Eulogy for Fred Phelps

We have learned today via his son, Nate Phelps, that Fred Phelps is in hospice and is expected to pass soon. His family, keeping to their hatred, have prevented any family member who spurned the Westboro Baptist Church’s hateful theology from saying their goodbyes.

I am not one who usually turns to the Bible for comfort, but a verse comes to mind which I wish to share.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

In the face of such a petty evil as one who knew only contempt for others and preyed upon them in their weakest moments, a call to love Fred Phelps would seem ridiculous. I do not ask for passion. Indeed, I am unable to summon any such thing. I wish I could offer something to ease the many justifiable feelings of those who think of this man and his legacy, but the imminence of his passing leaves me with a hollow feeling and little else. I am not angry or glad, I am tired. I hope that regardless where he goes, a lesson will be learned that this is our eventual fate, each of us, and if love is forgotten more quickly when those who have felt it pass beyond remembrance, we need only remember that hatred endures but is never praised. Better to fade into the long night than to be remembered, nor for our character, but for horrible deeds and incalculable harm.

And so I ask this instead: Do no harm. If we cannot feel joy for his life, then seek no joy in his death. That is love enough. It is perhaps a vain hope, an unfair hope, but hope is what I have.

I hope Fred Phelps steps upon the plains of Paradise and finds himself alone save for those who can educate him. I hope he learns the error of his ways, not as a punitive device, but so that he will know well and truly why his name will live on solely in infamy. I hope that he swiftly learns to regret that, not by ceaseless torture, but by the dawning of newly discovered empathy in his heart. Whether he returns to Earth in some form of reincarnation or remains in Paradise to join others as his enlightenment allows, I hope he turns his efforts to the antithesis of the life he lived on Earth and becomes a blessing upon whatever world in which he lives.

In short, I hope the same thing for Fred Phelps as I do for all evil people – to become good, to reverse course and seek amends, and I hope–have chosen to believe–there is never a point when this is impossible.

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