The outspoken founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, died this week. As a gay-rights supporter, I am trying to figure out how I feel about this. I am tempted to rejoice in his passing. A man who spewed so many lies and so much hate deserves to die, right?
Well, maybe not.
I am forced to consider why I support gay rights. It’s because if God is supposed to love everyone, that means everyone. Regardless of what strand of diversity he/she brings to the table. Also because I don’t think religion and politics play well together.
Let’s talk about the first one, though – God loves everyone. Therefore, I can’t pass judgement on anyone. I’m not a perfect person, but I like to think I’m included in that deal. So how can I rejoice in this man’s death? Whether or not I agree with him, I don’t think he’s out of the realm of grace. Yes, it’s the same grace that he believed extended solely to his family, but I can’t say he got to heaven and God said, “Yeah, probs not, Freddy. You were a jerk.” Maybe God did, but I won’t say that.
“But he was an evil man! You can pass judgement on Hitler, so you can pass judgement on Phelps,” you might say.
No. No I can’t. Hitler was an evil man, but it’s not my job to condemn him. I don’t want that job and I won’t accept it if offered. So I won’t do it to Phelps, either.
“If you can’t stand up to Hitler,” you may further question, “what do you stand for?”
I stand for justice for the oppressed. Whether the oppression comes for racial injustice, economic disparities, or any other form, I want justice for people.
I also stand for mercy. Oppressors must come to justice, but in no way do I think justice must be unmerciful.
And mostly, I stand for love. If we can’t love each other, we have no business hating each other.
I sat down to write this post thinking of all the awful stories and libel I would say against Fred Phelps. I didn’t for two reasons. First, there’s not a lot I can say about him that he hasn’t said already. And second, I don’t want to be known for my hatred. I want to be better than Phelps. I can’t play on his level.
I will say this, though: Fred Phelps would be an interesting character on which to base a villain.