If you haven’t heard the news yet, Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, or the founding church of funeral-picketing and ‘God Hates Fags’ posters, is apparently on his death bed. This according to his estranged son, Nate Phelps, who left his family and their church to be an LGBT activist in Canada.
Now, if you remember the poem I wrote mentioning Mr. Phelps a long while back, you’d probably expect me to have the same reaction as most people who hear this news; first, just like the title of this post, singing and dancing to the fact that this man is finally going away forever; second, the question, “Where can I sign up to picket his funeral?” At least, these are the two responses that are propagating across the internet as I type.
The underlying response that seems to have been lost in the flood of passive aggressive ‘love picketing’ ideas, and the not-so-expected response that first came to my mind, is the fact that, apparently, Fred Phelps was also excommunicated by his own founded church in August of last year. “Wait, what?” Mr. Picket got kicked from his own movement? This little tidbit of information led me to pause, and then to research, but to no avail in terms of more detail. Either Nate got some really bad information, or the WBC is very good at what they let the media get hold of about their operations.
So, what does it matter that he was excommunicated? Well, think about it. There has to be reason, if the information is true, and he was sent out (which judging by the responses from WBC reps and family, it seems they have distances themselves from him, at the very least. I mean, “I can tell you that Fred Phelps is having some health problems,” Drain said. “He’s an old man, and old people get health problems,” doesn’t really sound like a guy talking about the father of his religious denomination to me, does it?). What we know about the beliefs of the WBC, which are by no means kept in the dark like their stance on Phelps’ declining health, suggests that he had to have dome something or changed some view about the intolerant acts of his church to convince his congregation to excommunicate him of all things. Did he change his view on homosexuality, or those who commit it? Did he vocalize abhorrence toward the ways in which the WBC expresses their views to the public? Was he repentant of his actions toward fallen soldiers, who died so he could have the freedom to act so intolerantly and inconsiderately toward their mourning families?
Whatever the reason, deducing the possible scenarios under which he was excommunicated brings me back to everyone’s first responses to his health: let’s picket the funeral! Okay, instead, do some more deducing. What possible outcomes can there be to picketing his funeral, or not picketing it?
To picket is to fight fire with fire. Going to his funeral for any reason, if you are not there to seriously mourn his passing, is to dishonor the sanctity of the funeral’s purpose, and in that, you are no better than he. Additionally, if the WBC did NOT excommunicate him, or even in excommunicating him, honors him as their fearless founder, they will EAT UP the picketing of his funeral and use that as a basis for more publicity and attention, complaining about the hypocrisy of those who do not support them. The media attention to the picketing of the picketer will make him a martyr for his cause, and only strengthen the minds of the WBC. In other words, picketing the funeral is a stupid idea.
To not picket the funeral has two possible outcomes. The first and (although less likely) much more entertaining and ironic is that the WBC pickets the funeral for us. How could this be a possibility in the first place? Simple: if Fred Phelps did something so ‘terrible’ in the eyes of the other members of the WBC as to get excommunicated from his own church, then it is also likely something he did which would warrant in the eyes of the church a picket of its own. Look at the possibilities I have posed above and you’ll see that all those things he may have done or said or proposed to his church to warrant his sending out would be exactly what the church would want to picket. They would claim such a picket as a sign of love for him and sorrow for his loss to Satan and the ways of evil, but in doing so they ruin the foundation of their own organization (a foundation that is already very fragile in the eyes of the public, if not practically non-existent). It proves that the man’s methods of fighting evil, that the teachings of Fred Phelps could not even save Fred Phelps himself in the eyes of his own followers. So what credibility does that belief stand on, if the one who created that belief fell from that belief’s own graces? By letting them do the picketing for us, we leave them to their own demise.
The second possible outcome is even more simple, and more impacting on a national scale: nothing. We do nothing, we say nothing, and nothing comes of his passing. He leaves the world quietly, and no publicity, no extremist drama, no finger-pointing comes of it. The WBC’s power is in attention, in their (dare I say it) flamboyancy and loudness against things they don’t approve of, in the name of ‘God.’ The media is what gives them power, and the less people react to their antics, the less the media wants to promote their antics for the sake of views. That is why you haven’t heard much about them, because people got over them. This could become more publicity, more antics and showmanship to bank off of for the media outlets. Don’t give them that chance. Let their beliefs die with their founder, quiet and frail and alone. You don’t need picket signs to beat them away. All you have to do is pretend they aren’t even there.