Follow Me

Monday, March 24, 2014

On The Death Of Fred Phelps

(Post shared with Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Punk)

When I had read that Fred Phelps was on his deathbed, I'll be honest, a smile came across my face.

Phelps was the founder of one of the most vile organizations the United States had ever seen.  The Westboro Baptist Church made many Evangelical Christian congregations look tame in comparison.  They had a single message:  Their god was not a god of love, but of hate.  And that, to win his favor, you must hate the world as well.  And, boy did Fred Phelps hate the world.

Phelps and his congregation came into notoriety in the late '90s, after protesting the funeral of murdered gay teen Matthew Shepard.  They proudly stood outside the service, holding signs declaring "GOD HATES FAGS".  In future years, Westboro went on to picket in response to the Columbia disaster, and outside the funerals of fallen soldiers and celebrities.  Their hate was palpable.  Media coverage of their protests would literally put a foul taste in your mouth.  But, for all of the horrible things Phelps had done in his life, he surprisingly accomplished a lot of good.

Fred Phelps changed the way that the world looked at the LGBT community.  Over the last two decades, his actions showed us how ugly it was to be homophobic.  He gave us an example of how we didn't want to be.

Phelps inadvertently created millions of straight allies.  He brought together soccer moms and Hells Angels, anti-war activists and veterans, to work toward a common goal.  He created an environment that made it easier to come out to your friends and family.  Who would have thought that so much hate could create so much compassion.

Shortly before his death, word came that he had been excommunicated by the WBC last August.  The reason for his removal?  Advocating that church members be kinder to one another.  Ironic isn't it?

I would like to think that in his final days, Phelps was remorseful for the pain he had inflicted on so many families over the years. That maybe he had realized that he could have done things differently.  Probably not.  But, if you really think about it, the world is a better place because of Fred Phelps.  And, I'm thankful for that.

When my children are old enough, I'll tell them about Fred and his family.  I'll explain to them how, because one man was so mean to everyone else, he showed the rest of us how to really treat each other.  I think there's a very valuable lesson to be learned in that.  And, it's one that I'll never forget.

I hope your soul finally found peace, Fred.


Nik said...

Great post, you're right: Exposure of extremists is important.

Not Phelps himself, but your post reminded me of this interview with two WBC members.