Learning to Love Jesus, One Beating at a Time

Nate Phelps can recall what it was like to grow up with a tyrannical fundamentalist for a father — in this case, Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. The Telegraph reports:

[Fred] had this old barber’s strap and used it so much that the last six inches were frayed, kind of like a cat-o-nine-tails, and he’d hit you with it and it’d wrap around your hips and rip the skin.

By the time I turned eight I remember he had started using a mattock handle instead. Similar to a pickaxe handle … it was about four feet long and bigger than a baseball bat.


Nate says his father would fly into rages and beat him and his siblings mercilessly:

Then he’d set the mattock down and hit [us] with his fist.

The son recalls one particular occasion when he was bent over a church pew backwards and felt like his back was breaking. When he tried to escape, his dad split his head open.

Nate’s brother Mark, who fled the nest two years before Nate did, confirms that severe beatings were common as day in the Phelps household:

Fred’s always denied it, but there is no question. He took great delight punishing Nate and Kathy, our sister. They got 80 per cent of the beatings, but Nate got more than anybody.

[image via umsl.edu]