Thank you, Fred
by: John Tyrrell
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As I write this, it has been widely reported that Fred Phelps, founder of the hate-spewing Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is near death. A spokesman for WBC denies this, but has not denied that Phelps is in a hospice. It would seem clear that if he is not in his last days, he is in his final months.
Before he goes, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Fred Phelps. After all he deserves it.
He founded WBC back in 1955, and in the first thirty-five years or so of his ministry, he pretty much remained a local fringe minister, preaching his doctrine at his own congregation, largely his own family.
In 1991 he decided to take on a more public anti-gay role through gradually increasing picketing. Then he discovered the Internet and through an increasing number of God Hates xxx websites, he upped his game by linking pretty well every natural disaster and every tragedy to homosexuality.
It should be noted that as Phelps steadily increased his anti-gay rhetoric, that public acceptance of the LGBT community grew. Along with it, public acceptance of LGBT human rights grew, including public acceptance of same-sex marriage.
As Phelps steadily increased his anti-gay rhetoric, other churches, even those who had a strong anti-gay agenda, increasingly denounced him, and toned down their own rhetoric.
Essentially, all by himself, Fred Phelps made being anti-gay something almost no-one wanted to be associated with; he made it extremely uncool. And he did it by turning himself and his family into what the BBC identified in a documentary as The Most Hated Family In America.
And now, people under thirty are overwhelmingly in favour of LGBT rights. And the people of my generation, perhaps a slim majority of whom have been unable to accept change, well, we're dying off.
The war has been won, in spite of a few rearguard battles.
For that I thank you Fred. By being so full of hate, you contributed to turning public opinion around. In your attempt to suppress human rights, you created a groundswell of support for such rights. Like it or not, the LGBT community, who I have long supported, benefited
Also, Fred, I would thank you for bringing people together in astonishing displays of unity. Your policy of picketing military funerals - a policy coming out of your linking the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to homosexuality - resulted in hundreds, at times thousands, of people uniting to peacefully block your pitiful band of pickets from the view of legitimate mourners. Conservatives and liberals, rednecks and intellectuals, fundamentalists and non-believers, people of all races - they all came together to peacefully oppose your little protests. And they did it all across the USA, in small towns and in big cities. Whatever their differences, they knew you were in the wrong.
For bringing about such displays of unity and common decency, such recognitions of our mutual humanity, even though it was not your intention, I thank you Fred.
I have been long opposed to the hate speech laws of my own country, and those of a number of other countries. Fred Phelps was fortunate enough to live in a country which values free speech and he has was free to spew out the most vile hatred. Fred proved that hate speech is self-defeating. Public exposure is the most effective weapon we have against hate speech, not laws suppressing it and forcing it into a hidden underground where it cannot be attacked. For using hate-filled public free speech to defeat himself, I thank Fred Phelps.
Fred Phelps was a preacher of a hate filled god. He read the bible and saw in it, not a god of love, but a god of extreme hatred, a god who hated everyone, except perhaps the Phelps family. A god very much like the god of Noah. And there is more of that god in the bible than there is a god of love. For calling people's attention to that god and driving at least some of them towards rejection of god and the bible, I thank Fred Phelps.
And I thank Fred Phelps for one final irony. Apparently this preacher of hatred called for his followers to be a little more kind to each other. Not kind towards the outside world, but just to be kinder to each other. For that heresy, those that he had taught to hate since birth excommunicated Fred Phelps from the church he had founded. Thank you Fred Phelps for showing that hatred fuels hatred sufficiently to destroy itself.
I suppose I should also that Fred Phelps for inspiring so many articles on this web site exposing him - the oldest mention is in the undated (pre-2001) section of the web site. You can check out previous articles by entering his name in the search box. For that, I thank Fred Phelps.
At one time, I thought that if I outlived Fred Phelps, I would sometime after his death make a point of going to Topeka and urinate on his grave. I thank Fred Phelps today because I see what hate has done to him. I can be a much better man than that.
Thank you, Fred.
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