Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teach The Children Well - Part 2

Remember I’ve explained that my father began to realize he might lose members from his very small church as we, his children, were beginning to grow up. My father knew we would naturally find husbands and wives and begin to live our own lives. And because the level of physical abuse we were suffering was something any normal child would seek to escape. What we couldn’t have predicted was that my father’s megalomania would manifest itself in his need to control not just our lives as we reached adulthood but to control us into our adult lives. My father believed he had the right to pick our spouses for us, veto any marriage that didn’t suit him, and that he had the final say in the major decisions in our marriages. That included what jobs we took, and the way we would go forward with our livelihoods. But one surprising way he chose to get compliance from his parishioners and his children as the largest group was to keep telling them God hated people. Well that God hated everyone else. But us! Strange methods my father used.

So, along the lines of controlling his children and his congregation my father continued to teach that God was the one who was this controlling God. And that this God was forever controlling people when all along it was my father wanting that control and “using” God as his henchman!

One way he did this was to instill in his children that God is always angry at us and it is terrifyingly unclear how to keep him from being angry. Therefore, you must live in a continual state of anxiety and despair as you try to live up to all the rules, while continually looking over your shoulder to see what horrible disaster is coming upon you next. Remember I said my father’s rules were like shifting sand?

We know through experience that many children wrongly ascribe characteristics to God that actually belong to an abusive earthly father or other unloving person. It makes perfect sense to me that without help to understand who God really was that I would easily default to thinking the real God was just like my earthly father. And that would mean in my case a God who was cold, unfeeling, unconcerned about the welfare of others, and one who chose to hurt at any time and for no reason. And my father desired us to have this view of God because it allowed him to control us.

Another teaching we all received was that God is dangerous, vicious and terrifying. My father made sure I knew God was my biggest threat and my biggest risk. Big trouble with God, he would explain to us, is impossible to avoid. No matter how I try, how hard I work, how vigilant I am, sooner or later I am going to miss a piece of dust on the floor, or fail to get an errand run quickly enough, or I won’t have the right words to say, at the right time, or I will make the mistake of any normal eight-year-old child, and because of my failure I am going to get beaten or hit or knocked down or experience God’s verbal tirade. (Oh, did I say ‘God’? I meant my father! Or did I? Did I really mean God? Maybe I did! I’m not sure. I’m so confused!) There it is again . . . a very short putt for the Phelps children to have to go from our mean-spirited abusing father to believing this about God.

This is one of the things my father passed on as a legacy that hurts the most. Not only did my father keep us all from knowing God, but he painted a horrible and wrong picture of him. So that even for my siblings, and nephews and nieces who have left the fold, without serious psychological and spiritual help of some kind they will find it very hard to undo that damage. What a damaging portrayal of the true God my father gave to us all . . . and what heaviness of soul that has brought to all of us who haven’t been able to heal from this.

And if this were not enough my father taught, repetitively, that God is after revenge and he has the power and wisdom to exact revenge continually and perfectly. It seems he sees everything and he is present everywhere. He has exceptional ability to find me and hurt me, because I did something wrong, though I did not know what it was I did wrong. This teaching about God that my father taught; actually that my father exploded into our psyches with his words and his fists and his oak mattock handle; took a huge toll on all of us. This level of poisonous teaching can take years and years to undo.

One time my father yelled at me to get some work done in the yard, and I ran out one door so scared I forgot my shoes. A yell by my father was actually a terrifying command to be obeyed immediately, and without question. When I ran back in the other door to get my shoes, my father was at that door and he knocked me up side my head and the hit threw me across the floor. I got dizzy and couldn’t get up for a few seconds so he started kicking me, yelling at me to get up. I didn’t expect him to be at this other door and I needed to get my shoes on to work in the yard. I never knew where and when the pain would come. Ever! I was nine years old and I just knew the pain would come!

See again the view a child has of his father and how it plays right into his understanding of the heavenly father? Oh, earthly fathers, if you are abusers, you need to seek help immediately because you are not just damaging your children’s little hearts and souls but you are dramatically damaging their ability to connect with the loving God of the universe. This is NOT something you should take lightly. Seek help!

My father also taught us that God would punish us for laughing and playing unless my father specifically said it was okay to laugh. So how were we to navigate the showing of normal childhood emotions and responses? We learned it was okay to laugh if my father was saying something clever. Always! But horse play around the house or playing as a child in the yard was punishable by beating, verbal rage, humiliation and isolation if it was not sanctioned by my father. In fact, God will punish me if I have any fun at all, unless He says it’s okay to have fun. (Did I say God again? Oh my, I keep getting my father and God mixed up. And this was very much by my father’s design).

I had permission from my father to have fun playing the organ for his ‘church’, or running his legal documents to the court clerk, or doing lawn work, or doing house chores or selling candy for his ‘church’ or beating one of my brothers or sisters for him or running long distances every day. What I never had permission for was the normal bubbling up, beautiful, spontaneous laughter of a child. And the sad thing is my father chose to teach this about God because this is what my father wanted in his controlled little world and not because it was what God wanted. God, who invented children and laughter and delight, would not be putting these restrictions on precious little children. But, who was there to teach me about a loving God? Not my father. Neither to me nor to any of my siblings!

The truth is, God by my father’s teaching wanted me working hard for Him . . . non-stop! I was to be at his beck and call at all times. If he rings his large brass bell I had better get in front of him as quickly as possible to learn of his newest demands, and comply, or there will be big trouble. My father skillfully wove his own demands and his own personality into his teachings about God so that at some point they became one in our minds. And we never had a fighting chance to develop our own relationships with God. The most beautiful, gracious, loving being in the universe was someone my father did not want us to know. And he made sure we would never try as he wreaked havoc on a true view of who God is.

My father also ably taught us you can't hide from God, no chance, no way, so there is only continual dread and terror. God is going to get me, sooner or later, one way or another, God is going to get me. It is impossible to go continually, day after day, without doing something that displeases God, and when you displease him, it will be like running into the hulk: “Don’t make me angry! You won’t like me when I’m angry!” God is going to punish me. I mean, he is really going to hurt me. He is going to devastate me. The punishment will very likely be extremely painful, far beyond the gravity of my offense.

Doesn’t this sound exactly like the dynamic in a home with a physically and verbally abusive father? Why would a normal father ever want to destroy any hope his children had of being in a loving relationship with a loving God by twisting the truth of who God really is? What level of damage or twistedness to his own soul would allow him to damage the souls of his children? We will never know the answer to this question but the immense damage he did to us and the pain we have had to live with is very real.

So I learned the clear lesson of individual, intimate, personal, precise judgment and accountability to an angry God and the punishment I had coming, which God had prepared especially for me. But I never, ever learned of a God who loved me just as personally and individually and intimately and precisely, who could forgive me and who intentionally paid the ultimate price to have a personal relationship with me. This beautiful, amazing truth was never taught to me. Why? It was there in the Bible as plain as day for anyone to read, especially the pastor of a church.

My father continued his abuse by teaching us that God scoffs and mocks at anyone who challenges him or disagrees with him. God expects unquestioning loyalty - God wants ‘yes men’, and that is all he will tolerate. And it is very difficult to be a passive yes man with God. You must have original, spontaneous ‘words’, ‘good words’ to offer in agreement and affirmation of him when he is upset or he will rail and curse and scream and rage all the more. Because this God needs his ego affirmed you are asking?

Here is where it got very twisted in my home. It was actually my father who desperately needed a “good word” from his kids. He would say “what’s the good word? Got any good words for me?” Some lists of symptoms for those with megalomania or Narcissistic Personality Disorder include that the person has a very fragile ego. On the outside it may have looked like my father had a fragile ego with what appeared to be his need to be told good things about his church or his mission on earth. Which was, remember, to tell people God hated them and to find ways to devalue them and show disdain for them.

I have come to believe that one reason my father chose to have us give him a “good word” was his ego, yes, but also because it was a great way to continue our indoctrination. He reinforced his constant teaching by requiring us to verbally feed his lies and deceit back to him while under duress from him! Never mind that we often had to lie about whatever we were saying because there was nothing to tell him he wanted to hear! This was a powerful way for my father to reinforce his deceitful teaching about God. This God was hateful yet he apparently wanted us to make up stuff about his pastors who needed to be bolstered. And wanted to indoctrinate their subjects…Are you as confused as we children were?

God/my father wanted me to feel ashamed and dirty and worthless and hopeless. He expected me to function in full operational mode, but he had a strong desire that I function while feeling dirty and worthless and full of despair and hopelessness. Only then were the effects of his rage temporarily assuaged . . . maybe!

God/my father had all the power and there was nothing I could do about it and he will always use his power to hurt me. Is it becoming clear that my father’s mind control techniques were so effective that I started to meld God and my father into one!? And I believed that my father’s attributes were God’s. What a sad state of affairs for young, defenseless children with no help to know the true, loving God.

My father was pulling verses from the Bible that painted this evil picture of God. And the scary, eerie reality of all this was my father was remaking God in his own image. And all the cruel, inhumane and evil tendencies my father had . . . he began to teach were true about God. And he would find verses to try to prove just that. The wickedness of this and its toll on my siblings’ lives is just incalculable.

Immediately following are a listing of some of the things my father said about his own beliefs and behaviors that he truly wanted us to believe were true about God, and that he truly wanted us to believe and comply with (my comments are in parentheses):

-I expect you to cut off all ties and relationships with everybody who does not attend my church, especially any family members who may not happen to attend my church.

-I practice what I preach. I rejected my own father and never spoke to him again after he tried to get me to ‘stop all this nonsense and get back into the Methodist church’ and because he refused to ‘get right with God’ by getting into my church. I also rejected my sister for trying to reconcile my father and me. She knew never to contact me again, ever!

-God does not love the world! Such teaching is drivel; mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy nonsense! This teaching is a namby-pamby fag-enabling belief.

-God did NOT give his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him will never perish but have eternal life. No, God did not do this, not at all! This teaching is a lie! (My father took on Jesus, the Savior of the world. The audacity of this is shocking to me now.)

-Everything I teach is exact, perfect truth. All others teach lies and you are to have absolutely nothing to do with them.

-I believe and teach Absolute Predestination – the destinies of all people are specifically and precisely determined by God, in every detail, from eternity past, and the individual human being has no say in their eternal destiny. (If this were true, my father was predestined by God to hurt us, just as other children were predestined by God to be hurt. This is such nonsense!) By the way, most every human being is going to hell because I hate them and I have the power to send them to hell! (Is the “I” in this last sentence God or my father? Exactly! Now you understand the dilemma we lived!)

