Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Still Human, Still have Worth

After that last post, I’m either expecting the death of my blog, or instant interwebz fame.  This one should really get to you.  I’d like to thank the Academy…

In a new TIME exclusive, Anthony Karen shares his photographic journey getting to know the people behind the most hated family in America, the Phelps Family, or as we all know them, Westboro Baptist Church.

While some of the photos will anger you (and me, I feel like I need to keep reiterating this) some of the photos show other positive traits, like love, commitment, and familial bonding; Phelps with a (presumably) great-grandbaby, a mother patting her son’s head, the Pastor holding a congregant inside the church.  The story behind the pictures is even starker than that which we receive from the media regarding the Phelps family.  Karen was given unprecedented access, he was not pressured to convert and he said he felt welcomed.  The most amazing confession by Karen is that he rarely felt inconsumable rage from anyone, save a member who seemed to get into a religious debate with him.

As I get ready to begin developing the basis for my Master’s thesis, I am reminded by this story that it is important to always remember, for me at least, that there is humanity in each person.   I, like Karen, am drawn to marginalized populations.  I find extreme religious groups fascinating.   As an aspiring sociologist, I have to try and remain objective, even in the face of repulsion.

We all know a lot about this family.  Fred Phelps beat his own children mercilessly when they were young.  His children now indoctrinate their children into beliefs that I find profoundly disturbing and encourage them to do things that cause others incredible pain.

There has been some question to whether or not the WBC is one big scam.  Boy, that would sure make this all much easier.  Now, I don’t know Karen and all I’m going on is this photographic story he’s selling, but his story and that speculation don’t jive.  There’s a glimmer of reality in some of those pictures, a kinder reality.  Maybe I’m just crazy and idealistic and want to believe in an Anne Frank version of life.

I think they are crazy.  I also know they are still human.  Let the firestorm begin.


Written by thelittlepecan

January 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Posted in atheism

Tagged with ,

8 Responses

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  1. […] have genuine empathy for all people, hell, I can even find worth in those who truly have the least character of any human on the planet. (Which would bode well for our theistic friends, […]

  2. […] religion contours our world, our personalities, our lives…our, well, our everything.  I need to humanize the people who turn-out the Church and take her for all she’s worth…which would be, nearly everyone in […]

  3. Firestorm? No way. You’ve nailed it.

    Dianna Pax

    January 14, 2011 at 11:48 pm

  4. Wasn’t Anthony Karen the photographer who also made the KKK look tender and human.


    January 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    • Yeah, I actually feel the same way about those guys, too. But, not because of Karen. I was required to watch a documentary about the KKK for my qualitative methods class. Whenever you choose to study marginalized populations, you have to be really sure where your head is at. It’s unethical, from a professional standpoint, to say you plan to study a group and then turn around and demonize them. That’ll get you booted from the ASA in a quick minute. It’s an idea that’s important to me, recognizing humanity even in the most inhumane.


      January 15, 2011 at 12:04 am

  5. Yes, Westboro Basptists are people. They are humans, capable of compassion and love, of every complexity of human emotion.

    We have a history, as humans, of demonizing other people who aren’t like us, or who have become abhorrant to us. We think of them as monsters, even garbage, and because of who they are or what they’ve done, we feel righteous in this feeling.

    Even the most ruthless soldier (historically, and even in some places, now) can engage fully and passionately in a day of absolute slaughter and mayhem, and still be tender with his wife and his own children. Never mind he just gave somebody else’s baby a hearty swing into a wall—that baby was the other, and had become no longer human to him, and therefore didn’t count.

    It’s because we are capable of vilifying others, of making them garbage, that we can do such despicable acts.

    That’s what the WBC do. And to a certain extent, that’s what we do when we hate them so much. We make them other, just as they have done with so many people.

    Seems like there’s something to be said for discouraging this sort of thinking. This is food for thought.


    January 14, 2011 at 10:56 am

    • I’m not a fan of the “othering” effect at all. I find in dangerous and worrisome because it allows us to dehumanize.


      January 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

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