Today in the Midland Hospice House in Topeka, Kansas Fred Phelps Sr. lies “on the edge of death,” according to his son, Nathan Phelps. You might remember the Senior Phelps as the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members disrupted graveside services of brave U.S. soldiers while their families mourned. Seeking maximum publicity, church members used military funerals to protest the gay lifestyle.
The protests were loud, disrespectful, and hate-filled, leading to several state laws restricting protests during military funerals. The hurt that Phelps and his followers created for the parents and families of these soldiers is almost unimaginable. Now that Phelps is close to his own demise, comments on his son’s facebook page were mostly intended for the Senior Phelps. Nathan has been estranged from his father for over 30 years.
Let me quote some of the negative comments:
“I hope he dies as soon as possible….and I hope he gets 72 virgins in hell….and I hope they are all gay men….and they anal rape him for all of eternity.”
“I protested your church and your views and I think you all are evil people. You will stand before God and he will probably tell you that you are not welcome in His kingdom of Heaven. Have fun protesting in Hell. Take the rest of your clan with you.”
“Boy oh boy, now it will be our turn to picket this excuse-of-a-human-being’s funeral, O sweet irony. I shall be there with my rainbow shirt and will be having a GAY time.”
“He made his bed, now let God decide where he lies in eternity…which is a special place in Hell.”
“Sorry Nathan, I feel you brother, but your dad had this coming.”
“Give me a fucking rock and let me at him!”
As we push toward Easter, I saw two other comments that we might want to consider. While I detest what Phelps did, I know that I should be thinking along the lines of the next two comments, both beautifully written.
“I am gay and Christian, but try not to hate Phelps. His hateful protests and actions have caused a lot of grief and he will judged by God, but I try to remember that even Jesus forgave the ones who crucified him as well as the two criminals on either side of him.”
“I can’t imagine any true Christian wishing your father “rot in hell”. I pray for your family in these difficult times. If your father does pass into the heavenly gates I hope he is met by the open arms of those whom he persecuted and that he find true forgiveness, peace and joy.”
Phelps did despicable things but as a friend of mine told me this evening, “He is a human soul.” Thankfully, it is not my job to render a final judgement for Fred Phelps. That task is delegated to someone infinitely more wise and qualified for the job.