Last week the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, passed away. He was 84. If by some chance you're not sure where you've heard either name -- bless your media-avoiding little heart -- the Westboro Baptist Church is the group that pickets funerals and other public events with signs that say "GOD HATES F*GS" or "OBAMA IS THE DEVIL," or other such aggressively ignorant spiel. His death was met with reactions from the public that ranged from apathetic and disinterested to gleeful celebration.
And rightfully so. Anyone that turns the message of love and peace that most religious denominations claim to project into a message of intolerance, hatred and fear deserves nothing less than to have their passing go un-celebrated. In my opinion, he should occupy the same fiery cell block as Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Tim McVeigh and so on. I say this as an atheist, not believing in hell or heaven. However...
The man DID have a family. Someone loved him enough to bear his 13 children (even though he reportedly beat them all, wife included), and that means one of two things: either everyone involved in that little twisted slice of Americana is seriously delusional and disconnected with reality, or there was something privately redeemable about the man, in his past or present. I'm an optimist, I choose the latter. He was a civil rights lawyer once, after all, and helped Kansas strike down the Jim Crow laws. Irony knows no bounds.
Now, I'm not saying we excuse his hypocrisy or forgive the hate in his message. But maybe we should curb our enthusiasm in regards to his passing. Hate nay begets hate, and we should let this particular brand of hatred die with the man.
I'm not a believer, but I have read the Bible (and parts of the Qur'an, Torah, and other religious texts. I can't-- and won't-- quote scripture but everything I've read says that the supposed supreme being -- God, Jehovah, Allah, Life, the Universe, or whatever you want to call it-- doesn't hate anyone.
Neither should we.