-Once you are saved you cannot lose your salvation, unless you leave my church, in which case, you are going straight to hell. Of course, you are not going straight to hell because you lose your salvation. You are going straight to hell because you were never saved. The evidence you were never saved is, you left my church. (And if I drove you away by beating you and hurting you and demeaning you and mocking you, and that made you choose to leave, well too bad for you.) We will mock you from the pulpit for this decision. For years!

-If a person challenges you, disagrees with you, confronts you, argues with you or is in any way counter to or against you, that is specific, distinct, clear and unmistakable evidence that what you believe, what you are doing, or what you are saying is the truth! (No matter how outrageous and evil your words or behaviors are that would elicit those responses.)

-If you leave my church, you will not have children because children are an inheritance from the Lord and blessed is the man who has his ‘quiver’ full of them. No ‘The Place’, no children!

-Women are second class citizens and are to me absolutely, utterly dominated and controlled by men, who have complete God-given control and power over every aspect of their personal selves and lives! (Forget how much love Jesus showed women in his lifetime!)

-Any level of hatefulness is acceptable if it is done in God’s name. Any level of hatefulness!!

-Feeding the hungry of the world is not something a Christian or a Christian church is supposed to do. This is foolish nonsense, and worthless drivel. World Vision is a fag organization! (My father apparently never believed the truths talked about in Matthew 25 where Christ placed incredible importance on taking care of the hungry.)

-It is not important for my church to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. (My father felt comfortable calling his church a church of Jesus Christ but he mocked this Jesus and his teachings in every possible way.) It is not important to preach the truth of God’s love and goodness and the sacrificial death of his Son to people at all because if a person is to be saved, God will get them to my church. An all-powerful God is certainly capable of doing something this simple.

-I’m telling you to hate your enemies and fight them with all of your might and resources and I expect you to join me in fighting my enemies. (Do not ever believe Jesus, the head of the church, that you are to love your enemies and pray for them!) You must ‘stand at the gate’, with me, against all my enemies, which is anyone who crosses me! Hate who I hate!

-When your enemy is sick or dies, rejoice and taunt them, insult them cruelly, and pronounce your righteous judgment on them! Actively humiliate them, publicly, and humiliate their loved ones who have just lost them and are suffering in their grief. (Do this in ever more public ways as the sickness and depravity of your church grows.)

-I expect you to hate most everybody, without fail! It is the right and proper thing to do! Kick your enemy in the shins. Hit your enemy in the mouth, hard! Get in the first blow and every other blow possible, and don’t stop kicking and hitting them!

-It is important to tell the world that God hates them and that they are going to hell! That’s what’s important. None of this lovey-dovey balderdash! (If you mock God in the doing of this, so be it.) I am the god of this church and will tell you what to think.

-It is eternally irrelevant what anybody thinks about my preaching; supremely and eternally irrelevant. I could not care less whether somebody agrees with me, or not. I am preaching the truth!!

-God is willing for virtually every person to perish, to die in their sins and to go to hell. The truth is he delights in this! In fact, he is “jumping up and down happy” about this important truth!! He’s so happy, he’s laughing! He is clapping his hands with delight! As far as God is concerned, the more people in hell, the better. (You all know what I am going to say, right? That these are wretched untruths my father was throwing at us and our culture through his picket signs and his actions!)

-Most of the 4 billion human beings on the earth are brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed.

-God is full of wrath and anger toward most every person in the world, and everybody else should be also. Certainly anybody who knows God should be angry at this world of sinners we live in! I know I am!

-The world is full of bad, evil, wicked filthy people and you are not to have anything to do with them, starting with our next door neighbors! Stay completely away from and have nothing to do with the people of the world. Don’t talk to them or get involved with them in any way, and do not attempt to have a relationship with them. The more you avoid them, the better Christian you are and the better off you will be. And the better you will get along with me! In fact if I catch you even talking to a neighbor child I will give you a beating!

-The most important thing is to have the correct doctrine; the correct beliefs; and to preach these correct doctrines. Good works are not important. Works can’t save you. Spiritual fruit is not important. Just make sure you are in my church, ‘The Place’! That’s what is supremely important. And be sure you believe exactly how I instruct you to believe! And don’t you dare question me!!

-People are made to be used and abused, not appreciated and loved.

-It is not important to maintain honesty or decency or integrity in your dealings with the people of the world. Take advantage of them, use them for what you need, and otherwise despise them. But don’t you cross me, or try to cheat me, or it will be disaster for you!!

-God hates Israel because they crucified Christ and turned their back on God. God is done with Israel forever! Israel is Doomed!

-God is not concerned with injustice all you evil people may experience in this world. This is nothing but a fag notion. God couldn’t care less about injustice experienced by all the fag enablers this world is populated with. But it is time for this world to be merciful to me and mine!! I could not care less about you! However God DOES justify all of my behavior no matter how hateful, mean, hurtful or unjust it may be to others!

-If you tell people God loves them you are a lying, mealy-mouthed, sissy telling fag lies.

-If you disagree with me you are a fag, and I hate you, God hates you, and you are going to hell!

-I am the head of the house of every family in my church, like it or not! That’s how it is! Don’t fill the air with empty words about the husband being the head of the house. I know better.

-All my children and all their family members must get permission from me to do anything ‘off the charts’ and if I do not agree with and authorize your plans, you are going to hell if you follow through with your plans. I expect all of my children to give their lives for me and my church!

-I require husbands to beat their wives and children severely, regularly and promptly; betimes; to insure they are kept in complete subjection to me and my church.

-If you beat a child he will not die. In fact the more the child refuses to obey your every command the more it is necessary to beat them. If a large leather strap does not get results, then get an oak mattock handle and beat them harder. If that does not get results, beat them with your fists and feet and knees and spit in their face. If your wife does not obey you, hit her in the mouth and throw her down the stairs. Slap your wife across the face! Beat ‘em all until they comply perfectly with your demands! Beat ‘em harder and harder. While beating ‘em, be sure to curse and rage at them and throw everything you can get your hands on. If all of this does not work, threaten them with a gun. If this still does not work, confine them and hold them in confinement, refuse them food for forty days or more.

-My church is the pillar and ground of the truth!

-Having concern for orphans, widows, and those in jail, is silly drivel, and has nothing to do with the ‘Church of The Lord Jesus Christ’, ‘The Place’, my church. The last things you need to be worried about are some fag orphans, fag widows and fag prisoners. God couldn’t care less about these fags, neither do I and neither should you! God hates all these fag churches who are always talking about helping orphans, widows and prisoners!!

-The fruit of the spirit in my life or any other person’s life is never an issue, it is not important and has nothing to do with anything that would matter or take up any of the precious room in my perfect doctrinal system or take up any of my time or thought. I behave the way I choose to behave and that, by definition, makes it the right behavior. Got it!?

-God’s curse and mighty hand of destruction and judgment is on every person not in my church! I’m telling you, God Almighty is going to get all of you!!

-I am not interested in what the Bible says, or what God has to say on the subject, IF I do not agree with it. I am only interested in those things God says, that I agree with! Got it!? Don’t come in here talking about some Bible verse or passage that you have twisted to your own destruction. Just shut your silly fag mouth and listen to me, if you want to know the truth!

-Every other church on the earth teaches nothing but a pack of lies. They are all reprobate, heretic, backslidden, pussyfooting liars anyway, and they are all going to hell and so are all the poor dumb fools who follow their teachings! Me and my church are the only place; “THE PLACE”; on earth who teach the full and complete truth of God.

-I am the head of Christ’s church on the earth. I have been given all authority on earth to bind and loose and what I bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven, accordingly. No one has the authority except me. I do not answer to a denomination, or some goofy board of elders, or certainly not the members of my church. If I say my children who have left my church are going to hell, then they are going to hell! That settles it!! I only answer to God, as the head of His church here on earth. I could care less what people think of me. What people think of me is supremely irrelevant!

-Wives obey your husbands!

-Women Keep Silent!

-Women wear a Covering – some type of hat – AT ALL TIMES - in ‘The Place’!

-Women, don’t you dare ever cut your hair, unless you want to go to hell! After all, your hair is given to you for a covering and demonstrates publicly that you are under my authority! But if you don’t agree with everything I say; everything I tell you to do; and subject yourself to me continually, I will cut your hair off to the scalp so the whole world will see you are a rebellious insubordinate sassy-mouthed jezebel!

-My daughters are under my authority, no matter their age, until I grant them permission to marry. Of course, whether male or female, there will be no marrying, unless both parties are in ‘The Place’ and living in subjection to me and my church and unless I say, specifically, that it is okay for them to get married! I reserve the God-given right to have my say in what goes on in the marriages of my daughters also. I am the boss of their marriages!

-Wives are good targets and containers for the cursing and raging of men.

-Wives are good for getting pregnant.

-Wives are good for making babies.

-Wives are good for throwing down the staircase, if you are in the mood to throw your wife down the staircase.

-Wives are good for having their arms pulled out of socket, when the whim hits you as you are raging and beating them.

-Wives are good for beating with an oak mattock handle if they ‘disobey’ or displease you or if they weigh too much to please you.

-Wives are good for humiliating – cutting off their hair in choppy fashion for the entire world to see – to teach them a lesson if not FULLY AGREEING with and kowtowing to their husband, continually!

-Women make excellent servants for men.

If you have stayed with me long enough to get through this list you are a brave soul. Because you have undoubtedly gotten a sense of the twisted way my father portrayed a loving God who wanted to save the world, and wanted people to live in loving relationships with him and with each other while they are here on planet earth.

The concept of ‘Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it’ from the Bible never crossed my ears or mind, while attending ‘The Place’. In other words, my father never taught this important truth from the Bible, ever!

Though the Bible teaches ‘The two shall leave father and mother and cleave to one another and the two shall become one flesh’ my father specifically said to my older brother, in front of me, on one particularly happy day, distinctly and clearly, that he (Preacher/Father) was probably going to be the head of their household any time he saw the need, and that my brother better get used to that idea right now! This was BEFORE my older brother was ever married.

You see, the Bible was applied rigorously by my father when it fit my father’s goals of controlling and intimidating those in ‘The Place’, and abusing those in the rest of world; and the Bible was ignored when it held no such helpful utility!

