Rarely has a man’s impending death been met with so much joy. Fred Phelps, Sr., founder of the disgusting lair of vile filth known as the Westboro Baptist Church, is apparently near death. His estranged son, Nathan Phelps, posted the information on his Facebook page, and he was met with a barrage of posts cheering the death of his father.
Not only that, but according to the post, his own “church” excommunicated him in 2013. He is dying without even the support of his hateful dung heap of a spiritual community.
Imagine anyone else receiving comments like this after announcing the coming death of their father:
“What Fred has coming his way is probably just what he deserves.”
“I do hope it’s a slow painful time for Fred.”
“This man was the devil incarnate.”
“You may want to cover your father’s grave site with artificial [turf] from all the vets pissing on his grave site.”
Phelps is/was the ultimate case of small but loud. The church he founded rarely reached more than 70 congregants. His message was despised by most Christians. They preached to each other their incomprehensible message of anger and hatred, which had something to do with God punishing veterans, murdered children, and any dead public figure because the U.S. is too nice to gay people.
His famous “God Hates Fags” brought him the public spotlight, and he and members of his group travelled the country to protest homosexuality any time a child or veteran died. WBC considers America the enemy of God, even though they have taken full advantage of the First Amendment (their website claims that they have participated 53, 312 protests), and it is that very bedrock of the U.S. constitution that allows them to still exist. They even won a Supreme Court decision in 2006 in which the court ruled that the right to free speech protects even hurtful speech, thus allowing them to do “God’s work” by picketing the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq.
But here’s the thing: Fred Phelps is a failure. Their pickets began in 1991. Since then, our country has only become more and more accepting of homosexuality. In the 90’s gay characters were starting to be main characters on popular, mainstream television shows. Will and Grace is the most obvious, but Seinfeld’s “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” comes to mind.
The country was outraged at the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard. But while Phelps’ vile picket of his funeral made him famous, the reaction was decidedly and powerfully against him. His lonely vigil in Wyoming that day only served to point out the extreme hatred that the LGBTQ community has to deal with, and ultimately forced mainstream Christians to examine their own relationship with the gay community.
Back then, the idea of marriage equality seemed almost unrealistically distant. This year, gay married couples here in California and in many states across the nation were able to file joint tax returns for the first time. That ball is rolling faster and faster every day.
The president can now be openly in support marriage equality. The marriage equality movement is gushing its way toward victory, so much so that Westboro Baptist Church even recommends a recording called “Christians” Caused Fag Marriage. They’ve lost, and they know it.
Phelps, and the church he founded, is now a pariah. When the pickets started, they just seemed crazy. Now they are clear and obvious outcasts. Veterans, bikers, Christians, and others often show up to WBC’s pickets huge numbers, effectively blocking out the church’s horrible message and allowing the funeral to go on in peace.
Fred Phelps is a failure. His actions actually had the opposite effect; relations among the LGBTQ community, people of faith, and the government have only improved over the years. It will never be perfect, there will always be antagonists, and there is still a lot of work to do, but the momentum is pretty clear.
If I believed in hell, I’d be quite certain that Fred Phelps has space reserved for him in the hottest corner. But maybe hell, for Fred, is his legacy: a country that is opening up more and more to equality.