Paul Wilson: Westboro Baptist’s Fred Phelps About to Assume Room Temperature

Fred-Phelps-650x381Time wounds all heels…

Fred Phelps, the 84-year old “preacher” of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist “church” – if I may use those two terms – is about to meet his maker. Phelps hate filled little cult was established in 1955 and became a household name by picketing funerals, churches and businesses with signs attacking gays, Jews, soldiers and anyone else who fit their too-off-base-for-words theology.

God Hates Fags; Phelps’ version of John 3:16.

Rumor has it, Phelps was excommunicated from his own flock last summer, but no one seems to be able to fully confirm that. Your well-coiffed scribe called the church offices to ask that very question today and was told; “Sir, internal church affairs are not discussed with anyone other than church members!”

I then asked if, in his later days, maybe Phelps had mellowed and was no longer vile enough to retain his membership in good standing at Westboro Baptist, at which time I was promptly hung up on.

Apparently he was in good health until this month, at which time he was moved into Midland Hospice House where he stopped eating and drinking. I called Midland and spoke to Jessica who told me she could confirm nothing, but I could speak with Karren Weichert, their CEO. I’ve left a voice mail for Weichert, but I’m not betting on a return call; their phones are likely ringing off the hook with questions about our Near Dead Fred.

About all we seem to know is what’s coming from his son, Nate Phelps’ Facebook page. Nate left the “family” almost 40 years ago and, like others who have followed in his footsteps, is not being allowed access to either Fred or updates.

How does one end up so hate filled?

The church isn’t the first sign of who Phelps really was. He was disbarred as a Kansas lawyer for badgering a witness in 1977. From the courtroom floor on a cross examination, he harassed and accused a female of obscene sexual acts, leaving her sobbing and emotionally out of control on the stand.  That was the proverbial last straw and it resulted in a formal complaint.

“According to Open Jurist, in 1979, Phelps was disbarred from practicing law in Kansas after he was found to have made ‘false statements in violation of DR 7–102(A)(5).’ ”

I consider myself a Christian and we are all flawed.

We are all hypocrites in some way or other, but overall I try to live my life by Christian principles. I made the comment last night in a conversation with friends that my hope is Phelps funeral procession will be lined with literally thousands of protesters holding picket signs of Fred locked in various gay embraces with everyone from Satan to Sadam so the family can get a taste of its own medicine.

Pastor-Fred-Phelps-001Not very Christian, but honest.

I then exchanged texts with a lifelong lesbian friend of mine in Phoenix; let’s call her Diane, since that’s her name. She told me there is a large contingent of people from the LGBT world who are planning to picket Phelps funeral. Not exactly surprising. What did catch me off guard was the message they plan to deliver:

Rainbow colored signs by the hundreds that simply say, “We Forgive You!”

Let that sink in for a moment. The groups of people who have been the biggest victims of Phelps hate spewing for all these years, the one’s he’s assured a lifetime of burning in the eternal flames of hell, because, after all, “God Hates Fags.” And their response to his death?

We……. Forgive You.

Your well-coiffed scribe didn’t feel quite so Christian after that exchange.

As for his son, Nathan expressed remorse for the pain his father had inflicted on others, and sickened that he won’t be allowed to say his goodbyes to his sick father.

“I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many,” Nathan said. “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.”

I have two questions as I write this.

First, what do you think such an embittered family would think, driving the funeral route and seeing hundreds of signs that say, we forgive you? And second, I can’t help but wonder what God will say to Fred on that special day – most likely this week – when he takes that final exit ramp to…?

I believe in the grace of God; I’m just not sure how far I want it to extend. I certainly want it to cover me, where I miss the mark almost daily. But I’m not too sure I want Fred included in that mix.

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45 Responses to Paul Wilson: Westboro Baptist’s Fred Phelps About to Assume Room Temperature

  1. chuck says:

    That’s nice.

    I would have a rough time forgiving the guy if he showed up at the funeral of friends or family.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Chuck, you read MY words, thats MY first reaction…… albiet, not a correct one.