My father actually did something even worse than just twisting the truth of God and His truths in the Bible, cutting and pasting from the Bible and whiting out large sections of the Bible to suit himself. He actually “recreated” God in his own image and taught all of us as children, and any who would sit still for my father’s preaching, that God was essentially mean like Fred W. Phelps, Sr. That God hated people, and wanted to use them and hurt them and make their lives utterly miserable.

If my siblings and I could have flipped a switch at some point to turn off the horrible teaching of my father, about God and about us in relation to God, that would have been marvelous. But the damage my father did with telling us the most horrific lies about God and about ourselves are the kind of abuse that can take years to undo. I can tell you that it took about an equal amount of time healing from my father’s abuse (20 years) as I sat under it the first 20 years of my life.

Those of us who have been through my father’s hate mill have ended up with physical problems from the beatings, depression, suicidal thoughts, strained relationships with people close to us and people in the community, and an overall sense of wretchedness and despair that is hard to understand if you have not suffered abuse at the level we did.

But perhaps saddest of all for me is that my father so twisted who God is and preached his fake god so vociferously that people in my family and some in my culture actually believe the picture of god my father has painted. And have had no one who loves them to turn to in their darkest hour.

My father was a man of influence in his own way. He was not a Washington or a Gandhi but he influenced nonetheless. And the influence he wielded didn’t just affect peoples’ lives here on earth but for eternity. When you get the character of God as wrong as my father did you are going to hurt people. And continue to hurt them by causing people to fear and even loathe connecting with this loving God. That was my father’s influence on his culture ultimately. And it is one that did immense damage.

If any of you reading this blog have suffered abuse and especially abuse where God and His character have been destroyed by your abuser, I would really like to talk to you. In whatever way you are comfortable. I would love to encourage you to take steps toward your own healing; toward yourself, toward your fellow humans and toward God. If I can encourage you in this even a little bit, I would love that opportunity.

Mark Phelps

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Teach The Children Well - Part 1

A story of extreme religious abuse in a church

Do you ever wonder as you look at the lives of people who influenced others what factors made them into influencers? If you looked at the lives of Gandhi, Stalin, FDR, Hitler, George Washington, Alexander the Great, Mother Theresa or Thomas Edison what would you see in their lives that took them from being people who simply did things and said things and wrote things to people who influenced the culture at large? Would there be a specific time when you could see the rudder of their lives take a sharp turn in the direction of either good or evil?

I don’t know much about my father’s early life and all the factors that would come together to make him a man who would influence others but I do know he lost his mother to cancer at the age of five. My father, Fred W. Phelps, Sr., grew up in a family where it appeared he received love and support. However at the age of around 19 while my father was still in college he showed signs of having a mental illness of the severity that he was given a choice by the administration of his college to either get treatment or be forced to leave school. Many of us who knew my father well believe he had a personality disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder which was formerly called megalomania.

The distinctives of this disorder include:

Narcissistic Traits

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

• Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

• Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

• Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

• Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

• Requires excessive admiration

• Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

• Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

Of course, each person with this diagnosis will manifest it differently. I believe my father indeed had a preoccupation with the fantasy of power over others. And the way he ended up wielding this power was through his preaching and ultimately the actions connected with that preaching. And those actions would one day be taken into the public arena to be viewed with horror by his nation.

My father would tell his family and anyone sitting in the pews of his church that his particular take on God and the Bible was right and that everyone else’s was wrong. You have probably known people who are this rigid in their views on religion or politics. What made my father uniquely so is he really believed himself to be a kind of modern day prophet fashioned after the Old Testament prophets who used to speak for God. And my father was very happy to speak for God. To a culture he believed was truly “getting it wrong.”

What my father decided to do was make the case for the fact that God hated people. Not that God was a holy God who had a high standard that wasn’t being lived up to. No, just that God hated people. If my father was attempting to be like an Old Testament prophet he failed miserably, because he missed the key message God always gave through his prophets. This key message was that IF the prophets’ culture would turn away from sinning and hurting people that God would forgive them and be their God and love them and guide them. My father seemed to forget that last part about God’s love for people, and would continue to forget it for the remainder of his fairly long life.

One of the ways my father got in trouble, as far as many who are knowledgeable about the Bible can tell, is that He pored over the Bible to select out the parts that seemed to further his own ideas. His personal agenda! And in that process he completely forgot the main thrust of the Bible which was that God loved mankind. That He made them uniquely in his image and wanted to have fellowship with them. Not as puppets without the ability to reason and think through the relationship being offered, but as sons and daughters. My father apparently didn’t believe this and certainly didn’t preach it. He preached the opposite, that God hated people. The Bible speaks about God’s love in a myriad of ways and I think my father just could not stomach that truth. My father didn’t love people at all, and he just did not “get” why the God of the universe did. It honestly baffled him and almost offended him.

The Old Testament teaches that worship was tied to a specific location, the temple Jerusalem. When Jesus began his preaching ministry he began teaching that worship would now be able to be anywhere, and was a spiritual matter not tied to a location. For some reason my father decided not to believe Jesus on this important change. So early in our lives my father began teaching that his church was ‘The Place’ and there was no other church or ‘place’ that was an acceptable place to worship. He didn’t like the New Testament teaching that said worship could happen anywhere and he couldn’t very well move us to Jerusalem so on his own he decided to say the new ‘Place’ where worship of the living God could happen was in Topeka, Kansas at his church, and nowhere else. If you are struck by the absurdity of this claim, welcome to the club.

My father made it clear to us, as we got older, that if we left ‘The Place’ we would now be going to hell. Just for leaving his church. My father’s teaching had this pesky little habit of changing along the way to suit his purposes. Since his church was very small, and peopled almost exclusively by his own family, my father had to convince us we couldn’t leave or he would have had no congregation. That we truly could NOT leave. So, he told us not only were we going to hell but that God would kill us if we left.

My father was not above strong-arm tactics like this! Remember one of the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is to be personally exploitative and willing to use others for the persons’ own ends? My father must have believed if he didn’t frighten us into staying that with the level of physical and verbal abuse he had used on us over the years that we might all leave. And with the level of abuse he used it was a legitimate worry. I believe at some level he well knew this. But he did far more than frighten us. He terrorized us to the point that we truly believed we would die if we left, and go straight to hell!

For those of you who grew up in normal homes (where your powers of reasoning and your ability to exercise them with disagreements with your parents was alive and well), you must find this hard to believe. But, remember, we were being brainwashed from the time we were little children. And the power of the ever present fear tactics and beatings was a formidable combination. The night I finally left home at 19 I barely slept, believing that I would undoubtedly be dead by morning . . . and in hell. One of the first cracks in my father’s fa├žade of teaching for me came that next morning when I woke up and realized I’d made it through the night. Well, at that point, at least I figured God was giving me a second chance. And he was! He gloriously, truly was!

In order to set up the ruse that his church was the only church in the world where one could be saved my father borrowed several ideas from the Old Testament. He spent a lot of time teaching on passages from the Old Testament about how the people of Israel would worship on every high place and on every green hill, instead of where God had told them to worship. He would then apply these passages to reinforce his teachings about ‘The Place’. It amazes me now to think my father had the guts to say that his church in Topeka, Kansas was the one and only place where people could have a right relationship with God and not go to hell. But he did teach this, most days of my existence. And he mixed this teaching with such hatefulness and terrorizing treatment, beginning at such an early age in our lives, that . . . we just believed him!

To understand the power of my father’s words and what they did to us as children you have to understand how he used repetition of words, phrases and concepts. When you read about mind control and brainwashing techniques the research shows the power of repetition. My father seemed to instinctively understand this and used it with chilling effect on his children many of whom are afraid to leave his church even to this day.

My father made it clear that not only were all of his teachings accurate but the teachings of every other church, and every other preacher, were NOT accurate. My father simply did not understand the principles the Bible speaks of where “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” He didn’t believe he could be sharpened or needed to be sharpened by other pastors and lay people who possessed knowledge and wisdom in the very areas he was preaching about. He placed major emphasis on what he called the ‘right’ beliefs and believed that he had found those right beliefs and that this knowledge was unavailable to others.

Remember a person with Narcissistic Behavior Disorder believes he is “special” and unique and can only be understood by other special people. And truthfully I am not sure my father thought anyone was as special as he was, so that on this earth he had no peer who could teach him anything. So in light of this he specifically, overtly taught that his church was the only true church preaching the truth, and all other churches were false.

He emphasized over and over that only his teachings were accurate, truthful teaching, in the whole world! Now that is the definition of special! He used Billy Graham as a distinct object lesson of false preaching, as well as Jerry Falwell and other well-known preachers of his era. Often as children we heard the so-called errors of these various preachers being refuted point by point. My father was the master of using the straw man argument where he would base his arguments on a misrepresentation of his opponents’ arguments. This works well only if the audience is ignorant or uninformed of the original argument, which was generally the case because we were children!

My father made it clear that God hates most all of the people of the world. And that the teachings of Jesus were largely to be ignored. When Jesus said ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ my father actually said this was just a bunch of mealy-mouthed hogwash, and sentimental lies. My father apparently felt comfortable challenging Jesus, the head of the world wide church and calling him a liar! ‘World’, according to my father, meant “‘The Place’; his church” so therefore God does love us in ‘The Place’, but God does not love the whole world. Remember the “us” in this scenario meant only 20 to 30 people which have now grown to more than double that size with the marriages and grandchildren that would be produced from the nine children that did not leave our home and our father’s church.

My father emphasized over and over that to teach that God loved the whole world – and every person in it– was a lie and was heresy. There is a verse in 2 Peter where it says the Lord “is patient toward you, not desiring any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Of course my father taught the ‘all’ in this verse was referring to all of those in ‘The Place’, which was his church. My father had no trouble ignoring the plain meaning of Scripture if it furthered his agenda!

Using a passage here and there, from within the Bible, often out of context, my father constructed his personal teachings. His view of life! He took bits and pieces of the words of other scholars and commentators throughout history to form his own ‘truth’; changed their thoughts into something unique to him alone. And those my father borrowed from would have been horrified at the way their words were being twisted by him.

When my father taught on predestination, a topic that good willed people inevitably disagree on, he preached it in a way that had never been taught in all of church history! His take was that God had predestined his church (my father’s church) to be THE church; ‘THE PLACE’; in this present world, and if there happened to be other believers somewhere in the world that God would get them to his church in Topeka, Kansas. My father believed there was no need to speak the gospel to others around the neighborhood, around the city, or around the world, because if any of the people in the world were going to be saved, God would save them and get them to his church, ‘The Place’.

