My Reaction to Fred Phelps’ Death
You may remember him as the man who hid behind God and his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, while picketing funerals of soldiers and terrorist victims. He claimed God was punishing the U.S. because it condones homosexuality.
Or at least that’s the way I interpret his followers’ actions.
But let’s not get lost in the semantics of beliefs of the congregants of Westboro Baptist Church. This post is not meant to be about the church or even Mr. Phelps’ death; it’s supposed to be about how you and I respond to such news. Yet, the more I wrote, the more that what Phelps represented–hate, fear, and a misguided knowledge of right and wrong–became the basis of this post.
Yes, I admit to initially feeling a “thank God he’s gone” sense of justice. I even posted a question on Facebook, “I wonder if anyone will picket Fred Phelps’s funeral” and told myself it was just an innocent question.
Then I started getting comments that were on the mean side. Those folks–my friends–are absolutely entitled to their opinion. But did I need to set them up in such a manner?
Looking back, I think, “Seriously? Just an innocent question?” Please.
My motives were definitely not pure. Now I know that I posed the question so I could piously watch my friends express what I really felt.
How’s that for a Lord, have mercy moment?
What happens when we don’t tell the truth?
Oh how I wish I would’ve left the whole thing alone. Sorry for the set-up, my friends. If you take solace in such things, I’ve felt all disconnected and even ugly inside since last Thursday when I posted the question.
My entire week until the writing of this post on Saturday was speckled with sadness and fear. Monday began with hurtful news that could affect me financially and Friday ended the work week with an additional piece of rotten financial news.
I cried. I even raged a bit.
Throw my reaction to Mr. Phelps’ death and subsequent manipulative actions into the mix and I was an emotional mess most of the week.
Did I reach out to anyone? No, because this time I felt the need to sit quietly with the emotions instead of replaying the story. I don’t know about you, but when I tell others the stories I tell myself, I stay stuck in the negative doo-doo.
What happens when we center ourselves in lovingkindness?
Tolerance is a natural byproduct of the act of centering. Here’s what I noticed this past Saturday morning before I wrote this post: After spending some time reading and journaling, I felt quieter and much less knotted up inside. I realized I didn’t despise Mr. Phelps as most gays, heck, most people period, do.
The gladness I feel, if you can call it that, is because at least this one vitriolic voice is now silent. Once I really examined my motives and used my personal centering process to face the truth, I was at peace.
Now I can re-read what Planting Peace, a Topeka-based non-profit with a mission to spread peace throughout the world’s pain, posted on its Facebook page (thanks to Lou Elder for steering me to the page):
“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Fred Phelps Sr. We have sent our sympathies to the Phelps family and plan to assist them in their time of grief if needed. The philosophy of the Equality House has always been to overwhelm hate with unconditional love. A loss of a human life is never a reason to celebrate, even if you have a stark disagreement. Fred was a father, grandfather, and great grandfather that was loved deeply by his family. Let us remember that we are all in this world together and vengeance is never justice.”
This stance from the organization which, one year ago last Wednesday, the 19th, celebrated the first anniversary of Equality House, a small-refurbished house meant to serve as a visual reminder of the need for equality.
The house’s exterior is painted in the colors of the Pride flag and sits right across the street from Westboro Baptist.
“Vengeance is never justice,” Planting Peace wrote. Pray for peace and let go of the outcome, I’ve been told.
Fred Phelps died on the same day as the first anniversary of Equality House, Wednesday, March 19th. May he rest in peace.
Photo courtesy of Planting Peace.