    • hot harley says:

      STOP ALL YOUR B.S. PEOPLE……
      hate is hate. Whether its phelps hating jews/gays/picketing
      at funerals or some of the vile comments made by guys against an entire race of people (African americans). There’s no degrees or levels of hate…hate is hate!
      If you have hate in your heart…its a heavy emotion.
      I was at 3 funerals for americans killed in Iraq that the phelps clan was at.
      Holding signs of hate is no different than posting hate filled vile
      disgusting horrid language in writing against anyone or a group
      as a whole. We have the worst one on this site. Go read his
      hate filled writings. That hate is no different than what fred phelps
      put on his signs!!!!!
      Are the Nazis any worse than phelps. They both felt hate…one group
      took it and used it as a excuse for genocide.
      But hate is hate…no levels or degrees.
      What is appropriate for fred phelps…..and others who so sadly
      carry hate intheir heart…is to prove them wrong. To make everything
      they say or write or preach be wrong. Phelps hated entire groups
      of people….said god hates fags……and that’s no different than some of
      the language used by some persons on local blogs and the despicable
      words they use. Hate is hate.
      WIll phelps be forgiven? yes he can. Life is about redemption and
      second chances. Will he on his death bed say what he preached was
      wrong. Probably not.
      Fred Phelps probably never really felt that way. It was probably all
      a publicity stunt. I’m surehegot thousands of letters of support….
      thousands of people whoagreed with him…in fact I’m sure he
      was probably soliciting donations.
      But when you see 3000 college students at MU…or 500 vets
      turn their back on the phelps clan at a funeral….that’s how we
      do it. When he dies he’ll get millions of internet hits about him and
      his clan. Every news station will carryhis story…and more of his
      hate will be broadcast for the haters to agree with.
      Now they’re trying to move the line where protesters can be closer
      to their object. Whether its the phelps clan trying to get closer to
      a army vets funeral procession…or an anti abortion protester
      closer to the door of a clinic…….who’s thinking this is smart?
      Hate is a terrible emotion to carry.
      He’s going to rot wherever he goes….Good riddance.
      Hate is hate. If the cameras never showed upto show his
      demonstration eh would have quit years ago.
      Now that he’s going to be gone…when do we start with the
      haters in our midst????????????????????????????????

  2. mike t. says:

    I read on another blog a headline from some source, so I won’t take credit for it, but for me it sums up how I feel about him: God may forgive, but society doesn’t have to. I see nothing wrong with picketing his funeral procession, interment, whatever. If the LGBT community wishes to forgive, if the families of the soldiers whose funerals he desecrated want to forgive him, that’s their choice. Meanwhile, “ding dong the witch is dead…”.

    • Diane says:

      Great article! Very insightful. And thanks for the mention!!! The LGBT community wants to show that we are not hate-filled and can, in theory, forgive someone like Fred Phelps who spewed such vile for so long. In reality, most of the community will ignore his death, or celebrate in the comfort of our homes and community.

  3. Jim says:

    For us heathens that don’t subscribe to any religion or believe in the afterlife it’s not much of a conundrum. Dude was a despicable, vile, ignorant, myopic, amoral, hateful human being with absolutely no redeeming qualities. The sooner this type of person is no longer among the living, the better.

    • TFark says:

      Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.

      • Jim says:

        Sorry, TFark. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

        • TFark says:

          Nelson Mandela said that statement I posted.

          He also said:

          “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

          • Jim says:

            Kudos to Mr. Mandela. I just don’t happen to share his opinion of all people.

          • TFark says:

            Resentment and hate are poison, whether you believe or agree… or not.

          • Jim says:

            TFark, you misunderstand my position greatly. I don’t resent or hate Mr. Phelps. I just recognize the type of human being he is. Hating would be a waste of my time. I don’t feel like I need to forgive him, thus I am not consumed by the “poison” of resentment or hate. He isn’t the first, nor will be be the last person to thrive on the misery of others. Apathy doesn’t even come close to describing what I feel about this man’s impending death. And yes, the world will be a better place without him and those of his ilk.

          • TFark says:

            Ok, I agree with that.

            Not sure why you had to call yourself a heathen or mention you don’t belong to a religion or believe in an afterlife. Or to say for people like you there is no conundrum. We all know people who don’t belong to a religion or believe in an afterlife that are of his ilk, too.

          • Jim says:

            Because part of this article addressed the issue of being a Christian and the hypocrisy of not WANTING to forgive Mr. Phelps as the Bible asks. I don’t feel any need or obligation to forgiving the man. There’s no hypocrisy or moral dilemma for me in not doing so. Doesn’t make me any better or any worse than everyone else. It’s just how I see it.

          • TFark says:

            Some people that are like you that are not religious or believe in the afterlife actually do have a conundrum. But personally you don’t. Ok.

          • Jim says:

            TFark, the article is about forgiveness. Mr. Phelps never transgressed against me or any member of family. What on Earth would I have to forgive him for and why would you think some “people like me” have a conundrum? You seem a bit judgmental and condescending that my viewpoint is not in line with your viewpoint. Just makes me different than you. It doesn’t make me wrong. I just don’t hold to the idea that somehow my “forgiveness” of another human being that I never knew is warranted or important. To believe that, seems to be a bit too self-important. There are a million Fred Phelps in this world. I don’t spent much time wondering how I should feel about them.

