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"He is now on the edge of death"
March 16, 2014 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Fred Phelps, longtime head of the Westboro Baptist Church previously previously previously previously previously previously previously, is "now on the edge of death" in a Topeka hospice, says his son Nate previously in a piece in the Topeka Capital-Journal. Media reaction has been, in a word, unmixed.

Also, Nate mentions that Fred has been excommunicated from his church.
posted by ricochet biscuit (193 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The good die young.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:33 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]


Confirmation of Nate Phelps's statement over at Patheos.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:33 AM on March 16


I had a friend chastise me on FaceBook for saying something nasty about Margaret Thatcher after her death. He said it was tasteless to say something degrading about someone who just died. I wonder if he would say that same thing here.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 8:36 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't it be great if his funeral was not picketed by anyone, or covered by any media outlet, or had attention drawn to it in any way?

No attention, no attention must finally be paid to such a person.

*
posted by tzikeh at 8:37 AM on March 16 [121 favorites]


He said it was tasteless to say something degrading about someone who just died.

That is such a dumb piece of common "wisdom".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:38 AM on March 16 [34 favorites]


Wouldn't it be great if his funeral was not picketed by anyone, or covered by any media outlet, or had attention drawn to it in any way?

Or a thousand drag queens descended on it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:39 AM on March 16 [49 favorites]


I don't care about the funeral. Just let me know where he's buried so I know where to pee.
posted by blob at 8:40 AM on March 16 [26 favorites]


I won't be celebrating Phelps's death exactly, but I will count it as a good thing. The man led a monstrous life and it can't be over too soon.

I found the excommunication astounding. And apparently it happened in August 2013. The Phelpses kept that dark! Even so, those who are in the church are preventing those who have left it from seeing Fred to say good bye to their father/grandfather. I wonder if they even have the legal right to do that. We may be seeing the beginning of the end of the WBC, with that kind of dissension in the ranks. An estimated 20 members of the WBC have left it in the last ten years, and most of them were under 30. The WBC isn't a large group and can't withstand that kind of a defection rate for long.

Incidentally, I was searching for news on this earlier today and stumbled across a video of Michael Moore's encounter with Fred Phelps, which despite all my reading and video-watching with regard to the whole WBC situation I had not previously seen. You're welcome.
posted by orange swan at 8:42 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]


Freaky Fred was himself excommunicated from his very own church? Interesting.... wonder where his daughter Shirley (one of the more virulent WBC members) stands on this.

And I really can't decide between one heck of a humongeous picket line at his funeral, all bearing placards with things like "God loves even you, Fred!" or "Only the good die young: good riddance to Fred Phelps", or its totally ignored --- although ricochet biscuit's thousand drag queens idea has a certain flair.....
posted by easily confused at 8:42 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I was about to come in and say exactly what tziekeh said.

He was a man who sought to have an impact on the world; let the world's response be no response at all, as a final sign that the whole of his life was for absolutely nought. Do not dignify his passing with any word at all, or any acknowledgement or notice. He sought our attention; let us give no further to his passing. I'd even go so far as to bury him in an unmarked grave in a potter's field.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 AM on March 16 [23 favorites]


Interesting to hear about this supposed excommunication.. I just always assumed he was gay and put down the lack of recognition of that fact by his family to a kind of willful and enforced ignorance.
posted by bird internet at 8:44 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I don't even know what excommunication means in this instance other than shunning.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:44 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Confirmation of Nate Phelps's statement over at Patheos.

They only confirmed that it was indeed Nate Phelps' statement; they did not confirm (or even attempt to corroborate) its veracity.

That said, it's probably worth getting the pom-poms ready.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:44 AM on March 16


In his case, I sure hope there's a hell.

And I certainly don't begrudge the survivors of any of the funerals he's picketed over the years wanting to dance on his grave, spit on it, or ignore it entirely.
posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Makes me wonder if this was posted pre-death just to circumvent the potential dribble of comments from people who don't think you should say unkind things about the recently deceased.