If you dug into my father’s teachings you could find little bits and pieces of truth scattered throughout. In other words, my father’s teachings were not utter and complete falsehoods. Had they been, he would not have been as able to control his family as he did. Mixing falsehood in with some measure of truth is a powerful way to pass the tainted mixture off on other people. The following are some of his main teachings which he borrowed from various scholars but which he inevitably changed to something no one had ever believed in the totality of church history.

Mankind is Completely Wicked and Unable Even to Respond to God’s Offer of Eternal Life – My father taught that all mankind is wicked to their core and truly unable to even respond to God’s offer of eternal life without God essentially making them respond. Therefore, unless you were predestined to be saved, you are going to hell, no matter what! And remember the specific way my father taught this was that if you did not attend HIS church that in itself was grounds for going to hell. By his reckoning God had come to save Fred W. Phelps Senior’s family and the couple of families my father would manage to keep around listening to his message of hate.

If God decided you were to be saved, you would be, whether you wanted to be or not – My father’s teaching was that there was no way anyone could actually be saved. What a weird sales pitch my father had for mankind! He has to “sell” a product that was broken. That couldn’t help people. His pitch was that this amazing gift was up to God to give you and there was no response by the human heart . . . kind of a puppet view of mankind. There are no conditions to be met, to be saved. If God has decided to save you, you will be saved. You are one of God’s chosen ones. If God has decided you are not to be saved, you will NOT be saved. If my father thought this was an entirely pre-determined deal, where there was no hope for people, why on earth did he torment people with it? But torment he did.

He preached that if you are one who God has chosen, you will, without question, beyond a shadow of a doubt, find your way to ‘The Place’, his church. If you are currently in ‘The Place’, or somehow find your way to ‘The Place’, and you then leave ‘The Place’, it is because you were never saved; that you never belonged to God in the first place. You were never one of God’s chosen according to my father, and you are doomed to go to hell. But remember even by today’s numbers at Westboro Baptist Church this apparently meant Jesus came to save about 100 people. In all of history! And of course this is completely contrary to verses in the Bible that say “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That means in Pakistan and Russia and China and Sierra Leone and Rwanda and Brazil and Iceland and North Korea and Mexico and Iraq. Not just in one location in the United States.

Christ’s death on the cross was not meant for everyone –My father believed that Christ’s death was not enough to pay for all the sins of all mankind for all of time. That it was only for a select group of people. My father believed that not all people were even able to respond to God’s gift of eternal life despite verses in the Bible to the contrary, and that there was some kind of limitation to the amazing, saving work of Christ. Well my father sure thought there was a limit! Out of almost 4 billion human beings on the earth, (at that time I was a child) twenty or thirty were in his church and were saved. They were the only ones on the planet. My father taught that ‘The Place’; my father’s church; is God’s church. And it’s where the “chosen” reside; all of them! And they reside nowhere else!

On the other hand the Bible says “He (Jesus) gave his life to pay for our sins. But he not only paid for our sins. He also paid for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2. I am not sure if my father categorized that sort of verse as more mealy-mouthed, sentimental lies. But again these are my father’s arguments used against Christ, the savior of the world . . . that Christ’s life was not really given for the whole world despite Christ’s claims to the contrary! It took a real sleight of hand for my father to make “world” mean a street corner in Topeka, Kansas where he and his wife and 13 children lived. And which doubled for the only place on the planet where Jesus death counted for anything. Jesus was clear that he came to “seek and save the lost.” Jesus never ever said he came only to save people at a certain location on earth. My father twisted the greatest truth of all time and discouraged people from coming to the God who loves and the God who saves. If there was something wicked it was that teaching!

To get to be one of the special 30 people who were going to be saved there was no behavior requirement other than to be in ‘The Place’. That part is actually consistent with the Bible in that Christ came to save lost people who truly could not save themselves. And Christ never expected people to get “all fixed up” before He saved them. He simply saved them in whatever state they were in. But the Bible is also filled with teaching about how one’s life is going to change once God is actually part of your life. That you will have spiritual fruit in your life, fruit you and others will be able to observe and experience.

One list found in the Bible says the fruit that comes from people having the Spirit of God in their lives is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.” I can tell you as one who lived on that street corner in Topeka, Kansas, those qualities were not evident in my father or really in any of us. Apparently my father was not concerned that there be evidence of spiritual fruit in our lives. The fruit of the spirit and the blessing that fruit could mean to a world full of hurting and needy people was never a topic of my father’s preaching.

Had he taught on the fruit of the Spirit with any integrity, he would have had to change his daily behavior or at least humbly seek to do so. Since he obviously did not intend to change his own behavior, he stuck with teaching what he called doctrine or basic truths only, and shied away from any evidence that true change had taken place in a person’s life because of God. My father’s “basics” were that the whole world was going to hell except the 20 or 30 people who stayed tied to that piece of real estate in Topeka, Kansas. And this in direct disagreement with Jesus’ teaching that God could be worshiped now anywhere in the world and tied to no particular place.

Instead of focusing on the teaching in God’s word regarding the fruits of the Spirit and a need as Christ followers to grow to be mature, humble, caring people, we learned to focus on what made Daddy mad! This might truthfully be said to be one of the greatest pitfalls of having a father for a preacher. And especially if that father is an immature, angry man with a personality disorder and who chose abuse as his vehicle for controlling people in his care. The theme and guiding principle for our household was the answer to the question “Is Daddy Mad?!” “Is Daddy Mad?!” Any time I would leave the property, upon return my all-consuming obsession would be ‘Is Daddy Mad?!” The first person I would see when returning would get asked the question of paramount importance; that was my only interest. . . ‘Is Daddy Mad?!’

The reason for this hyper vigilant behavior on the part of children towards parents is a necessary coping skill for all children of abuse. We learned our lessons well in regard to what was acceptable and what was not acceptable behavior for us to stay safe from harm. If the behavior got us in trouble with Daddy, we knew to avoid or hide the behavior. If the behavior put us in favor with Daddy, we learned to behave accordingly, or at least lie and tell Daddy we had behaved accordingly; even if, in the process of making Daddy happy, we violated the laws of society . . . or the laws of God! Had my father been a believer himself he would have wanted more than anything in the world to have children grow into honest people who could tell the truth in all situations, even when it was hard. But he actually taught the opposite of that. To say anything and everything not to get beaten by this man was our goal and our guide . . . the all-consuming focus of our young lives.

It did not matter if our behavior was right or wrong, according to the teaching of God’s word, common sense or according to the laws of the land. If it was acceptable to my father, it was our family’s rule of law! Or, if the behavior was wrong but we were able to hide the behavior from my father, it was fine too. Though Mother would make valiant attempts to keep us in line, mostly in order to avoid violent blow-ups with our father, she could only do so much, because we were a group of children who were out of control. The ratio was one adult to 13 children and my mother had no help from my father in raising us.

My father was not a godly man who exhibited the qualities the Bible expected him to which was that of love, kindness, humility, wisdom and gentleness to all. He lived the exact opposite of that. But for his children the standard for behavior changed at my father’s whim and changed minute by minute. It was shifting sand and we spent our lives trying to stay on top of the situation so as not to get pulled into the quicksand of yet another brutal beating. We learned no consistent behaviors that one would expect out of maturing, growing young people. We simply lived as if in a war zone, the war zone of life with an abusive father.

The Spirit of God and His influence did not seem to have any place in our lives. There was never any teaching along the lines of walking by the help of God’s Spirit or following the leading of the Spirit of Christ, except to mock this idea. He did not seem to care that his preaching in no way was helping us be better people. Remember my father was focused on his “doctrine” which was that some amazingly small number of us in Topeka was going to avoid hell. That was his life preaching in a nutshell. To live a life that was worthy of the God who would save him apparently did not cross my father’s mind nor did he help others to try to live exemplary, loving Christian lives.

None of us exhibited self-control; there was no control EXCEPT for the control of my father! As a result, we behaved like little devils when our perception was we would not be caught. It was the law of the jungle in my house, but when the head of the pride came home he could beat us into senselessness if his whim dictated.

The majority of my behavior was directly related to hiding or lying, for the sake of remaining safe from the raging, violent, crushing hatred of my father! This avoidance of my father as an effort to protect myself consumed me. We had no adult role model for behaving as growing, maturing young people. Our role model, our father, was unable to live the Christian life himself and he seemed to seek to destroy anyone who had peace or hope or life left in them.

Fighting was typical, among the children in my home. Bickering and arguing was standard place.

Cursing was also commonplace. I cursed like a sailor, having learned my lesson very well from my father’s habit of filthy cursing behavior! Imagine the thought that the church God would choose out of the entire planet was a place where you would not want proper folk to even have to come much less bring their young children.

Lying was a key strategy for survival with my father. Though it is a dreadful habit to get into, and an incredibly difficult habit to break, it was a central part of how I survived . . . lying! I would hide, fabricate, exaggerate or do anything else I could think of to avoid my father knowing the truth. I even lied when it wasn’t necessary. But eventually some imperfection or mistake of mine would leak out and all hell would break loose again. And with that, always, always, beatings, being belittled and screamed at, frightened and shamed and treated like some kind of animal; never as a precious son.

One very important teaching my father had to make careful repetition of was if we left ‘The Place’ we were bound for hell. Think about his dilemma as he was molding young people who would grow to hate and fear him and want to do anything in their power to leave his home and never come back . . . to avoid the beatings and torture forever. He must’ve started to wonder how he could keep us there once we started exercising thinking and reasoning powers that would lead us to question the abuse. My brother Nate was always ahead of the rest of us in using his reasoning powers to challenge my father on his horrible behaviors. And for his efforts Nate would get routinely left behind from family activities with my father who would beat him even more mercilessly. I believe my father had concluded he would have to step up his rhetoric and fear tactics or he might find himself in a church of 5 or 6 and not 20 or 30. And step it up he did.

It became widely understood at ‘The Place’ that the reason a person left ‘The Place’ was because the person was never saved to begin with. This is a convenient argument and admits of no genuine disagreement that would be allowed in any normal church of good willed people. Of course, because the Bible says: ‘They went out from us because they were not of us, for doubtless had they been of us they would have remained with us’ my father felt completely justified in condemning any who left his fold, even if it was for physical abuse and other things unrelated to our relationship with God. But, can you imagine how that verse terrorized those of us who had been conditioned by it for decades? When I left the church at the age of 19 that verse terrorized me for several years and to withstand its power against my heart and soul took active, long-term counseling and much help from the Lord.

And I was the object lesson of much preaching following my leaving the church. Week after week family members had to listen to the wrong I had done by leaving and the evils to them if they decided to follow my example. In Shakespeare’s inimitable line “methinks thou dost protest too much.”

