Apr 1, 2014

Fred Phelps: Rest in Peace?

         On March 19th, 2014 Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church passed away at the age of 84.  Westboro Baptist is widely known for their protests at military funerals, Lady Gaga concerts, and in my opinion, anything that will have their “GOD HATES FAGS” signs broadcasted on television screens across the country. 
            When I heard about his passing on the news the morning after, the first thing that popped in my head was “How should I feel about this?” The house of worship he’d built was seen as a house of hate for the people that didn’t see eye to eye with the Phelps family. On the other end of the spectrum, people looked up to him for his words and actions. I ignored most of what I saw of them in the news, until I saw that they were picketing the funerals of the people who died in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook. I knew that they blamed everything from dead soldiers to
natural disasters on the LGBT community, but when it came to the lives of children, that pushed it too far.
 Even though my first instinct was to be glad that he’s dead, some good things came out of the protests held by Westboro Baptist Church. When they released that they were going to be protesting at the funerals of the Sandy Hook victims, people came from all over the country and barricaded the entrances to the parking lots and stood together to prevent Westboro Baptist from picketing. In spite of their picketing against the LGBT community, progress is still being made toward legalizing gay marriage and there’s a growing representation of LGBT in the media.

On the other hand, I let out a sigh of relief, because there was a little less hatred in the world. Phelps’ death meant there was one less person against the movement toward equality. As a bisexual female, I felt glad that he’d passed on and could no longer grace us with his presence in the media. The values that he had and instilled in his congregation were his own beliefs and values that were barely comparable to anything I had learned in church or Sunday school. One of the only things about Fred Phelps, his family, and congregation that I despise is the amount of hatred that they showed toward the LGBT community and that hatred seeming to be the only thing that they focused on.

        In reality, his wife lost her husband, and his children lost their father. That’s more than enough pain and suffering for his family to endure without the eyes of the public on them, judging every move they make in this difficult time. He was human, just like the rest of us, we all make mistakes; maybe now that he’s gone he will see the mistakes he’s made and how he wasted his life preaching hatred. Even with Fred Phelps gone, his family and his congregation are still here, and we may still have their hatred and potential comeback to contend with. His life leading his church should be a lesson learned to the rest of us. He spent his life hating something he never bothered to try to understand. He believed in what he thought was right, but went about it in the wrong way. We all have this one life to live, is it really worth wasting our breath on hating a dead man? 
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