Fred Phelps is Dead, but the Evil of Westboro Baptist Church Lives On

By Tamar Auber @greeninthenews

American media could not help but gloat today as news of the passing of Fred Phelps, Sr. the much-hated founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. “Good riddance, Fred Phelps,” Time’s David Von Drehle remarked, showing little sympathy for the 84-year-old he called “a colossal jerk.”

In the Washington Post, Jonathon Capehart declared that the founding pastor of WBC “was so odious, so hateful that a side-eye noting of the 84-year-old’s death last night is in order,” while Entertainment Wise turned to celebrities for their pronouncements that Phelps belonged in hell (and was most certainly there right now).

There is little doubt that Fred Phelps, the author of one of the most hate-filled campaigns of his generation deserves few kind words. Along with his family, many of the them still children, he picketed funerals and spewed hate all over America with his notorious ‘God Hates F*gs’ campaign, violating people’s lives and co-opting faith for his mission of vitriol.

In the end, however, the hate that spewed from Phelps’ mouth overcame him. His disciple and his sons overthrew their founding pastor, casting the elderly man aside and forming an alliance that was so cruel, even Phelps had called for them to treat others with more kindness.

Removing Phelps from his home and church, all that remained of the pastor in his last days was a shell of his former hating-self in a withered and dying body in a hospice bed-a man who had spent his life judging others and now had been judged unworthy and thrown aside.

Von Drehle called the downfall of Phelps inevitable and the “bright side of a gloomy life, and the reason not to despair over a life like Fred Phelps’s.”

Yet, the casting out of any human being, no matter how vile, should never be gloated over, if for no other reason that it hints at a sinister truth-the evil of Westboro Baptist Church did not die with Fred Phelps; instead it has grown into a monster that ultimately defeated him.

Now, this hate lives in the hearts of a group of male elders of the church that are so willing to feed its darkness that they will sacrifice their founder, their father, and their own children for the cause.

Today, then, marked the end of the life of Fred Phelps, Sr., but the world is not a better place for it.

To make the world a better place, we cannot gloat over the death of a broken old man, but we must call out the monster head-on, acknowledging the pitiful nature of Westboro Baptist Church for what it truly is-a sad, angry family who only succeeds when we allow ourselves to respond to the suffering of any human being not in compassion and love, but with smugness and hate.

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