Saturday, March 22, 2014
It would be easy to hate Phelps. When I first heard of his death, I must confess that my internal response was not a gracious one. So much pain perpetuated by one man did not seem deserving of even an ounce of good will. I reminded myself that here was a man so plagued by his personal demons, so wounded and broken, that he fashioned himself a god that demanded him to wound others. His religion became the vehicle for his venom.
Yet, I have to give him this... he was honest. You knew where you stood with the man. He and his god thought the rest of us were lower than the gunk on his boot - and he did not hesitate to look you in the eye and tell you so.
Contrast that with so many other religious folks who smile at you warmly, speak in soft tones, and tell you they love you. Meanwhile, they are preparing their blade as they invite you into an embrace. What they say to you, and what they honestly feel, are two different things.
I watched this play out on a Facebook page recently. Phelps' death was being discussed and one Christian man commented that his treatment of the military was regrettable. Apparently, he only viewed the military treatment as problematic. He then went on to clarify that homosexuals were an abomination. They should not be allowed to marry and they should stop being gay. To have an alternate view is to stand against god. Still, he said he didn't hate anyone and would pray for all of us.
I hear a lot of Christians giving very similar rhetoric. I think of it as Phleps-Lite. This is where you get to hold to every position of Fred Phelps, but believe you are somehow different because you deliver that same message with a smile and a hug.
To me, the only difference between Fred Phelps and the average conservative Christian is delivery style. It is similar to Delores Umbridge and Voldemort in the Harry Potter story. Both stood against Harry. Both wanted him eliminated. Both hated him.
Voldemort's hate blazed in his eyes. Delores hid hers behind soft tones, feigned concern, and a predator's smile.
But both had similar plans for Harry.
I don't believe there is an afterlife, but if I did I would hope that Phelps can now rest from the burden of his hostility, and that his wounds have been healed.
In the end, I preferred the bigotry Fred wore on his sleeve, to the slippery words of "love" offered by so many Christians who quietly share Fred's heart.
Posted by Andrew at 5:03 PM