There are reports that Westboro Baptist Church [WBC] founder Fred Phelps is on his deathbed, and that news is causing many in the LGBT community to sing for joy, and promise to disco on his grave for his decades of God Hates Fags picketing of soldier’s funerals, funerals of celebrities, and even Matthew Shepard’s funeral back in 1998.
The news broke over the weekend, when Phelps’ estranged son Nathan posted this to his Facebook page:
“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.”
Mark Phelps, another son of Fred, and also estranged, confirmed the reports that Phelps is dying; a spokesman for the WBC denies the rumor.
Well, true or not, I’m here to tell you that I won’t dance on his grave, I won’t celebrate the end of his life, I won’t be happy that someone is dead. Hate is hate, no matter how you slice it. And if you try to face down hate with hate, if you celebrate and laugh and dance at the death of a hateful person, aren’t you really just as hateful?
More hate doesn’t stop hate; love stops hate. Just ask Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, who said this when she was asked how she felt about Fred Phelps:
“Oh, we love Freddy. If it wasn’t for him there would be no Matthew Shepard.”
Sadly, I agree. Without Fred Phelps and his merry band of Gad Hates Fags church members, I doubt the murder of Matthew Shepard would have made much of a splash outside of Wyoming. But, because Phelps and the WBC made a move to picket Shepard’s funeral, and to, in essence, celebrate the gay bashing and murder of a young man, the name Matthew Shepard became news everywhere. It made many in the gay community finally stand up and demand that we do something about hate crimes; it made all of us aware that gay people were being bashed and beaten and killed simply for being gay.
And Fred Phelps’ hate — misguided as it was and is — spurred on the movement to make Hate Crimes Legislation an issue in this country; his venom toward the gay community, and his use of God as some kind of weapon against the LGBT community, made sure that we all realized gay bashing a very real thing that won’t be swept under the rug any longer; he made us talk about it, and legislate it, and punish people for the hate crime that it is.
So, I understand Judy Shepard. I know she doesn’t like Fred Phelps or his church, but she understands that they have, in their own sad pathetic hateful way, helped the cause.
Fred Phelps and his family’s hateful faith — as much of an oxymoron as it sounds — created an awareness in all of our lives about anti-LGBT crimes that, maybe for decades before, went unreported and unrecognized because no one talked about it.
It was, in a sad way, a good thing. So, I won’t dance or sing or celebrate his death when it happens. I read what George Takei said about the death of Fred Phelps and he said it so much better than I:
"I take no solace or joy in this man's passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding 'God Hates Freds' signs, tempting as it may be. He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end."
Hate never wins; and to fight hate with hate is a losing battle. I think the best way to picket Fred Phelps’ funeral, to celebrate the end his life and sing about his death is to do absolutely nothing; to ignore him like he refused to do to us when he stood in our faces and told us we’re going to Hell; to do nothing and stay silent and not hate.
Hate never wins, and whether or not you believe in God, you must know that most folks who do believe, feel that God is love, and only love.
And even Fred Phelps knows that now.