I spoke to Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church once.
It was back in 1998, after the funeral of Matthew Shepard, who he and his small congregation made up of mostly relatives, picketed. They held up signs indicating that Mr. Shepard, a young man tortured, beaten, strung up on a fence and left to die, was going to hell because he was gay.
He was a guest on a talk show that I listened to. I called and got through.
I put aside my disgust and horror that he would be so cruel to the family of a young man who died in such a horrific and painful manner. That someone could actually relish the fact that other people could murder someone just for being different from them. I put aside my anger and my disbelief, my sadness and my heartache for those that loved Mr. Shepard. I wanted to talk to this man. I wanted to ask him a question.
He called himself a Christian. And, from what I understood – understand – about what Jesus wants us to do -what he TOLD us to do- is that we should go out into the world and tell other people about His love.
So, I asked him, “How are your signs and your hate and all of your angry words bringing people closer to Christ?”
He had no answer for me. He went into his loud, angry tirade about how, “God hates fags,”and how we will all burn in Hell because we don’t condemn homosexuality. He didn’t hear a word I or anyone else on the Los Angeles based talk show said. Not one word.
I haven’t thought about Fred Phelps or his church much since then. I would hear the occasional news report about them protesting at our fallen soldiers’ funerals or the Academy Awards, I would shake my head and hope that the families of those lost defending our country would be able to mourn their heroes in peace. That maybe Phelps and gang couldn’t get close enough to them to make their suffering any worse.
And then he died. There isn’t going to be a funeral.
I think this is horribly sad. What a miserable person he must have been, to have so much hate and anger inside of him. I wonder what he was really angry at. I wonder if he struggled with his own sexuality.
I wonder if stories will come out of abuse and/or misconduct.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still angry at him for spreading so much hate and hurt.
So, here’s what I will do to try to undo what he did to our world:
I will love. I will love WHOMEVER I CHOOSE.
I will be true to myself and answer only to my God, who is loving and beautiful.
I will appreciate the beauty in this world.
I will not tolerate evil.
I will forgive and I will have compassion.
I will leave this world better than I found it.
And, I will ask you to do the same.
Most people are good. Let’s all try to be one of them. OK?