Please understand that the Bible was never used in our lives to give us hope or comfort or truth. It was used as a method of terror and made it difficult for many of my siblings to ever pick it up to read again. Oh, how God must weep over this. My dad essentially inoculated us with his treachery against the most beautiful, life giving truths we could have learned from God’s Book.

Another teaching of my father was the concept of “Eagle Saints” – Within ‘The Place’ there would be special people referred to as ‘Eagle Saints’. My father never defined what this meant exactly but we guessed they were the elders of ‘The Place’, which at the time I attended included my father and the other two adult men. My father was, of course, one of these ‘Eagle Saints’! Whether there was other ‘Eagle Saints’ on the earth, contemporaries with my father, was unclear. But one thing was very clear; my father was an ‘Eagle Saint’ and simply because he said it was so.

Furthermore, we were taught that my father and the other two elders in ‘The Place’ would one day make up 3 of the 24 elders the Bible speaks about in the book of Revelation who would be around the throne of God. This was done by personal fiat, mind you. It was true simply because they said it was so. The 24 elders that sit around the throne of God, spoken of in The Revelation, are to be made up of all the elders in all the churches on the earth, since the time of Christ. My father’s church apparently was to have the privilege of supplying 3 of those 24 elders. My father’s place was really something special, huh!

My father’s main preaching for his lifetime was that God is hateful – He hates me; he hates you, he hates most everybody, except fifty or so special chosen ones commended by themselves for this honor. To further this central teaching of my father’s church, taught by no other churches anywhere; my father chose to begin to take this news to his culture. Here are some of the signs my father’s church currently displays, expressing their beliefs about the hatefulness of God, for the benefit of the public, in present day:

God Hates Fags! God Hates The United States! God Hates Jews! God Hates You! God Is Your Enemy! Thank God For Dead Soldiers! You’re Going To Hell! Fags Die God Laughs! Planes Crash God Laughs! Too Late To Pray! God Hates Your Tears! Thank God for 9/11! The World Is Doomed! God Hates Your Feelings! Thank God For IED’s! God Is America’s Terrorist! God Sent The Killer! God Hates You! Pray For More Dead Soldiers! God Killed Your Son! God Hates Crippled Soldiers! God Hates Israel! See, I told you . . . my father taught us all that God Hates!

The Bible says “God is love.” He doesn’t just show love, He is love. God embodies love in His being and can only act in a loving manner. So for my father’s church to communicate the exact opposite of this foundational truth about God is almost beyond the comprehension of those who know the reality of God and His love for mankind.

I want to pause for a moment to say: The present day behavior of my family, including the behavior of Westboro Baptist attenders as they use their public signs and websites, as despicable as they are, is just an outgrowth of the hateful, ferocious, remorseless, heartless, merciless, sadistic, monstrous, never ending abuse my father heaped upon his family for many years! When my father no longer had his own children to beat on and terrorize he must’ve felt the need to take his message of hate to the larger society. There were days my father would start out his day FAXing public officials to tell them what horrible people they were and ways that God hated them. It seems that these hateful methods were not sufficient and my father began to devise new ways to take his hatred on the road. To society at large!

Think about the impact on the minds and hearts and souls of 13 children who heard day after day that God is mean and vindictive! That he takes delight in causing pain and destruction and that if you do not toe the line and stay completely in line with all of his demands, you can expect severely painful consequences, and there is no hope or life beyond this ‘reality’. We in my family are severely broken people who have lives in various states of ruin because of the impact of that preaching.

What I am now learning from you, my dear blog readers, is of some of the terrible damage that was inflicted on you by my father’s teachings, that some of you have suffered with for years. My heart breaks for you! Just as my heart breaks for all of us who were recipients of that teaching all of our lives, it breaks for each of you. Individually! My father’s teachings are wrong and could not be further from the truth!

As you wait to read part 2 of this blog next week know that all of the wretched lies we children heard, painful and destructive as they were, would one day be challenged by mighty words of truth! Truth spoken into my life by loving people in churches I would one day attend, wonderful therapists, and by people God seemed to be sending my way. And one day there would come a time that I would be actually able to reconnect with God myself. And to hear truths from the Bible, God’s word itself. This would not be easy for me. And for those of you who have been abused in similar ways I know it will not be easy for you. But this kind of healing in the soul and spirit truly is possible. With effort, with conviction that there is hope, and with the help of loving people who stick with you no matter what, there truly is hope. I want this kind of healing for you more than anything. Because I know it is what will truly set your soul free. Please write to me if you need encouragement for this!

Mark Phelps

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kids' Work

Work is a good endeavor and I believe work is a gift. In my opinion, to be able to engage your mind and body in constructive activity is one of the greatest experiences a person can have. It gives a person a sense of accomplishment and can build self-esteem when worthwhile tasks or goals are completed. I was given the gift of work from my earliest days in life by my father, Fred W. Phelps, Sr.

At age five I was responsible, along with my older brother, to mow the lawn and trim under our chain-link fence and along the lengthy curb at our house/church, and for pruning the many bushes and trees on the property.

Also, at about this same age, my older brother and I were responsible for the music at our father’s church. I played the organ and my older brother played the piano for morning and evening services.

Around this same age we were provided with bicycles equipped with baskets and given the job of running to the grocery store with list in hand and money in pocket. The employees at our local grocery were very kind and helpful in getting groceries bagged in bike-worthy packaging.

Along with some of our other brothers and sisters, we were responsible to maintain the facilities at the church; sweep and mop the floor, dust the pews, instruments and other furniture and generally keep the place straightened up and presentable.

Also, at a very young age, we were responsible for maintaining a large part of the household chores; dish washing, clothes washing and folding, vacuuming, mopping, dusting and such things. We also spent a lot of time taking care of our younger brothers and sisters.

In my opinion, these were all good things and they equipped me and my siblings with a terrific sense of responsibility and a very strong work ethic.

In 1966 our family’s finances were still very tight, even though our father had passed the bar and had begun to practice law. I remember Mom opening the mail one day and showing me a $100 check. "It's all we have for the month," she told me, and she started crying.

Not long after, my father was suspended from the bar for two years for cheating and exploiting his clients. So at this point with a family the size of ours the finances were beyond tight. We were at a crisis point.

Shortly after my father was suspended from the bar, one afternoon he was melting some World's Finest Chocolate with which to make chocolate milk. He removed the almonds. In the midst of stirring it, he suggested someone should take the rest of the candy bars and see if they couldn't sell them around the neighborhood. I jumped at the chance. I had watched my Mom cry when the checking and savings accounts were empty. I had watched her cry when the mail box didn't have a check in it because her husband hadn't worked in so long. So I responded to the cry of my Mother’s heart and I worked.

At first we sold candy door-to-door on the streets near our home. This worked out so well, we formalized the nightly routine and started systematically canvassing the streets on the south and west sides of our home town of Topeka, Kansas.

From this point, we expanded to all the neighborhoods of Topeka, covering the city from one end to the other, door to door. One time when we were selling in residential areas one of us decided to hit the businesses we came to at the end of a certain street. We discovered that businesses were even more lucrative than going house to house, so we started including the business areas in our candy selling endeavors.

During the school year, Mom would pick us up after school and take us directly to that day's targeted area for candy sales. The pint-sized sales staff would then divide into teams of two or three for safety, canvassing neighborhood homes and businesses. Every hour we would rendezvous with Mom at a pre-set spot to turn over the cash from sales and for resupply of candy from the station wagon. Work shifts on weeknights went from 3:30 to 8 p.m. We knocked off at 8 p.m. because we had to get to our nightly run at the track.

If you’re a parent you are probably wondering where our dinner came in all this activity. My father never made provision for his children to eat. Our physical needs were simply not on his radar. So we children had to fend for ourselves. And what that amounted to was eating the candy while we were selling, or padding the profits a little bit to be able to go to a burger joint in the middle of selling or grabbing a snack while we were changing clothes. Sometimes Mom would bring snacks for us to eat on the run. But usually something we kids had to figure out ourselves. Sometimes we had to wait until we got home from running. So, while we were never hungry in my house for very long it was not unheard of for a kid to go from lunchtime at school to 10:00 o’clock at night after a five mile run with no food. And then have to scrounge for whatever food we would get ourselves after we got home from the run and before we started our homework. The work ethic that I spoke about was real, but there were times when things were being expected of our young bodies that were more than we could handle.

Before too long we had worn our welcome thin around Topeka so we expanded our horizons out to other cities. We started with Lawrence, Kansas and Manhattan, Kansas and quickly expanded from there.

On weekends and during the summer, the candy crew blitzed major metropolitan areas within a 4-hour drive of Topeka; Kansas City, Lawrence, Emporia, Wichita, Omaha, and St. Joseph. Hours, including wake-up, preparations, and transport, stretched from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. There were a lot of times when we would be out there well after dark, and snow was on the ground. We continued to maintain our presence in Topeka, as we added on these other cities.

The family selling candy door-to-door at night and in the snow attracted the attention of Topeka police, who received occasional queries about the welfare of the children, a law enforcement source recalls. I enjoyed a police car ride on more than one occasion. But detectives found no violation of the law, and no charges were ever filed. We sold candy, and then we sold candy.

When candy sales first began, our father allowed us the chance to sell on commission. That didn't last very long! One night we came home and our father said he'd changed his mind-he wanted us to hand over our share of the money. We kids were reluctant at first. We'd worked hard for it and now he was going back on his word. Then our father went into a rage and-believe-you-me, we turned over the cash real quick. And learned one more thing about what my father’s promises to his children meant.

From there, things went from bad to worse. The former door-to-door vendor of baby carriages and vacuum cleaners, my father, knew about sales quotas and target volumes. If we sold enough candy on a certain day, Father would be in a good mood that evening and everyone could relax, usually. But if we came back not having generated the sales amount expected, Father would take the money and then get really moody. Sooner or later, he'd find something to get mad about and one of us would get a beating that night or we would all get to listen to him throw a cursing fit while trying to do our homework.

You see, the law of averages according to my father would dictate a certain amount of sales results. If you made a hundred contacts, you were sure to secure a certain number of sales. If the sales were insufficient, our father quickly assumed we had not been maintaining a sufficient effort. This was bad for the sales team!

