Thursday, August 20, 2015

First Radio Interview

Rick: Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps passed away last month. He described himself as an old school Baptist. He said his theology was based on the five points of Calvanism. Over the years however he became a lightning rod for controversy as Westboro Baptist Church became famous for its protests against homosexuality and picketing the funerals of American soldiers as a way to protest American’s foreign policy and its support of abortion and homosexuality.

Rick: My guest today is Fred Phelps’ son, Mark Chandler. Mark is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. He is currently battling a lung disorder. And I asked him to come on Trunews as a member of the family and to share with the whole world some very personal thoughts about his dad and the controversy that has surrounded his father. And I am very grateful that he was willing to accept this invitation and be on the program. Mark Chandler Welcome. Welcome to Trunews!

Mark: Thank you very much Rick. Glad to be here.

Rick: Yes sir. Glad to have you on the program. Mark is this a difficult interview for you to do?

Mark: It is not particularly difficult, no.

Rick: Okay, good, because you know I want to be respectful and sensitive to you.

Mark: Thank you.

Rick: You know I honestly do not know that much about your dad and Westboro. It is just what I have read in the papers myself you know. I never really followed his ministry or anything. It was a name that would pop up from time to time in the news. But he had his followers and he had his distractors and so he was a very controversial man. Now your name is Chandler. You changed your name from Phelps to Chandler. Let’s just start there. Why did you change your name?

Mark: That was just simply to protect our daughters. I left my family and that church in 1973 so it was not for any purpose other than to give our daughters a different last name as they started into the school system and began their lives. We have two adopted girls.

Rick: Okay. Well great! Great! I’ve got some adopted grand children in my family.

Mark: It’s wonderful. Just absolutely wonderful!

Rick: Yes and we are about to have more! My daughter and son-in-law are about to adopt five more so our family is about to take a big leap forward.

Mark: Oh that is so wonderful!

Rick: Okay you say when you left the church in 1973 you must have been what, in your mid 20’s or so?

Mark: I was 19.

Rick: 19. Okay. Was it that you just left home or was it an actual break with Westboro Church?

Mark: There was no leaving home or separating that from the church. It was only our family and a couple of other families. I was just so . . . at that point I did not have clarity, I was scared. I had met a young lady that was the way I believed a young lady ought to be and she was different than any girl I had ever seen or known. And I thought I was doing the wrong thing and I literally believed the first night that I left that I was going to end up in hell! But I left anyway. I just left! When you leave you are done and they cut you off and that is just all there is left . . . you are done. You either leave or you stay.

Rick: Was Westboro or is Westboro what is commonly referred to as fundamentalist Baptist?

Mark: Westboro has, certainly, some focus on the Bible and certainly they have some focus as Baptists, in terms of some of the aspects of that denomination as I have learned it. That church is a group that is mostly my family and they have been under the control and influence and abuse of my father from the time I was born. They broke off from a little Baptist church there in Topeka in 1954 when they got there to the city of Topeka. Maybe it was 1955. They cut that church off after that church had helped them set up their little place there at Westboro; they cut them off and it was only my family for a number of years than a couple of other families came along and that is how it was up to the time when I left. I started playing the organ for Westboro when I was five years old. My brother played the piano starting when he was six years old.

Rick: At the height; the peak of Westboro Baptist what was the membership, the attendance?

Mark: I’ve just heard since I’ve left, with all the nieces and nephews, and then I believe there was one other family that came in, it might have pushed 100. But what I want to emphasize, just for clarity, for anyone that would ever benefit from clarity . . . I mean this is years of boiling down Rick so I hope no one misunderstands . . . but I’m jumping over a lot of years of healing and experience and I’m boiling it down to . . . this is about my father and his hatefulness. And I have never been able to determine why he was so hateful. Certainly he used the Bible. My father used the Bible to abuse and he uses it now publicly to abuse. He is not doing anything different now, from my perception, to the outside world, than he did to his family. He had some visceral need to be hateful and mean and violent and cruel. And that’s not judgment; that’s just the truth of the experience that I had with my father. And it’s not about God and the Bible, as much as he tried to make it that. It’s about, for some reason or other he just has a need to be hateful. The concern I have is all those children that are there; my brothers and sisters, and now the nephews and nieces; they were born into it. And it is very difficult to undo the first few moments, weeks, months and years of your life. And so they have the same approach and the same words and the same passages from the scriptures they will refer to, the same speech style often; they have the same behavior as my father had and it denies; and this is what is so important to me; it denies the finished work of Christ on the cross and His love and for why He gave His life to redeem us. It is as if that never happened! Where is the hope? Where is hope? That’s what I want to know! If I am in that situation there at Westboro Baptist Church I’d like to know where the hope is! Where is Christ in that?!

