Today we have learned that Fred Phelps, Sr., the founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church has died. He was 84.
Given that Mr. Phelps was a man who preached such vitriol, always ready to declare the God hates this group or that one, I don’t know of anyone who is mourning his passing. Some people are quite gleeful to hear of his death, looking forward to the protesters who will picket his funeral, in much the same fashion that he did with U.S. soldiers and countless others. To many, such a sight would be well deserved sweet revenge. Although it may be difficult, I do not encourage people to take joy in this man’s death.
Yes, Fred Phelps, Sr. was filled with an overabundance of hatred, spreading his awful messages wherever his could. There is no doubt that he will not be remembered with any fondness. But I’m wondering if we should not pity his legacy. Was this a man who ever experienced either joy or love in his life? Did he have even an ounce of compassion? Did he ever improve the life of his fellow man? I’m having a tough time thinking that he did. Although supposedly a pastor of Jesus, did he know the love of our savior? Given his actions and words, it’s hard to think the answer was yes.
A hundred years from now, if any memory or history of Mr. Phelps remains, it will likely only be as the founder of a radical hate group, a miserable man who spread misery to others. Isn’t that a tragedy? Is that the kind of world that anyone strives to leave to the next generation?
I hope that we can learn something from this man’s life, and not simply be pleased that it is over. Although it could come off sounding harsh to some (and not harsh enough to others), whether Christian or not, Fred Phelps, Sr. can serve as a negative model to us. Let us strive to never use our power, influence, or lives to be anything like this man or his message.