Naked City

No Hate, Felt Great

Perhaps this too was an act of God, but the Rev. Fred Phelps didn't get to hate anyone at University Baptist Church on Sept. 9. The Christian cult leader from Wichita -- perhaps America's most rabid homophobe -- and his followers did not show up as planned to shriek and spew at UBC, whose gay-friendly stance has set it at odds with Christian conservatives and leaders of the denomination. (This means the 71-year-old Phelps and his acolytes are falling behind their breakneck pace. The Statesman reported -- dubiously -- that Phelps has personally led 21,000 protests in the past decade, which works out to more than six a day, every day. That's more times than Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have sex!)

Phelps' no-show may have been disappointing to the media or the clutch of counter-demonstrators in attendance. It appeared to be just fine, however, with the more than 600 attendees at the UBC service --the regular UBC membership, plus guests from other Austin congregations who hold similar views on tolerance. (The church bulletin reported 149 attendees at the previous week's service). Pastor Larry Bethune rose to the occasion with a topical sermon punctuated by ever-louder shouts of "God is love!" -- loud enough to be heard out on the Drag.

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