As someone pretty damned certain his passing will in fact make the world a marginally better place, whether it's before or after his dying I'm happy to declare him a blight on humanity, and suspect he might be so blatantly horrible that about the best we'll see is a small flurry of 'I was taught if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.'

Which, fine. But a man has led a horrible life if you can say the world is better without him in it.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:46 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


What I wouldn't give for a global conspiracy of newspapers to include the descriptor "notorious fart enthusiast" in their obituaries of him.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:52 AM on March 16 [22 favorites]


If his death brings the whole Westboro Baptist hatemongering exercise to a standstill I'll be delighted. Mighty few people who invest all of their time in making the world a meaner, uglier place. Good riddance. Hard to imagine what got him excommunicated unless in old age he had a change of heart.
posted by leslies at 8:55 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


It's uncivil to say bad things just after a person dies, I suppose. But almost dead?

Good riddance. I hope his death is quick, both for the sake of not wishing torment on even a bad human being, and because the sooner the rest of us are rid of him the better.
posted by tyllwin at 8:55 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the Michael Moore post, Orange Swan. That was great!
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:57 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


!
posted by superelastic at 8:58 AM on March 16


He said it was tasteless to say something degrading about someone who just died.

More pointless than tasteless, IMO. Though if it were me, I'd be gratified to still be occupying the psyche of my enemies, even after death.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:58 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


ricochet biscuit: "Wouldn't it be great if his funeral was not picketed by anyone, or covered by any media outlet, or had attention drawn to it in any way?

Or a thousand drag queens descended on it.
"

FRED PHELPS MEMORIAL GAY ORGIES!
posted by symbioid at 8:59 AM on March 16 [11 favorites]


Well, I won't cheer. But I won't mourn either, and I will say that the world is better off without him in it.
posted by sotonohito at 9:00 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Eh, I get the idea of not giving this guy any more attention, even in death. But personally I think it would be perfect if some folks showed up at his funeral with signs that read, LOVE FOR EVERYONE and LOVE CONQUERS ALL.
posted by BlueJae at 9:01 AM on March 16 [35 favorites]


May he die alone, unloved and unmourned.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:02 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I wonder if he'll finally come out on his deathbed.
posted by Trochanter at 9:05 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Via the Daily Kos link, from Pink News in the UK last year:

Excommunicated Westboro Baptist Church member suggests Fred Phelps might be gay

The source is speculation from the 27-year-old daughter of church spokesman Steve Drain (he's quoted in the Topeka news article):

She said: “All I know is that he said he went to West Point, then all of a sudden he had a religious experience, and now he wanted to preach against sexual immorality, preach against the military, and ever since then things have kind of progressed.”

Drain went on to say that she thought his reaction to being asked by the media if he was gay himself was suspicious, in that it was particularly extreme.

“I never understood why, when [he was asked by the press], ‘Why are you so against the homosexuals? Did you have a homosexual experience? Do you have homosexual tendencies?’ And he would get so mad, he would shut down. And he’d be like, ‘I can’t talk to this person anymore, they’re stupid.’

“His reaction to that was stronger than any other question you can ask him. So I always wondered that — why does he get so mad? If I’m not gay, I’ll just say I’m not gay.”


I guess it's possible members still in the church had similar thoughts, and confronted him, or he confessed, or some combination of those, and they booted him out for it. The church is full of liars, though - announcing protests at sites they never plan to visit, e.g. - so who knows what's really going on.
posted by mediareport at 9:06 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


The nasty, bizarre actions of the WBC created a unifying cause for LGBT rights and exposed opponents of LGBT rights to utter ridicule. In this way, he was a force for good, even if he had never wanted to be.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:09 AM on March 16 [53 favorites]


No way. Let's turn the pink mass into a Grand Sabbat.
posted by adipocere at 9:09 AM on March 16


He was a man who sought to have an impact on the world; let the world's response be no response at all, as a final sign that the whole of his life was for absolutely nought. Do not dignify his passing with any word at all, or any acknowledgement or notice. He sought our attention; let us give no further to his passing. I'd even go so far as to bury him in an unmarked grave in a potter's field.