          • TFark says:

            Some of us have been harmed by Fred Phelps, like me. I guess the article was for us. Not you.

            If he hasn’t caused you harm, than you don’t have anything to forgive him for. Yes. Nobody would disagree with that.

          • TFark says:

            Also, I thought you were saying all non-religious people who don’t believe in an afterlife don’t have a conundrum. I misunderstood. Some heathens do have a conundrum on whether to forgive or not this man.

          • Jim says:

            Darn interesting debate, TFark. Thanks for the back and forth. Best wishes.

  4. mike says:

    What is ironic is that he has probably unintentionally helped the cause of gay rights more than he has hurt it. He has become a common enemy for fundamentalists, Catholics, moderate Christians, Jews, the military, etc. as well as the gay community. Those sharing a common enemy often become allies. Many people now sympathize with gay people that did not before, and I think he may have inadvertently played a part in it.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Mike, even if he’s not HELPED the cause, look at the reaction of those he tried to harm most. I’m humbled by there response, and, readily amitted, they are the better people for it. I had a different point of view and felt fairly small after hearing theirs.

    • Veronica Hornsby says:

      This is the most fascinating comment this far…

      Personally, I feel we cannot exclude ourselves from forgiving without being overtly insensitive to the ones he and his organization defamed, put through deep, desperate drama and unjustly threw their grief upon the center stage amphitheater floor of the world. At a time of severe grief and tragedy when loved ones deem it most honorable whether for family, friends, soldiers, Jews or some or all of the above, Fred led a terrible travesty of hatred and shameful acts which woefully wounded untold numbers of our society.

      To not take a stand against that is condoning the foul acts he and his “organization” preyed upon these innocents, loved and honored ones.

      Firmly, I never condoned it, have proudly stood against it in protection from Phelps’ perverted protests in the past , but would now be proud to join Diane in forgiving now. The crux of unforgiveness is that it puts YOU in an embittered rage or sulk, in pain and offense… Miserably imprisoning YOURSELF… NOT the insensitive, foul figure of a person who perpetrated the atrocious acts against innocents.

      The peace of forgiveness, the calm and comfort of coming full circle is called grace. Whether you believe God gives that to us as I do, undeserving as we can be, forgiveness is a universal way each one of us can help bring more peace into our lives and the world. And I wanna be a part of THAT.

  5. chuck says:

    Maybe some Kipling on his tombstone.

    He paid the price to reach his goal across a world in flame,
    But his own hate, slew his own soul before that victory came.

    (pronoun refs – mine.)

  6. absmith says:

    I have shaken my head more than once at the demonstrations that Phelps and his congregation have made over the years. I think that Mike is correct when he stated that he may have done more to help the gay and lesbian community which of course was far from his intentions. Very well written, insightful piece of writing. Forgiveness releases the pain/hurt and in turn can be replaced by a peace of knowing that regardless of the circumstance you have taken the high road. In the end, only God can stand in judgement.

  7. Very well written Mr. Paul D Wilson – and if the LGBT community makes good on their plans, what an incredible endorsement for forgiveness that would be. Forgiveness comes in all shapes and sizes and is a powerful thing….

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, Flavious. I try to maintain my crusty, disgruntled exterior for good reasons, but that explanation of their intent almost made me cry like a little girl….

  8. TCS says:

    Paul, once again, the commingling of brilliance and badinage drives home your message very well. I really like what Mark Twain wrote on the dispensation of mercy, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Regardless of where one stands in their belief system, Paul’s statement from the fourth chapter of Ephesians seems very logical, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” It just seems much more productive to grant grace.

    Greg Sheffer, Owner and Producer of Inversion Productions (www.inversion.tv), used to site this to me, “To not forgive another is like allowing them to live rent free in your brain.” While I am uncertain as to the quote’s origin, the expression is valid. When we forgive, we not only release that person, we release ourselves. Forgiveness is healing and therefore life giving.

    The question becomes, “What of those who have had their trauma compounded by those who would commit acts of spiritual violence?” We pray for their healing and for Christ’s peace. My experience has been that those who incite hate have themselves been victimized. Though each are responsible for their own actions, one wonders what afflictions have been endured that would cause such evil and justify it by thumping a Bible and quoting Scriptures out of context.

    [Full disclosure: I hold strongly to what many would say is an “unpopular view.” I am one who is not a proponent of the LGBT lifestyle. Though we are earnest in following after what Scripture communicates, we do not engage in hate thought, hate speech, or hate action.]

