|The Late Fred Phelps|
Fred Phelps was the head of the Westboro Baptist Church, and a very firm believer in the God he believed in and the form of religion he espoused. He was a loud and proud evangelist, and an angry and vocal opponent of the evil that he perceived in the World.
Fred Phelps was once a lawyer who fought a number of civil rights cases in Kansas in the 60s and 70s before he was disbarred. He stood in various elections as a Democrat, running for everything from Mayor to Governor. He ran for the Senate, and in Kansas Democratic primaries five times.
We know Fred Phelps for his vitriolic anti-gay protests and for members of his church turning up at military funerals – the funerals of the young American men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan – carrying placards that say things like, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Fag Enablers”.
We’re all going to hell, according to the late Fred Phelps.
We’re all going to hell if we accept the natural diversity of human nature. We are all going to hell if we accept that gender is not an issue when it comes to love. We are all going to hell if we believe that sex between loving, caring, consenting adults, regardless of their gender, is nobody’s business, but those indulging in it.
I have no idea what plans Fred Phelps’s God has for him. I guess Fred Phelps’s God has probably already implemented those plans, and it’s all done and dusted. I imagine the funeral will be a formality, a time and place for his family and followers to grieve.
I hope that Fred Phelps’s funeral will be a private affair at his home and in his church, with his family and his followers, and with his God.
I see no reason why this should not all play out peacefully.
Fred Phelps has died. He took up plenty of time and energy on the streets and on the airwaves when he was alive. He took the time and energy of his family and his followers. He took the time and energy of the press. He took the time and energy of the United States government, who wrote into law the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act in part because of him.
I do not know what will happen to the Westboro Baptist Church, now that its figurehead has died, although I do know that it has, for all sensible purposes, been run by other members of his family for some time. I suspect there might be some form of Exodus by some of its members. That might not be a bad thing.
For my part, I think the best thing the rest of us can do is stay away.
There is no reason for the rest of us to adopt Fred Phelps’s methods or lower ourselves to his standards.
I hope we won’t see protests at this man’s funeral. To protest any funeral for any reason is degrading, surely?
We are better than that, I hope. We can be more human and more humane.
Just as I believe that honest, caring people everywhere should be accepted for who and what they are, I also believe that we should all be judged on the contents of our hearts and on our characters.
No one with a loving heart or a strong character would ever put Fred Phelps’s family through what they have so often, so readily and with such ferocious hatred put other bereaved families through.
I wouldn’t do it, and I hope to any God prepared to listen that I don’t see it on the News when Fred Phelps receives his final farewell on this Earth.