sing another hymn and that would be it. At 7:00 pm we'd do it all over again.

ruth_mcdougle75 karma

Do you ever wish you could go back for your siblings? Your parents? Do you think any more members of the church will leave?

NatePhelps216 karma

I often wish I could go back and undo so much of what has happened. I fantasize about what it would be like to have a normal, loving family. You could say I'm in love with the idea of a family, but it's just not going to happen with them barring a miracle and I don't believe in miracles.

I'm sure more will leave. I'm sure the church will change profoundly, if not die, when my father passes.

thefaultinourstars173 karma

Had you said anything to your family while still living with them to indicate you were against what they did? If so, how did they react?

NatePhelps164 karma

The closest I ever got to challenging that system was the few times I begged my mother to leave. It wasn`t so much about contesting the theology as it was contesting the cruelty of my father.

jeremiahwarren41 karma

What was the qualification for salvation for Westboro members? Do they consider evangelical Christians to be "saved", or is basically everyone going to hell but them?

How many people joined the church or became "saved" while you were a member?

A lot of Redditors think that your family is trolling and just doing it for the money. I personally believe they are 100% genuine (although I strongly disagree with them). Am I correct?

How many members have left that didn't grow up in the church?

NatePhelps55 karma

That's a really good question jeremiah. In practice, the qualification was that you had to announce that you had been saved. It was one of the more interesting aspects of growing up there. My father controlled it with an iron fist, but ultimately had to take the person's word if they said they had been saved. Who was he to say otherwise. But he was constantly scanning the situation and quick to jump on anything that smelled wrong. If you did anything he disapproved of he would demand it be corrected or use it as proof that you had actually never been saved.

Calvinists don't think you can lose your salvation once you have it.