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Fred Phelps is Dead

Fred Phelps
Fred Phelps
Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr., born November 13, 1929 and died March 19, 2014, was an American pastor who headed the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church based in Topeka, Kansas, prior to his 2013 excommunication. | Photo: Associated Press | Fred Phelps, Pastor, Anti-gay, Old, Westboro Baptist Church, Homosexual, Gay, Hate, Excommunicated,

If God hated any living man, it was him

At the risk of sinking to the level of his followers, who are known for antagonizing mourning families and protesting the funerals of dead soldiers, I would like to gleefully comment on the recent passing of the so-called Reverend Fred Phelps Sr. I pride myself on taking seriously the Christian injunction to love thy enemy, so I try not to wish ill will upon people whom I dislike. But I believe that March 20th, 2014 occasioned one of the very, very few deaths that we can all celebrate without a bit of shame or trepidation. It is a sad fact that this horrible man made it to the age of 84, but now that his poisonous mind has been erased from existence, the world can only be a better place.

Of course, his mere death does little to uproot the horrible legacy that Fred Phelps leaves behind. We must all work to destroy it entirely, by campaigning for tolerance and practicing it in our everyday lives. Towards that end, I have created an online petition to designate the anniversary of Fred Phelps death as a National Gay Pride Day. The United States doesn't have such a day yet, and this is an unparalleled opportunity to change that. I think it would be a wonderful way to simultaneously piss on the memory of one of the worst human beings in American history while also demonstrating that with death relegating him to the footnotes of history, his ideology is soon to join him there.

Please sign the petition if you share that hope for a truly tolerant future. And in any event, find a way to celebrate this occasion, because it's not often that one can be morally justified in rejoicing at the death of a fellow human being. Who, after all, could be less deserving of respect in death than someone who tried to make a religious ritual of dishonoring the memories of people who suffered and died while he was still alive? Since Phelps worked tirelessly to worsen the sorrow and grief of mourners and victims, it can only be just if his own death is a source of joy and merriment. And it should be. We should all feel greatly pleased, knowing that a flesh and blood manifestation of hatred is at last returning to the earth, to the only place where excrement does any good for the world.

But apart from marking the end of a truly hideous life, Phelps' death can be, and ought to be, a milestone. His name is too infamous to be wiped from our memories. So if we must remember Fred Phelps, let us remember him as our society's last culturally relevant embodiment of homophobia and organized intolerance. Let March 20th be known across the United States and the world as the day on which we were reminded that tolerance, love, and goodness would achieve victory by simply remaining alive in people's hearts throughout all time, and outlasting those few despicable people who try to stand as bulwarks against their progress.

This occasion is also an opportunity for all progressive people to let go of their responsive anger against those who hate, which is an easy thing to do when the standard bearer of that hatred has died. Pleased as I am that Fred Phelps has died, I wouldn't have wished it upon him. I hope he didn't suffer, and if there is a life after death, I wish no pain upon him when he gets there. Quite unlike the twisted theology of the Westboro Baptist Church, I find no edification, no spiritual succor in the thought of misery being meted out in the hereafter. If God exists, I can only believe in a loving God.

If hell exists, Fred Phelps is as deserving of it as almost anyone, but I see no reason why its torments should consist of anything other than remorse after being reunited with one's conscience. I hope that Fred Phelps' soul has remorse enough to last 84 years for each person whom his words, deeds, and pestilent beliefs harmed while he was alive. And I hope that his name becomes nothing more than something spoken in denunciation, a verbal effigy to old, stupid ways of thinking, which we burn on the 20th of every March.

That is all that I wish upon Fred Phelps, and even if everyone joins in that belief, it will be a damn sight more generous than he ever was to the targets of his pitiless hatred.

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 5:50 AM EDT | More details

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