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.
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.