Rick: Mark I just always assumed, and I know that assuming is not a smart thing to do, you know but I just always assumed that your dad, you know, as the years went by and he is getting older, you know, he maybe just didn’t know how to deal with America’s slide into debauchery and paganism and its sinful state. It’s gotten worse over the years. I just assumed well, you know what, he’s just an old fashion, old time preacher who is just going about this the wrong way but maybe his heart is right. I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe his heart is right and he is just going about this the wrong way and trying to take a stand. But what I’m hearing from you was that this was a lifetime of being an angry bitter person.

Mark: Yes and to please not mistake that. I mean for folks that are confused and possibly, I don’t know, troubled. It is about his hatefulness and it is about abusing. And it started, I don’t have recall of this, but when work was done in 1994 the local newspaper was trying to research and understand my father and they hired a guy and he worked with my brother and I for a year and produced a written work that I named. This writer let me name the work he completed, the writing he did, he let me name it. I named it ‘Addicted To Hate’. And my only condition, and my brother’s only condition, for working with this gentleman, was that he be true to the truth. If we were going to take the time to talk with him and work with him; and it happened to be during the years I spent doing professional healing, you know working with professionals to heal; and that was our only request, that he just tell the truth and not change that. And the local newspaper was unwilling to publish his completed work. So the writer put his writing on the internet so it is available. And the truth about what my father’s life was and about what he did, even though that local newspaper was unwilling to publish it for whatever their reasons were, I don’t blame them because my family was so litigious; they are all attorneys as you know. But the newspaper did not publish the writing and the writer put it on the internet and that is; you can rest assured; that is the absolute truth about my first 20 years of life with my father. And that it is about abuse and that is about my father’s hatefulness to his family and to the world around him. It had not evolved to the point where it had evolved this last twenty years when that writing was being done but it had already begun. He was already doing the hateful faxes to the local community. Somehow he would get information about their personal lives, some of the political leaders there in Topeka, he would put it in a fax and my brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces would spend the whole day faxing, literally. They would spend the whole day faxing to the local businesses. Filth . . . absolute filth about the local leaders there in Topeka. My father’s life is just a litany of details about a man who was hateful. My father said of himself that his father taught him that ‘if you are going to be in a fight you need to kick the other person in the shin as hard as you can and hit them in the mouth as hard as you can’ as his first lessons of how to relate to another human being. And that is what my father apparently learned. I cannot understand it from any other basis and it has taken me years to recover from that.

Rick: And through the years Mark, as you have wrestled with this, you still have not uncovered the root of this hatefulness, what was driving it, have you?

Mark: That local newspaper sent two of their reporters to Meridian and Porterville Mississippi and they spent two weeks in those little towns talking with people and asking questions. Thankfully I learned quite a little bit about my family because my father was quiet on the subject of his family. My father had rejected his dad and his family where he came from so I didn’t know anything about them, some wonderful things. My father’s mother was a wonderful Christian woman and his father had a tremendous reputation in the community and had gotten my father an appointment to West Point Naval Academy which my father declined when he was 16 years old. But those reporters could not find the root of the hatefulness. My father’s mother died when he was five years old. That is the only thing that I can speculate about as to the reason for my father being the way he was. His mother’s death must have been so disruptive to his soul is my best guess. I just do not know. The reporters were not able to really identify the reason for my father’s behavior. I look at my father’s behavior and I look at the behavior of Christ and there is something wrong here. Something is wrong!

Rick: Yes, a deep rooted bitterness and anger.

Mark: Yes.

Rick: And perhaps towards him-self which manifested. Maybe it was almost like a self-hate which he manifested in the world around him by lashing out at other people. I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe or explain it.

Mark: Yes. That’s why I just focus on behavior because it is just so hard to tell a person’s motive. And I am not judging Rick. I am bearing witness to the heart of Christ and I am bearing witness to the heart of my father and I am telling anybody that wants to hear it that there is no relationship between those two hearts.

