So Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Church, just died. He was the guy who got his fellow church members to protest at the funerals of servicemen and women and other notable funerals because he had the strange idea that war and other human actions were somehow God’s punishment for homosexuality. So yeah, he had a pretty despicable agenda. Over the last few days, I’ve seen a number of Facebook posts and Tweets and cartoons that were downright happy about his death.
Here’s the thing: Taking joy in the death of another human being, no matter how despicable he or she was, tarnishes our own humanity. You can’t say, “I l love all people. I am for equality and social justice” and still be happy when someone else dies. You can’t. What you can do is fight despicable agendas. We’re all the same species. We all do good things and bad things. Fred Phelps left a legacy built on discrimination and irrational hatred. I don’t know what lies beyond this life. If he is now in eternal sleep, well then, he can’t hurt anybody. If there is an afterlife, now he gets to have a come-to-Jesus chat with, well, Jesus. They can go over the whole “love thy neighbor” stuff together and review how well Fred did on that during his 84 years in his mortal coil.
It’s tempting to hate back and to make jokes at the expense of the Fred Phelps of the world. Instead of that, let’s just try to be really awesome human beings. Let’s be the type of person who helps push a stranger’s car when it’s stuck in the snow, even if that car has a Westboro Church bumper sticker. Hold the door open for another person. Volunteer. And then let that person know, “Oh by the way, the people who just helped you are gay/lesbian/allies. ” Be the kindness you want to see in other people. My mother always said that the best way to deal with difficult people was to kill them with kindness. I don’t want to repay hate with hate, that doesn’t get us anywhere. If we really believe in equality, then we need to be equally kind.