WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 – Fred Phelps, the leader of Westboro Baptist Church, America’s goofiest hate group, died yesterday. Almost immediately after his death, his family announced there would be no funeral for Phelps.
Phelps, 84, was a disbarred lawyer, a self-proclaimed Baptist preacher and generally an itinerant irritant.
Phelp’s church consisted mostly of family members. More precisely, it consisted of those remaining family members who had not been excommunicated from the church . The claim to fame for the Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps was picketing funerals.
Westboro Baptist and the Phelps family would picket the funerals of well-known people as well as the funerals of military members killed in action. They would use the emotionally raw time to rant about their beliefs that God was punishing America for not renouncing homosexuality.
That is why there will be no funeral for the man whose life was defined by hate. If Phelps were to have a funeral, it would undoubtedly be swamped by those who wanted a little payback for all of the times Phelps and his clan picketed funerals of real Americans.
But that is not what we should do. It is what Fred Phelps would do.
Topeka Kansas was the home base for Fred Phelps and his merry band of picketers. Perhaps some people located near Topeka should organize a proper memorial service for Fred Phelps. Someone should reserve a park some where in Topeka, hopefully on a pleasant spring day.
Let American flags fly. Let gay pride flags fly. Let military flags fly. People should bring signs. The signs should say things like, “We forgive Fred Phelps.” “America forgives Fred Phelps.”
If some relatives of fallen soldiers whose funerals were picketed by Westboro were willing, they should come and simply say they forgive Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist church for what they did. Some would say this is a noble gesture, calling to our higher angels.
Yes. It would be that. And yes, nothing could be further from the truth.
The few remaining followers of Westboro Baptist would love nothing more than an angry mob protesting their late leader. They would love nothing more than a final angry clash. A final Götterdämmerung for their little cult.
The truth is, such a memorial would drive them bat guano crazy. It would consign them to the irrelevant and forgotten. That is the kind of memorial that they could not cope with. It is outside their experience and their understanding. Battle hate with love. Seclusion with inclusion.
Most cults like Westboro Baptist seldom outlive their creator. Fred Phelps is gone and he may be now finding heaven to be a much different place than he expected. He may find it to be a lot warmer than he thought it would be.
Images courtesy of Sébastien Barré for Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/altuwa/ Images taken @ Albany, New York, US, March 2009. DigiNews is showing picture of people that promoted love, not the hateful images of the Westboro Church, its founder or followers.