Rick: Uh huh.

Mark: The heart of Christ has healed me completely. I have a full heart. And I am born again. And I walk by the Spirit. And I did not have that. I was born again when I was 11 years old but I had no idea who Christ was until 15 years later. There is just no relationship or comparison there between my father and his life and the life of Christ. Just no relationship! It is supposedly in the name of fundamentalism that my father was so mean and harsh and hateful. And Rick it breaks my heart because the most fundamental, and I believe this with all my heart, the most fundamental is when the woman taken in adultery was brought before the Lord and The Lord said: “Any of you standing here, any of you people right here; and he could be saying it to us; any of you that has no sin cast the first stone. If we could simply understand the grace of God! He drops grace bombs; he slops grace; he literally covers us with his grace.

Rick: Yes

Mark: And his love and his mercy and his goodness and his kindness. He is light and life.

Rick: And he also said to the woman ‘go and sin no more’.

Mark: Yes, that’s right.

Rick: But he said it with love. He didn’t threaten her. He forgave her and then he told her ‘now go and sin no more.’

Mark: Because He loves her and doesn’t want her to hurt herself any more.

Rick: That’s right!

Mark: And when the Lord tells us that it is his kindness and all of you who are judging . . . see Rick I had to work this out because I was terrified of hell. I had to work this out in the deepest core of my being. And I know it is true now. All of you who are judging are you now under the same exact condemnation as those you are judging!? Romans 2 is clear about that and that it is His kindness and His goodness. We need a soft response in our broken lost darkness. And that is exactly what the Lord supplied! When they released Barrabas and Jesus stood there quiet. And Jesus died for his sins and he died for my sins. What do we need? That is all we need. We need to understand the heart of Christ and His love and His gentleness and His goodness and His meekness and His humility and we need to try to be that way with the people in our lives. And it heals people Rick. That is what heals the soul. And it is breaking my heart to think that people are moving away from the Lord Jesus Christ who loves them and He gave His life for them and now He is up from the grave. And people are moving away from the hope and the light because of the hatefulness and meanness and nastiness and cruelty of my family. We must not do this. We must speak the truth in love.

Rick: That’s right. Uhm . . . Mark how many years did it take for you to be healed emotionally, spiritually, of the experiences that you had with your dad?

Mark: It took me until about 20 years ago. So I’ve been gone 40 years and that means it took me 20 years Rick. And the last 20 years I would say have been ‘normal’, whatever that is, a more normal sanctification and growth in The Lord. It took me 20 years to not be terrified, to not believe the lies about who God is and that God is my Father. And now I have a father. Took me 20 years! And I had a loving wife who is the same girl that I left there with. I have been married to her for 38 years . . . all of the love that she has given me and her father was everything you could ask for from a father, to me. I mean, Rick, you just can’t even comprehend the pervasiveness of the injury and the damage and the destruction caused from living with hate and from violence and abuse. Even with all of the support The Lord has provided for me, and all of that time . . . it took me 20 years even with all of the love and support I had since leaving. And I had to work at it on purpose and 7 years of that 20 years was sometimes two or three times a week going and facing myself and facing the wretchedness within me and facing the abuse and praying and begging The Lord to help me get through it and get out of it. I worked hard to get the lies and poison out of my soul. And now I can play the hymns on the piano and rejoice in the truth of the words instead of remembering what it was like when I was a little boy.

Rick: Mark I know that there are people listening to you and me right now who have either gone through a time of physical, emotional, spiritual abuse or they are in it right now. I read letters and emails that come in here every week from listeners that are trapped in very destructive relationships.

Mark: Yes

Rick: What would you say to them? How can you help them through it?

Mark: I think the first step is just to say . . . the first step is to say ‘this is not working, I’m broken and I need help!’ And do not turn away from The Lord! By pure faith, pure blind faith if you need to, say ‘I don’t understand this, I can’t figure this out, but I know The Lord is what I need; The Lord is Who I need! I need to just give myself to Him and go get some help!” If they want to send me an email or call me, whatever they can do. They can get connected to people who know The Lord and understand how to help people heal. The people don’t heal you, they help you heal. And that is the hope, to just say that’s what I need and to go get help. And it is going to take some time.

Rick: How important is forgiveness?

