The following is an interview with Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Ph.D., who spent years studying the Westboro Baptist Church. With all the intense speculation and conjecture on what is going on with the WBC, I sought her out to get a more informed and balanced perspective.
While many people will be celebrating the death of Phelps, whose name is synonymous with irrational hate and vitriol, I think that today the world lost someone who did a whole lot more for the LGBT community that we realize or understand.
That might sound shocking, but it's true. I'm grateful that Fred Phelps made hating gay people seem deranged, and crazy. I'm glad that, with his crudely drawn bright color signs, he looked foolish.
I grieve for Fred Phelps. The man spent a great portion of his time on earth using his gifts in such a hurtful, and ultimately silly way. But I won't picket his funeral. I won't dance on his grave. I will try not to emulate him in any way.
The Judgment of Fred Phelps might be an interesting watch. Since we have no clue what will go on, we are left to speculate. Here is my impression...
I believe the only right and rational response to a man who spends his whole life carrying around signs (literal or figurative) that say "God Hates You" is to proclaim to the world, with our words and our life, that "God Loves You!"
The last time I saw Fred Phelps was last year when I attended services a few times at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. No, I am not a religious bigot in search of like-minded souls. I went for research.
I do not respect Fred Phelps, nor do I forgive the pain he inflicted, but I value him. I value what he contributed to the struggle for LGBT equality. I am grateful that because of his presence, millions woke up to understand homophobia better and to confront it.
It would certainly be understandable if there were members of the LGBT community, as well as so many others, who felt inclined to picket the funeral of Fred Phelps. It is my hope, however, that no one will descend to the level of hatred and pettiness that seemed to fuel the last decades of his life.
I have apparently become a favorite for the Twitter feed of the Westboro Baptist Church, having been tweeted and retweeted about dozens of times.
I'm all for loving my neighbor, as long as they are good, churchgoing folk, but this whole love-and-forgiveness-for-everyone thing is crazy. Luckily there are a lot of Christian leaders and organizations that can steer you around this nonsense.
Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder was just 20 years old when he died in a one-vehicle Humvee accident in Iraq on March 3, 2006, just five weeks after his deployment. A half-dozen Westboro members picketed Matthew Snyder's funeral at a Roman Catholic Church in Maryland one week later.
While I love homophobes like Westboro Baptist Church for making my job easy, our real work is uncovering the wicked truth hiding beneath those who claim they love us while they bludgeon us with their Bibles.
I woke up on Saturday morning noticing the Wesboro Baptist Church, a hate group known for its slogan "Gods Hate Fags" (and everything else), blaming the helicopter crash into a busy pub in Glasgow on Scotland's vote in favor of marriage equality.
Here are a few final thoughts I have on why nobody wants to go to Church anymore and what the Church and leaders must do to reverse the decline and maybe even reclaim some of the 35 million Americans who have departed.
I know that boys like the young man who closed his eyes for the last time on that desolate fence and the boy whom my mother worried for years ago will be fine because of mothers like Judy Shepard and mine. Here are my mom's thoughts on her own gay son.