Fred Phelps died, and even though I just wrote about Phelps a couple days ago, I'm still wrestling with the issue of how we should react to his passing. Do I mourn his death? No. Am I sad he's gone? Again, no. Am I happy he's dead? Actually, no. I think there's something not right about celebrating someone's death. If we are genuinely happy about the end of a human being's life, doesn't that mean we think his life was abhorrent? Of course. And while I agree Fred Phelps lived a disgusting existence, that doesn't make me celebrate his death: it makes me mourn for a life wasted. Phelps is a symbol of humanity gone wrong - humanity at its worst. Hate justified by "righteousness." Judgmentalism empowered by faith. Fear of the unknown disguised as "tradition." Ignorance feigning wisdom. It's a pathetic legacy.
I won't celebrate his death because, for me, it's a reminder of - and a chance to demonstrate - how and why we are different than Fred Phelps and his kind. I can choose to be bound by hate, or I can be compelled by compassion. Remember, Phelps left behind children: a few of whom fled from their father and WBC. I lost my father in 2006, and he was a good man. I can't imagine the mixed bag of emotions they must be feeling. Nathan Phelps shared these words on Facebook about his father a few days ago:
I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the "God Hates Fags" Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the "church" back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.
I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.
Many of the comments to Nathan were from people offering their condolences. Other people who responded to Nathan were less than cordial (warning: foul language)...
"Glad the fucking prick is dead rest in hell"
"could not have come fast enough. good riddance."
"I hope people piss on your dad's grave."
"Yay to the haters. The man was a dick. Sorry about your loss but he was a dick. Just because he plowed your mom does not make him a saint. Lots of dicks have gotten women pregnant..."
"Hope he burns in hell, that human garbage. What a waste of life."
"I hope he's sucking the devils dick lol great day for mankind LOLLOL"
"This old, evil motherfucker Fred Phelps, i hope his funeral gets plastered with protests and hate."