Rachael: “Fred Phelps died today.”
My mom: “Who?”
R: “You know, that guy who was against gay rights.”
Mom: “I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
R: “He’s the Westboro Baptist Church guy.”
Mom: “Oh yeah, now I know who you’re talking about.”
I love this conversation for many reasons. The most important is that I hope Fred Phelps’ name fades out of our collective memory–fast. If you live under a rock with my mom, Fred Phelps is the anti-gay, anti-military, anti-love, anti-humanity preacher who rustled up his clan and a handful of others to go out and protest major events. They protest military funerals and concerts, blame earthquakes on homosexuals, and spread their gospel of hate all over the countryside.
They’re the backside of the body of Christ, if you ask me.
Alright, alright. That’s a bit harsh. While I cannot stand their message of hateful judgement–which they would say is born out of love–I need to remember that I am as big of a sinner in need of grace. (And you are, too.) I do like how a few people have tweeted about Phelps’ passing, though.
@JonHutson said, “Anti-gay Pastor Fred Phelps, Sr. dies at 84. Disavowed by son, he is survived by a legacy of virulent bigotry.”
My friend @Joshua_Shepherd tweeted, “I imagine Fred gets the prodigal welcome, too. But he’ll have to change his policy about partying with other sinners.”
I don’t know what your goal is for how people talk about you when you kick the bucket, but I hope Fred now gets how abhorrent it would be to leave a legacy of hate. Who in the world saw the love and forgiveness of Jesus through Phelps’ message? Who would be able to say that they understand God’s mercy better because of his life?
Jesus partied and spent time with those who had awful social reputations. Drunks and gluttons. Traitors to their country. The not-good-enoughs. He never protested how they lived their lives. He just loved them and, through that relationship, they were in turned transformed into disciples.
I’d be willing to reverse protest Fred Phelps’s funeral but with signs like “Jesus loves u.” Who’s with me?
Love conquers hate.