A Response to the Death of Gay-hating Westboro Church Leader Fred Phelps

A few days ago, I read that Pastor Fred Phelps was on his deathbed. ‘Oh boy’, I thought, ‘I had better be thinking about what to say when people react to his death with cheers and celebration.’

Such a response is understandable because Phelps caused tremendous pain—he was founder and leader of Westboro Baptist Church which is well-known for its public gay-bashing. These are the people we see on the news who who picket events, including the funerals of soldiers, carrying signs that say ‘God Hates Fags’ and other vile things.

George Takei on Fred Phelps

The Responses Begin

Well, Phelps is now deceased; the world received the announcement on Thursday, and response was immediate. Some posted negative sentiments as expected (listed earliest first):

I never thought I’d be so relieved to hear of someone die. And yes, that is a horrible, horrible thing to say. But Fred Phelps, leader of the hate-mongering God Hates Fags Westboro Baptist Church, is dead!” (NotParticularlyPauciloquent)

Death doesn’t suddenly make horrible actions immaterial. No one mourns for Hitler, no one mourns for Pol Pot, no one should mourn for Bin Laden, and I will not mourn for Phelps…A bad person is dead, and that is a good thing. (10Cities10Years)

Do Not Rest In Peace: Hateful Founder Of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, Dead” (Radar Online)

Fred Phelps, founder and leader of the hate group known as the Westboro Baptist Church, is currently on an express elevator straight down to the welcoming arms of Satan. Let the celebration begin. (The Real Dave)

Hell just received another soul.” (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot)

Hate Doesn’t Defeat Hate; Love Defeats Hate

However, I was pleasantly surprised at how many bloggers responded with kindness instead of expressing more hate. I don’t necessarily recommend the following blogs because I don’t know them (listed earliest first):

Like it or not, Fred Phelps was and his family remains my neighbor. I, for one, will offer to them what they have chosen not to offer to others: A word of condolence and blessing. May the friends and family of Mr. Phelps find blessing and comfort as they journey through grieving his passing…I choose not to return anger and hatred during their time of mourning. I choose not to be disrespectful and arrogant simply because they have chosen a lifestyle I simply cannot understand…I sincerely hope God gives Mr. Phelps the mercy he spent his life refusing to give others.” http://darrensthinking.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/weep-with-those-who-weep/

Fred Phelps has passed. Uncle George (Takei) is a wise man. He’s so very right. Death is nothing to celebrate. Acting as Fred Phelps and the other members of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) doesn’t mean that “paybacks” are achieved but rather that we have lowered ourselves to the behavior we condemned the WBC for. It makes one a hypocrite.” http://4simpleliving.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/compassion-is-the-key/

As a gay man, most people would think that I’d be the last person to chastise others for celebrating the death of the cult leading, fag hating, denim abusing Fred Phelps…But I can’t bring myself to celebrate his death. Fred was old and frail and his time was at hand. He didn’t die because you all wanted him to die…not because he deserved to die. And it is my personal belief that he is not spending his afterlife burning in hell like many of you would like him to do…I don’t know how he had the energy to commit to a faith that was based upon so much hate. Hate is a poison and how he could stand to ingest so much of it I’ll never know.” http://isthiswhyimstillsingle.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/why-we-shouldnt-be-celebrating-the-death-of-fred-phelps/

People loathed Phelps for his hate and, now that he’s gone, they are expressing their own hate. I call shenanigans…Ultimately God is the judge of our souls. Rather than waste our time judging the condition of other’s souls and stewing in our own hate, let us strive to embody Christ’s character as best we can. That means even loving those the world believes to be the least-lovable.”
http://chrislinzey.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/worshipping-with-fred-phelps/

In Mr. Phelps’s case, how is what he did (and his church most likely still doing) any different from what we’re doing? Yeah, we’re not picketing his funeral, but he was glad people were dying. And now we’re glad hes dead. Oh, the irony.” http://tertiarypropositions.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/on-the-passing-of-fred-phelps/

Adding My Voice to the Discussion

So rather than discourse on not returning evil for evil, I will simply add my voice to others.

The Father loves each of us and seeks our healing and reconciliation. In my opinion, Phelps was twisted and broken by his hateful beliefs. I assume Phelps taught as he did because he thought he was right about God and gays. Perhaps, as he encounters the Father he professed to follow and represent, he is already aware of his terrible error.

We all hurt others because of our imperfections and mistaken understandings; Fred Phelps is no different. May he receive the restorative love of the Father just as we anticipate that we will.

This entry was posted in behavior, gays, God, hate, love your enemies, The Father and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A Response to the Death of Gay-hating Westboro Church Leader Fred Phelps

  1. Lynn says:

    Amen, Tim, I’m with you on not being unkind about this. I always have mixed feelings about the passing of someone who behaved, well, like a villain. There’s a soul in those people too, although clearly something got twisted around. Earth isn’t an easy place. I pray he’ll learn about real understanding, compassion, and love now. Who else but the Father could handle such a transformation?

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  2. I’m honored that you would quote me Tim, thank you. The initial anger was there of course, but having time to reflect I realized that 40 vile hatemongers brought thousands of people together in the spirit of love and community. His personal demons were his own and whether he follows a path of judgement or karma, he’s got a road ahead that I wouldn’t wish to walk on.

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    • Simple Living, I was pleased to read your post on Fred; the entire article was compassionate and respectful. I wish I could have quoted more of your article but I had limited space. You touched on a variety of appropriate points.

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  3. I am honored to have been included in your blog, along with others who are much better writers than myself.

    I understand the desire to return to his friends and family what they have given for decades. Returning hate with hate only keep the hate circulating and there will never be an opportunity for reconciliation or healing if this is all we do. Thank you for your wise words.

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    • Darren, I appreciate your humility, but your post was very good; I am glad I found it and read it. One of the themes of my blog is that the Father loves each of us, as you stated.

      By the way, I have been somewhat familiar with your church, Community of Christ, for perhaps forty years and have a healthy regard for it, but I was unaware of the name change.

      Thanks for commenting; I hope to hear from you again!

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  4. sheila0405 says:

    Hate begets hate. When Fred met his Maker and was confronted with his error, who among us can know whether or not he repented? Why celebrate his death when his soul may very well be restored? I love it that he died on Fred Rogers’ birthday. Quite an irony. Maybe the two are having long talks on the other side.

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  5. Lana says:

    I agree, but loving those who hate is always difficult, and in some ways radical. Thanks much!

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