Warning: This post may contain some language offensive to gays, lesbians, and others, but is only used in an informative manner – not as a personal insult from me, as I would never use that language myself. This post is about Fred Phelps, leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. If you are familiar with him and his church, then you know what I’m talking about.
As many have heard, Fred Phelps, the leader and founder of Westboro Baptist Church, is on his deathbed awaiting his last breath. Many people are currently rejoicing and happy that he will finally be gone and will no longer be able to spread hate towards those who are not part of his church. But I’m not one of them. Now, I’ve said before that I absolutely abhor his church and his teachings and that the Phelps family is the most hateful family I’ve ever seen in my life. But I don’t feel right being “happy” that he’s dying. Let me explain why.
Does Fred deserve to be loved? Personally, I don’t think so. Does he deserve forgiveness? No. Does he deserve a second chance? No. Does he deserve to not have a funeral held by his family? Maybe. But if I hate him the way he has hated me and everyone else in this country (and on this planet), then how would that make me any better than him? Why would I want to stoop down to his level?
Fred Phelps has raised a family to hate any and everyone who isn’t just like them. He’s raised his children, and they’ve raised their children, to hate gay people. They have little children already calling gays “fags.” The official URL for their church website is godhatesfags.com. They picket the funerals of gays. They picket the funerals of veterans. They tried to picket the funerals of the Sandy Hood children for crying out loud. They constantly threaten to picket the funerals of people who aren’t just like them.
They carry signs saying that God hates America, that God hates gays, that God is the enemy (of anyone not in their church, I’m assuming), that America deserves everything it’s getting, etc. Their signs say thank God for cancer, thank God for 9/11 (yes, I’m serious), thank God for dead babies, etc. They think that anyone who loses their child deserves it they were obviously committing some sort of sin that they deserved to be punished for.
In fact, take a look at some of their protest signs for yourself (which may be disturbing to some to read):
Those poor children…being raised with such hate. It’s heartbreaking.
Have an idea now? If not, look them up for yourself and see. Watch their many documentaries: Fall From Grace (which is on Netflix), The Most Hated Family in America, America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis, etc. Simply look up “Westboro Baptist Church” in Google Images, and you’ll those very pictures from above plus hundreds of others.
I’ve read comments from people saying that they want to picket Fred’s funeral, but what good would that do? None – which leads me back to what I saying earlier. I’m not stooping down to his level by hating him. I have a few reasons for this. For one, that would be giving him exactly what he wants. They like to get reactions out of people. They know that the things that they do and say will be made public and covered by the media, and that everyone will grow to hate them even more. I’ve heard them say in interviews that if people hate them, then they’re doing their job right. They know that “Christians” will be persecuted and hated, and they expect that. From what I’ve heard them say, it makes them feel proud. I’m not going to give them what they want.
Second, I do my best not to hate anyone, no matter how much they may deserve it, because that’s not what a Christian should do. Over the last few years, the Phelps family and the Westboro Baptist Church have gotten so crazy and out of hand with their bullying, preaching, picketing, and so on, that they’ve made me ashamed and embarrassed to call myself a Christian – because I don’t want to be associated with them and that type of behavior. They make us Christians look so incredibly bad and hateful.
I know Christians haven’t exactly had the best rep, but WBC makes it so much worse. It’s people like that who make Christians look bad. Most of us aren’t like that. But the few who decide to be hateful towards others are the ones who represent us, but they get the most attention – the bad usually outweighs in the good when it comes to media coverage and stories. People remember the bad more than they remember the good, unfortunately. But I will not be like them. I will be how a Christian should be: loving. We’re supposed to love and accept others, not hate them or exclude them for being different.
That leads me into my third reason. Many of us have heard the saying that those who deserve love the least are the ones who need it the most. It’s so easy for us to jump to hating someone who has done us wrong. It’s so easy to get mad and tell them off and give them what they deserve. It’s hard to love them and forgive them, to show them compassion. But that’s the right thing to do. So I’m not going to give Fred Phelps what he deserves – I think he’ll get that on his own. I’m going to give him what he doesn’t deserve: love. It’s taking every ounce of strength I have not to hate him after all the hate he’s spread over the last 6 decades – yes, he founded that church almost 60 years ago. It’s taking every ounce of strength I have not to rejoice that he won’t be around to hate anymore. It’s taking every ounce of strength I have to love him and to forgive him.
I’ve never been a vengeful person. Okay that’s not true. Sometimes I can be, if I get angry enough. But I’m not the type of person to actually carry that vengeance out – it’s more mental for me. The way I see it, it really does take more effort to hate someone than it does to love him/her. Think about it. When you’re constantly around someone who’s negative and pessimistic, it drains you. It’s exhausting. Pessimism, negativity, hate, even depression – they’re all exhausting. But how do you feel when you’re around someone who’s loving and happy? (Not an overly happy person, as that can be exhausting too, but a generally happy person.) How do you feel when you’re around someone whom you love and who makes you feel good? You feel happy. You feel energetic and upbeat. It’s the same thing when it comes to hating someone versus loving someone. It takes more effort and energy to hate them than it does to love them.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going waste my time and energy hating someone who wants to be hated. I’m not going to give Fred Phelps what he deserves. I’m going to give him what he doesn’t deserve. I’m going to love him. I’m going to forgive him. I’m going to pray for him and show compassion, because he has clearly been misled by someone at some point in his life, to the point where he misled an entire family about what it means to be a Christian.
I spent a long time, years in fact, trying to figure out what I should do about the anger that they have caused me and the pain that they have caused so many people in this country. When I found out that Fred is on his deathbed, that’s when I knew. I need to love him and forgive him, and just hope and pray that he opens his eyes and realizes that he’s been awful to people, and that he comes to terms with that and apologizes for his actions and his hateful words.
I don’t know if that will happen or not. But I hope it does.