I became the 'bull' in charge of motivation in the field. If one of the kids hadn't sold their share of the candy, in the car during their check in, they suffered the 'chin- chin'. The offender, sitting in back, had to lean forward and rest their chin on the front seat. I, sitting in front, would then slug them in the face. Yes, you read that right. This was what my father required me to do to “motivate” people to sell for him, regardless of any damage this did to my relationships with my siblings!

Because of the mounting pressure from Father for his children to return with ever larger cash sums, several of the children began to steal from purses and unwatched registers in the offices and businesses they frequented to sell their sweets. In many of the cases, complaints were filed with statements from eyewitnesses. On one occasion, one of my little brothers was questioned by juvenile officers concerning cash theft from the old historical museum on 10th and Jackson in Topeka. Allegedly the child then confessed to a string of similar crimes. Charges were never filed. Apparently no one in the D.A.'s office wanted to tangle with our barrister father or his children unless the crime was serious and the evidence airtight.

But if the Westboro Baptist Church's gang of urchin vendors is remembered for anything by law enforcement officials, it is of their raid on the general offices of the Santa Fe Railroad. There, on three separate floors, witnesses observed one child allegedly distracting employees while other Phelps children rifled through employees' purses.

The stealing was strictly the kids' idea. But it was done to top off the kitty so we wouldn't get beaten by our father. And we had our sales history to back up the correlation between our sales and beatings. Our family sold candy from 1967 until 1975 and some of those places we'd gone into a hundred times. By then, everyone knew the candy sales were a scam. But even if we'd been told 'no' a hundred times, we still were to go back for the 101st. And, if they said 'no', we still had to bring home cash to show Father.

Eventually we extended candy selling hours so we could hit the bars later in the evening because those who had been drinking were very generous with their money and this resulted in quite a boost in our sales numbers. But we all saw things we should never have seen and heard things we should never had heard in the bars and taverns, as we worked hard into the night to meet our father’s expectations for sufficient sales. If our father ever expressed concern about what all this was doing to our moral character we never knew it.

Reveille was always at 5 a.m. in our household. My father would take his big brass bell and go through the house ringing it with a great big grin on his face. He’d walk throughout the place hollering his boisterous ‘Get up out of there! Get up out of there!’ Five a.m. brought more chores before going off to school. After class Mom would pick us up for candy sales until 8 p.m. As soon as we got home, we'd have to change into our running clothes, drive to the Topeka High School track, and stride out 5 miles. After the first year of running our father changed our running venue to the Topeka West High School track and upped the required running distance to 10 miles for the older children, and the little ones had to run the full time period the older children were running their ten miles.

We would not return home and clean up before 10 or 10:30 p.m. After that, came dinner. Our family never ate together. Mom or one of our sisters usually made something and left it on the stove for kids to eat when they got the chance.

Sometime after dinner and before we fell asleep, we were expected to complete our homework. Trying to stay awake for that, after having run 10 miles, hiked over suburban hill and dale selling peanut brittle, and having spent a full day at school, was frequently physically impossible. Yet, if we brought home bad grades, we were beaten with savage abandon by Father.

In addition, it was usually during the homework period from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. that father would go on a rampage, or Mom would be called up to him to take care of his emotional needs and leave the youngsters with the older kids. With this as our daily schedule, our father allowed his young family an average of only five to six hours of sleep each night. Five to six hours of sleep a night on a routine basis is not what is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics!

In general, it seemed my father was happy to keep us busy or gone.

Our father simply could not tolerate human needs outside his own. If you had a problem, it was not appropriate to turn to father for comfort, advice, support, or any kind of a solution. In fact, it could be downright dangerous. Father would get outraged whenever one of us had some difficulty that focused attention off of him. Basically, to have a problem was to risk getting a beating, regardless of what kind of a problem it was, or even if it wasn't your fault, unless Mom could keep father from finding out about it. When I think of all the amazing opportunities parents have to teach their children important things when a problem occurs makes me realize my father honestly did not want to teach us anything. We were simply expected to know things, and not to know was to risk getting beaten . . . again.

During at least two years, the candy sales would be our family's only source of income. But my siblings and I were up to the challenge. Basically, we had raised ourselves up to now. It would have been a lot easier if we'd just been left alone to do our own parenting, but we also had the paramount task of looking out for an abusive father.

After a few years of the candy sales, father diversified.

A notice was placed in the paper asking for pianos to be donated to an unspecified church (my father’s ‘church’). Another notice was placed in the sales column, advertising pianos for sale. This arrangement flourished from 1971 through 1972, until someone in the Kansas Attorney General's office connected the two ads. Pastor/Father was ordered to stop, and he did. I’ve said before that my father was unwilling to listen to counsel from others but occasionally when caught doing something illegal or just plain wrong, he would choose to stop; but only occasionally.

But we moved a lot of pianos before then. My older brother and I got very good at loading and unloading pianos onto and off of our pickup trucks. And we were quite gifted in getting the pianos to make beautiful music regardless of their condition and thereby aid in the selling. We made 150 to 200 bucks from each piano sale.

Also, starting in 1970, for four summers, my older brother, Fred Jr., and I, were cut loose from the candy sales during the summer to run a new “father enterprise”; a lawn care/tree trimming/trash hauling/general cleanup/furniture moving business. The two of us generated a nice income from these efforts!

The summer I turned 16, I had a pick-up truck and my brother had a pick-up truck, and we had three lawn mowers. Father paid for these items from our work selling candy. He was dispatcher and scheduler. We were the ones who did the work. He arranged things so tightly we just plain worked our rear ends off from 5 a.m. to after 9 at night.

He'd rush us out before dawn, no showers, no breakfast, and we'd be out to the dump to empty our trucks and begin our first job for the day. He wouldn't budget us money, or schedule us time for lunch. He never saw fit to give us work breaks or breaks to keep well hydrated. My father simply did not see us as children with physical or psychological needs, but as possessions to use for his own gain.

My father had me so intimidated, I would have gone along with this program of no food, but Fred Jr. usually said otherwise. He'd insist we take time and dollars to go to McDonald's for something to eat. Then I'd have to overbid the next job, and we'd have to finish early so our dad wouldn't catch us. And all this consternation and worry because we simply wanted to have either breakfast, lunch or dinner while working a 16 hour day! We were children who wanted to eat each day…and that was simply not in my father’s thinking.

When I was to become a parent years later to my precious girls, I would witness the simple pleasures of being able to provide all my children’s needs. And to watch them grow up with a strong sense of security that parents were the safest people in the world and could be counted on. That security was something I had to gain through other loving relationships than my own childhood family.

The children's candy crusade at Westboro Baptist Church carried on for approximately eight years, from 1967 to 1975. Its stated purpose was to raise money for a new organ in the church. The one finally purchased had two keyboards and nine to twelve foot pedals and I played it at church services. It was a Baldwin.

The equivalent organ today sells for over $12,000, far more than it did 40 years ago. During the later years of the fundraising campaign, father claimed the church needed the money for a new carpet. At, say, 100 square yards, it would cost $6,000 to lay a moderately priced carpet in the present church, far more again than in 1973.

The target goal of the fundraising could then be safely placed at $18,000. My brother and I calculated a rough estimate of the daily cash flow volumes during the candy sales from 1967-1975. This is not a wild guess because during some of these years, I collected the money and counted it at the end of each day.

Estimated total dollars from candy sales: $363,360.

As one can see, $363,360 does significantly overshoot the stated goal's estimated cost of $18,000. This leaves $345,360 unaccounted for, plus the income from the piano sales and lawn mowing/clean-up business which was into the tens of thousands.

The candy was marked up 100 to 200 percent from the suppliers' price. Assuming an average 150 percent markup, approximately $218,016 went to my father and $145,344 to the suppliers. On an annual basis, this would equal approximately $27,252/year for 8 years. This is approximately twice the annual salary of the average Topekan at that time.

What happened to the $218,016?

My father defrauded his community of $218,016 earmarked for a non-profit religious enterprise. It was instead consumed as personal income without paying a single rusty penny in taxes. I have often thought about what my father was truly living out before his children in that decade. He stood up in front of his church week after week and told us we should follow the truths of the Bible. And he held that Bible up in front of a watching world and bashed them with it every chance he got. But he held us and the world to a standard he refused to keep himself.

One verse in the Bible about pastors says “a church leader must be above reproach. He should be faithful to his spouse, sober, self-controlled, and honest.” It is hard for me to imagine what my father was thinking when he routinely did things that were so incredibly dishonest and yet held himself out to others as someone who had anything at all to speak into their lives. And the truth is he didn’t. I would tell no one to listen to a preacher who lives his life dishonestly. If he can’t live his life in a way that is above reproach we dare not listen to him. If ever there was a profession where someone’s actions and words must match it is a shepherd of the people of God.

I worked so my father would like me. I worked so my Mother would love me. I worked so my father wouldn't beat me. I worked so I would feel like I was on the team. I worked when father was throwing his rages. I worked when I saw Mom crying. I worked because Mom said, 'you're my good little helper, and I need you to do this because I have to be with your father'. I worked because Mom would cozy up to me and ask me to work, like a confidant and partner would ask another close partner to stand with them to get through a tough circumstance. And while that was gratifying to be needed by my Mother my work was never enough. It was never enough to stave off the horrible abuse that my Mother and my siblings and I had to endure. Work was the only “weapon” I had in my arsenal that even began to help to ward off the abuse and pain of our existence, and work in my case simply could not appease the tyrant who controlled us all. But I tried and didn’t stop trying for as long as I was with my family.

There is much sadness for me as I write these words. It is a reminder of the incredible physical and emotional burden my father put on our family as he chose to step away from his responsibilities as a bread winner and father and put that responsibility on his young children and his wife. Sleep deprivation is a technique used in torture of various kinds and when I think of the needs of our young bodies for wholesome food and sleep I see the behavior of my father toward his children as both neglect and abuse. It kept us in such a state of deprivation we were far less likely to exercise independent thought and reasoning to think through what was going on in our family.

Children who go through the kinds of abuse we went through sometimes begin to form a plan as a means to maintain hope. Hope for the future and hope to get them through each day. I know I began to consider leaving our home around the age of 13. I don’t know exactly what pushed me over the edge. Being asked to be the person who would punish and hurt my siblings just for not making their nightly sales? Being beaten? Watching my little siblings being forced to run mile after mile when their little bodies were beyond exhaustion? Watching my Mother have to be degraded and demeaned as a woman? Being aware my father who held himself out as a pastor was defrauding and committing crimes against his community? Never being allowed time for myself to think or play or make friends or have normal sibling relationships? Living always, always in hyper vigilance and fear? I am not sure but one day I was finally able to leave. Finally able to be set free from the evil and abuse our father perpetrated on us all.

