26 April 2009

Book Review: God Hates Fags

I want to start off this review by unequivocally stating that I do not recommend buying or reading this book. I hesitated writing this review at first, but I decided I wanted to tell you what was so disappointing and my expectations for research into the discourse of anti-gay right-wing Christian fundamentalism.

Michael Cobb is an English Professor at the University of Toronto and is a very angry gay man. I picked this book up with the idea that it would be an update to Didi Herman's The Anti-Gay Agenda with a focus on the upsurge in media attention to Fred Phelps "God Hates Fags" church. The book does provide a little bit of research into the history of Fred Phelps church of hate. However, I'd recommend Ryan Jones' documentary Fall from Grace -- which includes unprecedented access to Fred Phelps and his madness first hand.

I was interested in how 11 Sept 2001 may have affected the rhethoric of religious hate speech towards gays. Right after 11 Sept 01, Fred Phelps came to Hawai'i and protested in front of Kawaiaha'o Church standing on Hawaiian flags saying "God Hates Hawaii" and "God Hates Hawaiians." In Hawai'i, the term Hawaiian only refers to people who descend from the native people living in Hawai'i before white people came, so Phelps protests were taken as anti-Native hate speech (although in his ignorant mind, he was attacking the state as a whole for having the Hawai'i Supreme Court be the first U.S. court to recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in 1993 -- in the case Baehr v. Lewin).

Jasbir Puar's Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times showed a major and fundamental shift in American politics after 11 Sept 01 where mainstream "othering" moved from white gay men to non-white Muslim men. This dramatic and sudden shift in rhetoric regarding sexuality and exclusion has exploded in the courts and legislatures with more and more U.S. states recognizing same-sex marriage either through litigation or through legislation.

In God Hates Fags, I was looking for how the religious right has reshaped its discourse (if it has) since 11 Sept 01 in the way Didi Herman, in The Anti-Gay Agenda, showed how changes in the American politics (regarding race, the cold war, etc.,) affected how the religious right framed its anti-gay agenda from the 1950s until the 1990s.

I wanted him to analyze the function of hate. Hate is a negative compensation for need. We hate the people we need but have some kind of negative association with that need (including some negative association to the person) and cannot recognize it directly as need. If you didn't need someone, you couldn't possibly hate them.

Cobb didn't extend Herman's research into the 2000s, and he didn't analyze hate. Instead, he went into this very cerebral historical discussion in the American protestent preacher's rhetorical device of the jeremdiad -- which is a bitter, mourning rant about the moral decay of society -- before launching into his own extended, infantile rant (jeremiad?) about how much he hates the U.S. , straight people, the church, etc.,. Perhaps the hateful Fred Phelps and hateful Michael Cobb need each other, but it was a total disappointment for those interested in religious violence against LGBTs or religious hate speech.

If you are interested in the craziness behind Fred Phelps hate church in Kansas and its national prominence in the media, I'd watch Ryan Jones' documentary Fall from Grace.

The version I read was a 229 page paperback published by NYU Press (June 1, 2006), ISBN-13: 978-0814716694. It is written in English. I would not buy this book.


  1. you save me a good amount of dough from this post. thanks!!

  2. some people think any tom, dick, and harry can write books. i gotta hand it to the author, the title alone seems enticing. the cover also makes it interesting. thanks for the heads up.

  3. @commuter & cb: no problem. =)

    @cb: yeah. the title isn't even original, he copied it from Phelps.

  4. im dying to finish the book you gave *faints*

  5. I'm so glad we're not in the Middle Ages. Otherwise we'll (homosexuals) be killed by Phelps hate church.

    Sabunutan ko sya eh! Joke lang! =)