1. "God sent me to do this!"
2. "I'm trying to perhaps make a mediocre amount of money, fellow level headed capitalist!"
To me, a religious zealot has something of an insanity plea, whereas the greedy is guilty of premeditated assholery of a high level.
The "church" is limited to the extended family of its founder, members aren't allowed to marry outside the cult, and there are pretty much zero options in the group for young women looking to marry. So, further losses via kicking out their younger generation for having contact with young men seem likely. This group of nutjobs are going to wither and disappear.
Their ultimate role, according to a European documentary on them, is supposed to be to move to caves (near the Jordan river IIRC) to preach to and guide the 144,000 Jews they believe will repent for having killed Jesus (their story, not mine!) during the End Times. So, they seem to have a religious motivation of a sort. Most of Phelps's children are lawyers, so they can sue without too much expense, and they travel by van. I don't think they are a financial success story.
Either way, good news so far on the funerals not being disrupted.
Be careful if you ever come in contact with them:
"They're college educated. They're well-spoken. The daughter herself argued before the United States Supreme Court," Sherman says. "They're not what I expected."
Eleven of Fred Phelps' 13 children have law degrees. Four are estranged from the family, and most of the rest live in the family compound and practice law.
The protests are in themselves a source of some income, according to Potok. Over the years the Phelpses have filed lawsuits against communities that try to stop them from demonstrating.
"And as a general matter they have won," he says. "They know their First Amendment rights very well, and they've been very good at defending them."
When they win, they often receive tens of thousands of dollars in court fees. And their winning streak is likely to continue, now that the Supreme Court has decided that Westboro's right to free speech trumps the right of families to bury their loved ones undisturbed.
Father must pay Westboro Baptist Church $16,500
The Westboro Baptist Church Is a Fake, a Scam, a Trap, and a Joke.
There is one undeniable fact about this “organization” that people really need to understand. Fred Phelps, his wife, and the rest of his ridiculous clowns do not believe what they are doing. They aren’t really preaching the “word of God” and they aren’t out there to “help save” anybody. They are there to offend the hell out of you. That’s their mission. They don’t care about what religious beliefs you have, or whether or not your a homosexual, veteran, or anything else. All they care about is whether you have money and a short temper. This is a scam. Do not fall for this.
Make no mistake, all of their ranting and verbal garbage is business, not religion. They travel all over the country on money from lawsuits, set up websites telling you know exactly when they’ll be there so that you’ll come out and fight them, and use the most inflammatory statements they can possibly think of just to piss you off… just to get someone to violate their rights for a profit. If they get their way, and somebody does happen to cross the line and “violate their rights,” this family of lawyers will then proceed to sue you, as well as the police that was supposed to protect them, and the military, and anybody else in the area they can think of to get money from. It’s purely to get people sued.
To say that they aren't preaching anything close to standard Christian doctrine is obviously correct. To say that they aren't looking to save anyone outside of their own group is close to true. Unless you are willing to give your life over to the direction of Fred Phelps, they don't care about your eternal fate. There is one Westboro member who came to do a documentary on the group, fell under Phelps's sway, and married into the Phelps family.
But I don't see any reason to think that they don't believe their own BS. Phelps and his wife are estranged from four of their own children over issues involving the cult. Two young women from the next generation of the family have been kicked out of the WBC and the family, one officially for chatting online with a young man outside the group (she says for dissenting from official positions during meetings) and another for wearing a bikini top during a family vacation and then pointing out that her mother wore bikinis before marrying into the family.
My point is that even though their standards are perverse and idiosyncratic, as well as wildly inconsistent with Christian doctrine, it seems pretty clear that they are committed to them given that they throw out family members who violate those standards.
Do they act in accordance with their own standards? Are their disgusting tactics consistent with their views? Well, I suspect that they are. Charlie Pryor, in the essay Chen cited, says they aren't. Why would they have protested at Coretta Scott King's funeral, he asks, when she promoted Christianity and when the WBC doctrines don't include any official condemnation of race? How can they do that consistently?
Sadly, that is an easy one to answer. The WBC's view is that everyone other than the WBC is living in a way that is fundamentally in conflict with God's plan, and so they are under God's judgment, and God hates them. Most people, regardless of religious perspective may find much to admire about Mrs. King, but to the WBC, she was just another God-rejecting piece of hell-fodder. Remember, according to them, God hates Americans, except (though they tend not to put this on the sign) for WBC members.
Obviously, at least Phelps himself craves attention and power. But if he is in this for the money, his approach is terrible. He has alienated the vast majority of the population, including conservative evangelicals, he has a tiny membership with essentially no way to increase size, he has no media presence in which he controls the presentation so that he can make pitches, and his fund-raising options seem to be limited to occasional successful lawsuits. Not exactly the way to build the kind of financial empire that say, Oral Roberts or Jerry Falwell used to have.
There's a megachurch in SD called The Rock, and if money making were the name of the game, the megachurch approach is the way to go, not alienating everyone else in America. They're astoundingly large.
We should just get WBC to post on here, clear everything up for us.
The sorry bastards came to town, spent Friday night in a local motel with plans to bring their **** here.
As a show of support to our victims, thousands of local residents and about 900 members of six motorcycle clubs (some local, some affiliates) rode in, had breakfast, and formed a roving, human fence along the streets near the funeral home and along the route to the cemetery.
Black Pistons, Storm-Riders (both OMC), Blue Knights (a law enforcement group), and Christian Motorcycle Association members stood together; WBC realized that they were up against something they couldn't overcome. They knew that if things went bad, the police couldn't (read wouldn't) protect them. The hateful little bastards got back into their white vans and went home.
These motorcycle clubs often do things like this to discourage WBC protests of military funerals.