What I find interesting and even confusing sometimes is that despite my father’s abuse of us within the context of work, I learned many valuable lessons from the work itself. I might have thought with years of getting only five or six hours of sleep and being forced to work day after day and night after night through all kinds of weather, on weekends and holidays, that I might have been totally spent. And become some kind of lazy person in rebellion to that. Oddly that is not what happened. I may have used work as a young person to stay safe from my father’s abuse and earn my Mother’s respect and love, but I still gained much from my ability to work. And work hard.

Proverbs says “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23 I believe there was some profit in the labor I did. I learned how to do many things. I learned some things about how to relate with the human race. And I learned the limits of what my body could take. And that was not all bad. I now recognize that hard work was where I gained my sense of self respect, such as I had as a kid. I gained at least some respect from my parents when I worked hard. And that must have meant a lot to my little child self. And even though a lot of what I did was for self-preservation, I still got some kudos, some good feelings from my parents via work. There was really very little else I ever received positive regard for from my parents.

The danger from all of this were the lessons I learned about how hard I could push my body and my mind as survival techniques for growing up in the Phelps Compound; where any stepping out of line received beatings. It would take me years to learn how to balance work with the rest of my life. And to realize I could use work in a healthy way. That I could honor my family with a good income, that I could serve my community and that I could use gifts God gave me in a good way.

I wonder if any of you who are victims of abuse have similar stories. You may have very mixed feelings initially about some of the coping skills you had to learn as a child. You may see the coping skills themselves as so tied up in your abuse that you really do not see anything positive coming from those activities. Perhaps you shy away completely from those coping skills today, even if they would help you or could be healthy in certain situations.

I found that when I went through a period of intense counseling to try to remove the poison from my soul for what my father did to us, that I began to recover my sense of balance. Sometimes I could actually enjoy work. And not see it as something only to drive me to some miniscule sense of satisfaction. But something that was just a blessing, where I gained a sense of pride in doing a good day’s work, and enjoyed using my body and mind in good, valuable ways.

You may be like me in that there are some aspects of your life you have to remain vigilant about. For me I have to remind myself that work is not what defines me anymore. Work and its rewards are something I now do by choice. I realize now I am completely loved by my Father in Heaven. That He rejoices in me and loves me completely. And He values me just for being me. And that I can bring Him joy just for being me! Without performing! And that has been so good for me, to finally be the beloved son. And rest in that, that I am just the son. Loved! Valued! Even treasured…and it has helped me treasure those precious to me, my family. And it has allowed me to treasure others beyond my family as well.

Oh, what an incredible day that was when my heart opened up to receiving love from God. And then equally incredible was when He began healing my wounded heart till I was able to truly love others. Not for what they did for me, but for who they were.

I hope each of you reading these words who are still suffering from the effects of your abuse will one day step into the healing of your soul and mind and heart. And when you do I hope you’ll write to me and let me encourage you along your journey. Because rediscovering yourself and who you were created to be is a wonderful thing!

Blessings on that journey!

Mark Phelps

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fred W. Phelps, Senior - "The Man of God"

If you are a leader in any field you know at some point what you have done as a leader will be judged by those in your field and often by those outside it. No leader is ever able to lead for long without finally being measured and having the fruits of his leadership looked at. This analysis will often be done by the leader’s contemporaries and sometimes by historians but leaders will always be measured for what they did and how they did it.

Jesus was the head of what would one day be his worldwide church and he had some very strong ideas about how leaders were to act and how their leadership should be assessed. Jesus spoke some amazing words of kindness and tenderness toward people who were broken or in need or hurting. Those words are found throughout the writings about his life. But, he saved some of his harshest criticisms for leaders who lead people astray and especially for leaders who hurt those who are under their leadership.

An example of Jesus warnings about harmful leaders are the following words:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Jesus is very clear here that false prophets and teachers will not only come but will come in a disguise that will fool people. Ferocious wolves by definition are going to hurt people. Jesus’ warning was given to protect those who might be hurt by these leaders. He asked people to look closely at the fruit from these leaders’ lives to determine whether we should follow such a leader. His warning implied there was a serious choice to be made. In a sheep herding society, likening a leader to a ferocious wolf left people in no doubt about what Jesus was recommending they do if they found a false leader in their midst.

Today I look at the life of one leader and the fruit that came from his ministry. My father is Fred W. Phelps, Senior, and he was a pastor for over 50 years in Topeka, Kansas. Until very near the end of his life in March 2014 he continued to impact the lives of many people in his church, community, and nation.

He had his own church called Westboro Baptist Church, located in Topeka, Kansas. My father held his first church service in late November 1955. It was not affiliated with any other church.

He fathered 13 children, followed by over 50 grandchildren and several great grandchildren and these were among those he had the greatest impact and influence over as a leader.

He met my mother when he was preaching in Glendale, Arizona, and they were married in May of 1952. I was born his 2nd son in June 1954.

Here are some highlights from my father’s life.

East Side Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas hired my father as an associate pastor in 1954. Then East Side Baptist Church expanded to the west side of Topeka and placed my father in this new church as pastor in late 1955. Shortly afterwards my father broke all ties with East Side Baptist church and he fought with them for many years following. As a young boy, I have personal recall of my father speaking harshly against the pastor of Eastside Baptist Church. In fact, in general, when my father spoke, he spoke with force and authority, often with an angry sounding voice.

The import of my father being an angry man and what that meant for the lives of we children and our community can be summed up by a proverb from the Bible that speaks to this issue. It says “Do not associate with a man given to anger or go with a hot tempered man.” Proverbs 22:24. Many people instinctively followed the advice of this proverb. There were actually very few people who could tolerate my father’s anger and hate and with rare exceptions my father had no parishioners except his immediate family.

I was ten years old when my father graduated from Washburn University School of Law and started practicing law. My father practiced law for only a very short period of time and was then suspended from the bar for two years, for misconduct. He resumed the practice of law for a time but was permanently disbarred from practicing law in the State of Kansas in 1979. Later, after nine Federal judges filed a disciplinary complaint against him, my father agreed to stop practicing law in Federal Court permanently in 1989. There is a list of leadership qualifications in the Bible in 1st Timothy. One of them is that a leader “must have a good reputation with outsiders.” My father’s leadership style did not gain him a good reputation with outsiders!

Not long after 1989 my father increased his activity in politics. He sought public office four times as a member of the Democratic Party. In 1992 he ran for the United States Senate from Kansas and received about 30 percent of the vote.

Starting in the early 90’s my father and his followers began public picketing. His followers, mostly my family, are still involved in picketing activity today. They have picketed gay pride gatherings, political gatherings, military funerals and any other person or setting that gets them maximum attention, including natural disasters where children have lost their lives, and the deaths of public figures. In response to my father’s church’s protests at military funerals, President George W. Bush signed the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act”. Several states have enacted similar laws and several other states have similar legislation planned. The most widely publicized slogan of my father’s church’s picketing activity signs is ‘God Hates Fags’. This slogan is actually the tip of a large iceberg . . . of hate. Today my father’s church is monitored as a hate group. And that is truly what it is.

Anybody who wishes to can read the highlights of my father’s life I have listed above, and more. They are chronicled under my father’s name on Wikipedia and other places. But these highlights are not nearly as relevant to me as the highlights of his personal, private behavior, particularly during the first twenty years of my life. Those private behaviors were the behaviors of flagrant abuse and did nearly incalculable damage to the hearts and minds of his children.

My father held himself out to be a man of God. He said he was about the business of warning the world at large about God’s anger. But I see my father differently. I see my father as a man who was addicted to hate. My father’s hateful actions could never honor the God he said he served. And it became apparent to a lot of us who knew him well that he was not serving God at all, but himself. There is a DSM V diagnosis that afflicts about 1% of the population that is called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (formerly known by the term megalomania). This disease shows an excessive preoccupation with personal adequacy, power, prestige, and vanity. In this condition the person is mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others in the process, and is a form of extreme egocentrism. Those of us who knew my father would agree that he seemed unable to “see” the damage he inflicted on his helpless and vulnerable children on a daily basis.

My father’s life was a litany of abusive, hateful behavior and lies since the day I was born; since the day he arrived in Topeka, Kansas. In fact, witnesses have said he was a hateful, arrogant prideful man prior to his arrival in Topeka, before I was born. My father once stated that the City of Topeka was mean and hateful to him, his church and his family since the day he arrived. To me that statement shows the lack of insight my father had about his own behaviors and the impact they had on others. It honestly never occurred to him that his hateful attitudes and behaviors might elicit a similar response from others. In the vernacular, you might say my father was a man who “could dish it out but not take it” himself. And he “dished” it out his entire adult life and then got wounded when others responded negatively to his anger and abuse.

My father was abusive to all of his children. He beat them, sometimes starved them, cursed them, condemned them and cruelly used them to accomplish his own purposes. My father was also abusive to his wife, my mother. He beat my mother, tormented her, humiliated her, and inundated her with abuse. My father often said he was doing God’s will as the head of the household by treating her in this cruel way. I say my father was a hateful, vicious, cruel, abusive bully. He said his church was the only ‘place’ (for truth and eternal salvation) and that if his children ever left his church they were going to hell. I say his church was a fraud and my father never told people the truth about God. I say my father used God and religion to justify and legitimize his bitter hatefulness and angry behavior. And that assessment of my father would be backed up by a watching world.

Once when my father and I were jogging around the Topeka West High School track a young boy was riding his bicycle around the track and happened to get in my father’s way. My father intentionally pushed the little boy over on his bike because he was angry at the boy for daring to get in his way. The little guy left his bike and went running off crying. A few minutes later this large man came stomping across the distant field at the high school, toward the track and toward my father. My father decided to run away when he saw this man, rather than stay and face a man who had justified righteous anger toward my father. My father didn’t hesitate to freely and ruthlessly abuse his children and his wife; and this man’s little boy. But when confronted by someone who was his equal, he seemed unable to stand face to face like a man to answer for his own behavior.

The Bible has helpful lists for people to determine if they are growing in behaviors that would show evidence of God in their lives. One of the lists in Galatians 5 talks about our sin nature before we know God and includes things like “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, and dissensions.” This is a list that reflects much of what my father’s character and actions were on a daily basis when I was in his home. The list that follows right after that verse catalogues things that would be evident in a person’s life who knows God. It says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” If you just examine this one instance about my father pushing a little boy over on his bike because he got in my father’s way you see my father did not exhibit the qualities of kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. And lest you try to let my father off the hook by saying anyone could have a bad day, know that this is the way he treated most people in his life, except those who did what he wanted.