    My eldest asked me to listen to a song performed at the Grammy’s this year by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, with featured vocalist Mary Lambert. The song was entitled, “Same Love.” In the middle of the song, she paused it, and my normally very linear sixteen year old, turned to me with tears streaming down her cheeks and said, “Papa, they hate ‘us,’ don’t they? I mean, so many people have been so hateful and vengeful ‘in the name of Jesus’ that we don’t have a chance to share a message of love and forgiveness. It’s all twisted around because we who sit in judgement on others only judge ourselves! How can we possibly affect change?!” Recognizing the weight of what she was experiencing, my wife and I looked at one another in that thick moment of realization. She was and is right, it is a formidable responsibility. We can only affect change one relationship at a time. And, we have much to reverse.

    Fred Phelps and those in his camp represent only one form of ugly legalism through the mangled use of Scripture to justify their hate. Sadly, with his passing there are many more to fill his “bully pulpit.” My hope is that the essence of my life in Christ will have been like a healing balm that reflects something much more than… me. It points to Him, who as He was being murdered spoke out on behalf of the perpetrators, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    We must offer a different Way. May each of us live with such generosity of spirit that the fragrance of His forgiveness covers over the stench of hate.

    • mike says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Phelps was quick to point out the splinter in someone’s eye without seeing the beam in his own.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      WOW, nicely said, TCS. No idea who you are, but Greg S of Inversion is one of my favorite people! Thanks so much for the comment. With comments that deep, you could become the American Dream! You have a writing and speaking future ahead of you.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      I hate you, TCS, I actually had to go look that up;
      1. humorous or witty conversation.
      “cultured badinage about art and life”

      Even though my derelict brother accuses me of thiking I’m Ernest effing Hemingway, I’m really not.

  9. Louise says:

    Here in the West we have this notion that we must understand all things, worldly and the Devine. I believe that each soul has a purpose, good and bad alike. Fred unknowingly opened the hearts of many for the simple sake of compassion. The church’s intentional picketed actions of pure unapologetic messages of hate created compassion and unity among communities that might not otherwise have crossed paths. Fred’s life had purpose, a good purpose despite his message of hate….it opened the door that lead to the enormous growth of human compassion. That’s a huge feat! I applaud you Fred, for many have tried and failed but you succeeded!

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      This is so unlike most stories I’ve done, hardly a comment I’ve read that I didnt walk away with something valuable or a new insight…. Thanks, Louise.

  10. Rich says:

    It’d be funny if everyone picketing his funeral tossed rainbow colored marshmallows at the motorcade.

  11. StillAtMyMoms says:

    Keep in mind that Phelps was a major advocate of civil rights in Kansas during the 1960s; sort of like the equivalent of gay rights in today’s society. Hell, he was even recognized by the NAACP back in the day.

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if he declares on his deathbed that his whole hate campaign was just an attempt to further marginalize the ultra conservative/Bible literalist bunch.

    • TFark says:

      He did a lot to help victims of racial oppression.

      I think his whole gay campaign started to protest the people that had turned Gage Park, a family friendly park into a gay cruising spot. People were finding drug paraphernalia and condoms in the playground. Not cool. But most of those at the park were “straight” married men cheating on their wives with men.

      I lived near his cult in Topeka, it was not fun. But those of us who rallied against him found strength in opposing evil.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        TFark, you just have to wonder what traumatic event in HIS life caused this to become such a mission? As I’ve said before, you take a Jimmy Swaggart, standing in the pulpit each Sunday, railing against the sins of sexual immorality, only to be caught in a hourly motel outside N.O. with a hooker. What do you think happened to our man Fred?

        • TFark says:

          I don’t know. Maybe something happened after hours in Gage Park between him and another married man. He seemed to be ok, heck even a good man, until he moved to Orleans St near that park.

        • balbonis moleskine says:

          Ole jimmy was caught building wood in the sun
          Out there on highway 61 (aka airline highway)

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Still, that would be believing in your cause at a level higher than Moses after 40 years in the sand…… but you may have a point.

  12. M. Snerd says:

    I’m betting that the reason that he was excommunicated – and that his family is closely controlling access to him – is that he’s recanted his position of rejection of LGBT people. A lot of people have to be on their deathbed before they realize that God is Love, that the Universe was created and is sustained by acts of compassion, and that hatred disorders and destroys it. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28. Forgiveness and compassion are what is called for, a massive demonstration of which might be able to knock down the walls of hatred erected by Westboro.

  13. balbonis moleskine says:

    You gotta admit he is like the Michael Jordan of trolling.

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