Mark: Forgiveness is central! Defining forgiveness . . . meaning The Lord and you working in your heart to forgive the abuser and to forgive those who need to be forgiven. If you define it that the person who has been the abuser apologizes or says they are sorry or changes their behavior then you are going to wait forever in some cases. But it is very important to forgive as far as working that out of your own cells. You have to work it out of your own cells. Get it out of your body! Because it will kill you! Because if you do not, it will kill you! If you don’t do the work of forgiveness it will wear your body out just trying to maintain that non-forgiveness. The Lord knows that and that is why He expresses so strongly that we must forgive. We are not even able to experience His forgiveness of ourselves, Rick, until we have forgiven. Not fully! We get stuck in it and we have to get out of it!

Rick: I know. He told me one time when He was dealing with me. I had a terrible offense done to me and I was wrestling with it for a long time and one day He began to deal with me to forgive the perpetrator. And I told Him I can’t. I don’t know how to forgive.

Mark: Yes!

Rick: I said I don’t know. I don’t know how to forgive. I don’t know how to do this . . . because of the severity of the pain. And I remember He told me, Mark, he said Rick if you don’t forgive like me you won’t be able to live with me.

Mark: Yes!

Rick: And I said ‘Oh Lord! I have to live with you!’ And He said: ‘Then you have to forgive like me!’

Mark: Yes! There is something about the way He made our minds, the way He made our beings. We have to forgive Rick!

Rick: And the healing doesn’t start until we forgive the wrong-doer.

Mark: Yes!

Rick: And that opens up the Spiritual door for healing balm to be poured in from heaven and it begins to heal our hearts and minds. It starts with the forgiveness!

Mark: I call The Lord ‘The Wounded Healer’! He was wounded for us and He understands our deepest pain, our most painful feelings. His word is clear, expresses it clearly, He understands everything about what we are going through and what it is like and what it feels like. All of it!

Rick: If anybody had a reason to carry a grudge He had one.

Mark: Yes! And He didn’t!

Rick: When we think about what was done to Him. He had a reason to carry a grudge! But He forgave them. He forgave them!

Mark: Yes. He endured such harshness and such horrible treatment. I couldn’t endure it. I just don’t know how He did it. But He endured it and He asked the Father to forgive them and He is still doing it today! He is our intercessor.

Rick: Yes He is! Mark I appreciate you being here today.

Mark: Thank you!

Rick: I know this is blessing someone today. This is bringing healing to somebody today. I just know it. In my spirit I can feel the presence of The Lord right now in our studio.

Mark: I hope!

Rick: I know right now there are people that the Holy Spirit is dealing with you right now!

Mark: I hope!

Rick: Both to forgive and there are some people that need to forgive somebody else and then there are people that need to forgive themselves.

Mark: Yes!

Rick: Because sometimes it is not what somebody did to you but it is what you are doing to yourself!

Mark: Yes!

Rick: And you are your own worst enemy; you are abusing yourself!

Mark: Yes! I stood and watched my father, as a teenager Rick, abuse and mistreat and savagely beat and then I also joined in. I was either going to be beaten or I could beat my own brothers and sisters. So I joined in and I did the beating for my father. You don’t think I needed to forgive myself?!

Rick: Uh huh! Yes! Just forgive yourself. Just don’t punish yourself forever about something you did a long time ago!

Mark: That’s Right!! It’s past and it is removed.

Rick: Mark thank you so much. I appreciate you spending this time with us.

Mark: Thank you Rick!

Rick: Mark Chandler, son of Fred Phelps. Thank you Mark!

Rick: I wish I had more time to continue this conversation with Mark Chandler because I’m going to tell you, the presence of The Lord filled this studio. I don’t know what you were feeling but I could feel the presence of The Lord during this interview with Mark Chandler. I am really sensing that the Holy Spirit is dealing with a lot of people right now about forgiveness because The Lord desires to deliver you from the bondage that you are in. Either you are punishing yourself for past mistakes and sins or you can’t let go of what somebody has done to you or is doing to you right now. Regardless you are paying the price! And forgiveness is the beginning. God’s grace and miracles and love won’t flow into your life to bring healing until you first let go and forgive!

End of Radio Interview


  1. Beautiful story. I know how difficult it can be to forgive the wrongdoer. I've been guilty over the years of wrongdoing.