I cannot say whether my father actually had an experience of receiving the gift of eternal life, of becoming a follower of Christ, when he was 16 years old. He says he did. My father attended Bob Jones University, a Christian university, and he may have done so out of intent to grow in his faith. However it was reported that the staff of Bob Jones University told my father he would have to get psychological help or leave the school. Clearly my father was having problems of a sufficient psychological nature that the university didn’t feel equipped to keep him on as a student without him getting professional help. And he was unwilling or unable to do this. My father left the school he really wanted to attend, rather than face up to himself and his problems. This would become a pattern in my father’s life of rejecting help from people and institutions that knew him well enough to challenge wrong or troubling behaviors.

As a young boy, I watched my father reject his dad when his dad tried to have a relationship with him. I also remember seeing my father’s sister walking down the street behind our house crying the day my father chose to reject her and her husband. His sister’s husband was the man who had been my father’s best friend and was reportedly with my father when the two of them came into a relationship with Christ, when they were both 16 years old. Yet my father, a supposed man of God, chose to sever his relationship with both of them. There is a proverb in the Bible that says “the wise listen to advice.” My father by these standards was destined to fail as a pastor/leader because he was beginning to systematically remove people from his life who dared to challenge him in any way or could even help him along his journey as a leader.

My father’s sister and her husband (my father’s former best friend) were missionaries to a foreign country and served and followed the Lord all of their lives. My father, on the other hand, spewed hate and judgmental, filthy words to unsuspecting people all of his life. My father dressed all his hateful, filthy language in the clothing of God’s word. But this did not make him a man of God. This actually made him a fraud and a hypocrite. He held an extremely high standard for the world and did not live up to it himself. For as long as I knew my father, and from all of his public behavior, the fruit of my father’s life does not show evidence of a man who knew the Lord of the Universe who loved us and gave Himself for us.

If for a moment you take my father at his word; that he truly believed he was “preaching this word (that God hated them) and was going to do it faithfully no matter what anybody said”; then you have cause to seriously question the basis of his faith. My father seemed to have totally missed the thrust of the Bible which is that while mankind had managed to get itself disconnected from God that God had every intention of reconnecting with us! And the way He would reconnect with us was by having His Son Jesus come to earth to make it clear that the connection with God was available to ALL who wanted it.

If my father knew the Lord He would have spoken of this truth. If my father had really understood who this Jesus was, the bridge back to the Father, he could have picketed with signs that summarized the glorious good news of hope and love; the amazing good news that Jesus Christ truly loved mankind and made a way for us all back to God. A true Christian does not relate to the world by condemning the world. A true Christian bears witness to the good news and the message of the good news is all about God’s love and forgiveness.

A true Christian would not tell others only about their sin problem and not give them a solution to the problem. In simple terms sin is the disease that separates us from God and each other, and the cure for the disease is the forgiveness of God through His Son Christ. No Christian would only focus for year after year and decade after decade on the deadly disease itself and never, ever tell people of the wonderful amazing cure. A true Christian tells people there is a Savior of the world and His name is Christ! This Savior saves people from the sin and sorrow and mess they have made of their lives. A true Christian seeks the lost on behalf of Christ and does it with love and kindness.

The Bible says very clearly it is “the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.” My father must not have ever truly understood the kindness of God. If he had he would never have spent a lifetime trying to condemn people and make them begin to distrust God’s incredible kindness toward people.

Christ said He did not come to condemn the world but to save it. So if we’re following Him that is exactly the way we should treat other people. Not in condemning but in saving, loving and helping. Please don’t misunderstand me. Sin and its consequences are serious. I’ve likened sin to a deadly disease and that is an accurate way to represent it and its impact in our lives. In fact, sin was such a horrendous problem that God the Father; who the Bible says “IS love”, gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. That statement is so simple we can tend to skip over its amazing truth. God gave to each one of us His Son that WHOEVER believes in Him can have eternal life. The connection with God could be reestablished and with it all the incredible things God wants to do for us who belong to Him.

God never sent His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to give the opportunity for anyone who asked to be saved . . . from death, and mourning and crying and pain. The gift was for all who would take it. My father never preached that truth to anyone that I know of. Because I think he never understood that the gift was available to all, including him. He never, ever knew that a plan had been put into place, by God, before the beginning of time to redeem the human race. What a beautiful picture of the profound love of God my father never understood. And never was able to pass on to anyone else.

It was not right for my father to stand and spew hate and lies about God at human beings. The right thing for him to have done would be to speak and witness to the great hope of the world; the Savior who gave His life up for us so we might live. Sin is the problem, but God’s love is the powerful, effective solution! His love is the bridge between us and all that hurts us and separates us from him. Sadly my father was never able to bring this amazing truth about God’s love and mercy and kindness toward people because he did not know it himself.

The Bible says “How shall they believe if they have not heard? How shall they hear without a preacher?” By that statement Paul is putting great responsibility on those preaching the truth about God. A few verses later he says “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the preaching of Christ.” Sadly that is not what my father did. He did not preach the truth about Christ being the one who could cure the disease of sin by His forgiveness. The true Christian has the privilege of bringing the hope, the light and the love of God to other people. If Christ did not come to condemn the world than we are not to either! The woman the Bible talks about who was caught in the act of adultery, and who the men of her day wanted to stone, was rescued by Jesus that day . . . from certain death. His response to her was the same uncondemning manner He responds to any of us who come to him with honesty about our sin and the mess we have made of our lives. His response was to forgive her and love her and set her free from what was hurting her. And not to condemn her! This is the Jesus who my father never understood and never preached. A Jesus who understands how much sin hurts us, but wants to set us free from it!

I tire of the pretense my father made of his role as a pastor. By the standards of Jesus, the head of the church, my father was a false prophet. One who came in sheep’s clothing but was actually a ferocious wolf. Who deceived Jesus’ flock by telling them Jesus didn’t love them and wasn’t able and willing to save them from their disease of sin and separation from Him and His Father. And I tire of the pretense of those who my father has abused and manipulated and deceived into doing his bidding. Please don’t pretend to speak the truth of God’s amazing love while spewing hateful lies to the contrary.

The ones who have suffered the greatest harm from my father’s legacy include those closest to him. They were his wife, his children and his grandchildren. These were the ones who heard his soul-damaging message of God’s hatred and unwillingness to love and redeem His children. Over and over again, day in and day out, until they finally believed it. And gave up their souls and in some cases their sanity over those blatant untruths.

Fruit produced in a person’s life is the litmus test of true faith. Not the endless arguing, complaining and finger pointing my father did over the way the rest of the world was living their lives. The evidence of a true Christian will be the things he or she says and believes and does. It will be things like acts of kindness and speaking the truth always but doing it in a loving way. It will mean acting with integrity and humility; choosing to say one is sorry for the things one does that are wrong. It will mean things like spending our money and resources for the benefit of the poor and the destitute. It will mean a life that is largely spent on behalf of others and not on behalf of ourselves.

The bible makes a powerful statement that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Seriously? The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love? Well, I am not completely sure what my father’s faith was based on but it certainly did not express itself in love. And so sadly, it was a faith that did not count. Because my father did not show love, his faith did not count. Can you imagine getting that as your final grade for life as a leader? “Your life’s work does not count because it didn’t show your faith expressing itself through love."

Jesus knew that the world would be watching Christians to see if they were acting in a way that reflected the truth about this God they believed in. He left some clear instructions to His disciples right before He died that would help them know when they were on the right track. These instructions were for leaders and followers alike.

What He said was:

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All people will know that you are My disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus gave this new commandment that He knew would impact the world throughout time. It was for His followers to love one another; to truly love people. He did this because He knew that true, sacrificial, selfless love was something the world simply had no easy answers for, and something they couldn’t ignore. And this love is something that could change the hardest of hearts.

The real fruit from my father’s life was not the love that Jesus spoke about. It was actually its opposite: hatred, animosity, viciousness, treachery, abuse. It took me the same number of years to recover from living with my father as the number of years I lived with him. Nearly 20 years. Yes! It took the second 20 years of my life to realize and recognize and recover from my father’s lies and abuse.

To describe my father as a “rager” is to barely put your toe in the water of what he was like but it’s a start. When I was going through the healing process, I connected with this raging fury within me. It felt like frantic, violent flailing about, angry rage and furious frenetic activity in an effort to survive, to avoid feeling, to do anything to deal with the pain and the craziness within me. I have heard it said that children take on their abusers poison. One thing I came to realize during my healing work was that I was always trying to emulate my father. As a kid I felt that with enough activity, enough arguing, enough meanness, enough work, enough telling people off, enough hatefulness I would finally receive love and acceptance from my father and/or finally feel safe.

As I look back on it now, it was the lostness and despair of a child who had no place to feel safe and survived by doing whatever I thought would get me what I needed. But as a young child I didn’t really understand what I needed. As a man who has been a dad for over 25 years I know now exactly what I needed. I needed kindness, patience, a gentle hand teaching me and guiding me, helping, encouraging, a good role model, warmth, safety, and love. All things every child needs. Sadly this was something my father in his illness and delusions simply couldn’t provide.

Though his legacy rages on in the lives of many of his children and grandchildren through the raging fury, frantic hateful flailing about and spewing of hate and filth, its impact is now thankfully gone from my soul. I am at peace with my Lord and at peace with people.

I love all of my brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces, and I hope they are able to unravel the legacy of lies, deceit, hate, abuse and confusion that my father has filled them with. This was possible for me and it is possible for them. I hope my family is able to stop raging at and condemning those for whom the Lord gave His life. And I hope that someday each of my family members will be able to put their hope and trust in the Lord who paid the price for their sin; saved them; and be able to live the amazing life of freedom the Lord meant for them to live.

I also hope those who have witnessed the damaging treatment of my father and his church and family would not depend for one minute on their message to decide what is right and wrong and whether God is a loving God. I hope instead they are able to look to the author of life, God, and accept His message of ‘Peace. Good Will to Men!’ announced at the birth of His Son on the earth. That is a message worth putting on picket signs! But better to be put in the hearts of those who have been abused and hurt by others, so they know that God has never stopped loving them.

If you have been abused by religion, or by a wrong use of the Bible, or by religious leaders I would appreciate speaking with you and sharing in your journey of healing and faith. It would be my privilege! Please get in touch with me. Your story matters to God and it matters to me.

Mark Phelps