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The news of the death of Fred Phelps (leader of the church/hate group Westboro Baptist Church) sent ripples of conversation through the country. The immediate reactions that I could see in my social media feeds were relief and joy. After seeing how many people were impacted by the negativity shared, I can understand those emotions, and I truly feel that they are valid. I did not love Fred Phelps. I thought him to be a horrible person. I feel that the kind of person who spews forth hate and vitriol under the guise of a religion that includes love as one of its core tenets is despicable.
Fred Phelps, and the Westboro Baptist Church did horrible, terrible things. They picketed funerals of soldiers, LGBTQ people, and random locations where they felt they could spread their message of hate to the most people. They garnered media attention worldwide because of their hateful messages. They sought to spread venom, and get attention, and they succeeded. Their message of hate has hurt so many hearts, and impacted so many lives.
Yet, I am uncomfortable with the idea that picketing Fred Phelps’ funeral or cheering that he is dead is the right idea. The conversation has recently fallen to protesting the funeral of a man who caused pain by protesting at so many others. While I can understand the gut reactions and the want to fight fire with fire, I wish people would simply be better. Yes, the WBC members are awful, yes they’ve hurt so many, yes they are needlessly cruel and horrible. Knowing all that, shouldn’t we be better than a hate group? Shouldn’t we, people who recognize what WBC has done, not try to be causing more negativity?
So how do we undo the damage they have already caused?
We certainly don’t do it by fighting their hate with more hate. We don’t do it by picketing the funeral of a dead man. Protesting at his funeral won’t change anything that he did when he was alive. It won’t change the minds of the WBC members, it won’t do anything but fuel their fire to spread their message of hate even more. The idea that dancing on this man’s grave or picketing his funeral will bring closure, or send a message is no better than the hate spewed forth from The Westboro Baptist Church themselves. In fact, the message that “God Loves Dead Westboro Baptist Priests”, and that his family is not deserving of peace during a funeral is essentially the same as the horrible messages the Phelps family has unleashed into the world.
What can we do instead of hate?
I think love is one of the most important things we can do in this world. Showing love to another person can change their future. Love can give them hope when things seem darkest, and bring someone to a place where they feel safe, and nurtured. Love can change minds, and love can change lives. Don’t forget that even though this man did horrible things, and created this poisonous message, there were still people who loved him. There are still family members grieving, and there are still family members who weren’t even allowed to say goodbye. Whether or not you agree with the sorts of messages WBC shares, these people are still human.
You want to know the best way to undo the damage caused by WBC?
Stop giving time and attention to the Westboro Baptist Church, and show your love by donating or promoting groups like the It Gets Better Project, or the National Military Family Association. Undo the damage caused by the Westboro Baptist Church by sharing your love for another person, not by sharing your hate.
Until Next Time!
-The Frisky Fairy