Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Sad Waste of Life

Glad I'm Not the First to Make this Comparison
So, on the day of the 2014 vernal equinox, the Reverend Fred Phelps (one of, if not THE most hated men in America) kicked the bucket. Bought the farm. Expired. Became an ex-human. Oh, wait -- maybe not that last one. Seems like he'd already done that to himself a long time ago.

Westboro Baptist started in 1955 as a branch of a small church in Topeka, where Fred Phelps was the assistant pastor. After his promotion to pastor of the new church on the other side of town, Phelps soon cut off all relations with the founding group. In 1964, Phelps earned his Juris Doctorate at Washburn and became a civil rights activist, defeating Jim Crow laws in Kansas. Somewhere along the way, Phelps lost his mind and became a religious fanatic, forcing his views on his family with threats and beatings (according to many who have since left the WBC, including Phelps' son Nate, now an LGBT rights activist in Canada). Disbarred in Kansas in 1979 and in Federal Court ten years later, Phelps and his followers (now mostly just members of his family) began their infamous picketing in 1991. By 2001, everyone knew the Westboro Baptist Church and their message of "God's" hatred of homosexuality. Phelps infamously told talk-show host (and original Tracy Turnblad) Ricki Lake the he "...worshiped her rectum..." after appearing on her show in 1994. Lake reportedly had Phelps forcibly removed from the studio.

But then a wonderful thing happened along the way... people started to hear and see Phelps' message for the lies and hate it was. A spotlight was shone on their bigotry and people took notice and started to rethink their own thoughts on LGBT people. So that was good, I suppose. 

Last year, a sort of coup was staged at WBC. Phelps, ailing and possibly softening his views, was excommunicated and the church elected a group of 8 Elders while ousting Shirley Phelps-Roper as WBC's official spokesperson. These details are just coming to light after it was announced earlier this week that Phelps was near death.

And while some might rejoice at the news of Phelps' death, I can't help but think of the sad waste of time and energy that was his life. If he and his congregation had spent just a tenth of that time and energy helping those in need as they did spreading hatred, the world would be a much better place.  Meanwhile, the WBC (having learned nothing) has announced that it's business and picketing* as usual for the SPLC-identified hate group. And of course, this could be the next step toward drinking the Kool-Aid -- and how sad would that be? There are still children there, being indoctrinated in hatred by fear. So, very sad...

Still, I can't imagine anyone wants to leave this world known for their hateful, hurtful actions, even if they are insane enough to truly believe they are doing the opposite. I'd like to believe that maybe Fred did soften near the end. maybe even felt bad about he'd done, or at least how he'd done it. I'd like to, but I don't. 

Here's what TMZ had to say:

*On a side note - in a purely self-serving move to generate publicity for JTMF's production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, we tried desperately to get WBC to come protest. Sadly, their protest calendar was already full that summer. 

More, anon.

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