Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church has died. While there may be a few who mourn his death, I imagine millions of others are at least shedding no tears that a many filled with so much hate and who committed hateful actions can no longer spread his venom on this earth.
How should we react to this news? Wesley Pruden shares thoughts that are wise and respectful - adjectives that applied to the Reverend little, if at all, throughout his life.
The social media exploded on the Internet with suggestions of how the death of Mr. Phelps should be marked by those he tormented in his long life. Several members of gay advocacy groups suggested that he “get a taste of his own medicine,” and urged that protests be organized for his funeral. One twitterbird tweeted the proposal that vulgarity be answered with bad taste: “Let’s protest the Westboro Baptist Church’s funeral by holding a graveside gay wedding and rave.” Another said the graveside message should be “God loves gays.”
But others said no, leave the family and their organization alone in their grief. “If the reports of Fred Phelps‘ declining health are accurate,” said Sandra Meade, director of Equality Kansas, as Mr. Phelps lay dying, “then his family and friends are certainly saying their goodbyes and preparing to mourn his loss. We ask that everyone understand the solemnity of the occasion, and honor the right of his family and friends to remember and mourn in private without interruption or unseemly celebration.”
George Takei, an actor and advocate, agreed: “I take no solace or joy in this man’s passing. We will not dance on his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding ‘God hates Freds’ signs, tempting as it may be. He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead always goes to its lonely, dusty end.”
The rich irony here is that some of the gays Mr. Phelps mocked and despised obeyed the Christian commandment to turn the other cheek in answer to insult, offense and torment. Faith teaches us all that it’s the sin, not the sinner, that God hates.