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

https://www.bpdcentral.com/narcissistic-disorder/hallmarks-of-npd/

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

3 comments:

  1. Each new blog post just astounds me; that any man could treat his family like this. You mention that none of you had love for your father; as you all became adults, some did leave. What made those of you who left different from the others? Also, I read that Margie at one point left, but then returned. Why would she return after getting free?

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  2. Thank you for your post. I believe it will inspire sympathy from the very community at which the ministers of Westboro direct their hatred. Your words are a source of encouragement and hope for those who have had to leave (or need to leave) abusive situations and oppressive cults. Please keep up the good work!

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