Those “God Hates Fags” signs were directed at me.
They were directed at the girls I’ve dated and and the girls I’ve loved. They were directed at some of my best friends, some of my family members, people who have loved me, people I have cherished. You might think that I feel relief now that the life of Fred Phelps has ended, but the truth is, I just can’t justify that kind of hate.
If you—like many people I’ve seen online today—are dead-set on rejoicing in the death of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) founder, then perhaps there’s not much I can do to change your mind. After all, Phelps was responsible for spreading his hatred far and wide, trampling the hearts of many homosexuals and many surviving family members of our deceased veterans. Most of us are well-aware of the story by now, and I don’t want to further the WBC cause by rehashing it here. It goes without saying that Fred Phelps was a man who stirred much controversy and pain.
What I would like to do instead is provoke a bit of thought in the minds of those who are happy to see Phelps leave this plane for whatever lies beyond. It was the ugly—yet profoundly human—combination of fear and hatred that inspired those awful picket signs and protests. Do we not all harbor fear and hatred at times? Indeed, aren’t we harboring just those things when we feel joy over the death of this man? Does anyone recognize the irony in this? Is it missing the point to find relief in his passing? What can we learn from this?
Some of the most revered spiritual teachers in history have taught that it is Love that heals us. It is Light that drives out the dark. Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, the list goes on.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
If we are truly disgusted by the behaviors exhibited by Phelps and his followers, then perhaps we should take the opposite approach to the one Phelps chose. I know that I, for one—a homosexual that Phelps hated to the core—will not take joy in his or his family’s suffering, and I hope you will consider the same.