Statesboro, GA, USA
I think I know Jim well enough to tell when he's being facetious.
In Ezekiel 33:11 God told Israel through the prophet Ezekiel "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?".
As true as some of the observations of Fred Phelps may be about the sinful backslidden state of America, the difference between his and a genuinely prophetic voice can be summarized in the unrestrained glee with which judgement is not only described, but wished upon others. Though there are some very poignant passages in the Bible where God's anger seems to be so fierce as to hide his mercy at times ... I don't think I've ever heard such a tone of deriding, mocking, and ridicule come even from the staunchest Old Testament prophets. Even Jermemiah was known as the "weeping prophet", not the snarling prophet.
And as for Christians, Jesus himself should be our example. Even when prophetically pronouncing judgement over a nation which rejected God, he was weeping as it were, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!". Does this sound like Fred Phelps? Paul warned in 1 Corinthians that one could possess much truth and faith, and yet be nothing, for lack of love. And I just don't see enough tears along side of what these people are saying. They are obviously what Paul describes as "clanging cymbals". Brassy, reverberating, and lifeless.
And yes, as angry as that makes me, they too need prayer more than anything else. Because self-righteousness, scripturally speaking, incurs more divine wrath than the crude, more common, and less-religious sorts of "sinners".