Fred Phelps was a confusing mix of the evil and the good. He fought one set of bigots, only to become one himself. Phelps was a lawyer who nearly single-handedly brought down institutionalized racial discrimination in Kansas City, suing to protect black American Legion posts, desegregating the schools of Topeka:
She said the lawyers in the Phelps firm often took civil rights and employment discrimination cases when other lawyers wouldn't. For many people with legitimate claims, the Phelps firm was their last resort, she said.

The firm often represented people who couldn't afford a lawyer.

Filing so many civil rights and employment discrimination cases made members of the firm somewhat unpopular, especially among big businesses the Phelps sued on behalf of clients. The criticism heaped on the Phelpses for filing so many civil rights cases tended to bring the Phelpses closer together as a family, Billingsley said.
Phelps himself said he decided to become a lawyer so he could attack social injustice.

"I was raised in Mississippi. I knew it was wrong the way those black people were treated. I instinctively knew it was against the word of God," Phelps said.

But inside this man was religious intolerance from the very beginning:
Phelps was profiled in Time magazine for preaching against "sins committed on campus by students and teachers ... promiscuous petting ... evil language ... profanity ... cheating ... teachers' filthy jokes in classrooms ... [and] pandering to the lusts of the flesh".[14]
And even his work on behalf of African Americans was later tainted by the actions of his church, eventually sending racist faxes out to various news outlets.

But the real end to his legal career began when he struck out at a court reporter:
The beginning of the end of Fred Phelps' law career came on Nov. 8, 1977, when the state filed a complaint seeking to have him disbarred. The state's case against Phelps centered on a lawsuit filed in late 1974 by Phelps against Carolene Brady, a court reporter in Shawnee County District Court.
Phelps went crazy:
In both trials, Fred Phelps, Sr. represented Sherman Robinson and tried the case. Fred Phelps, Jr. assisted. The case appeared to be Phelps' personal case. He called the defendant, Carolene Brady, as his witness, had her declared hostile, then proceeded to cross-examine her for 3 or 4 full days. The record discloses that his cross-examination was abusive, repetitive, irrelevant, and represented a classic case of "badgering" a witness. Then he had the temerity to complain that Brady cried in the presence of the jury. Throughout the trial, Phelps made attempt after attempt to adduce testimony concerning Carolene Brady's reputation for truth and veracity, her reputation for competency, the falsification of her income tax return and her morality, or lack thereof.
Phelps then requested to call 8 witnesses who would back up his case. Brady then procured affidavits from all witnesses stating that they would not testify as Phelps claimed they would.

Fascinating picture of an angry man who was consumed by his own anger.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:10 AM on March 16 [62 favorites]


Here is a link to Phelps went crazy.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:15 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


I truly believe that Phelps has been a force for good in the US. He revealed homophobia to be an unhinged, hateful philosophy. He associated homophobia with lack of patriotism and with cruelty to the bereaved. He helped conservative Americans empathize with gay people by attacking people with whom conservative Americans already had empathy. He's a jerk and a hatemonger, and he certainly won't get a dot or a kind word from me. I feel a lot of sympathy for the many people he has hurt. But he has accomplished exactly the opposite of what he ostensibly sought to do.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:17 AM on March 16 [59 favorites]


It was one long concern troll, the whole thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:19 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Me, personally, I hate the guy and wish him bad stuff. But in my fantasy world I'm part of a thousand strong shock-troop of Radical Compassionate Monks, who would descend on the funeral and stand silently with signs say "We mourn along with you in your time of Loss" and "Feel Sorrow. Feel Love. Find Peace."
posted by benito.strauss at 9:20 AM on March 16 [19 favorites]


It is not tasteless or rude or uncivil or crass to speak ill of the dead. It might be dangerous, which is why the habit and custom is to refrain.

The danger is their spirit or ghost might hear you and retaliate. If you consider that a physical impossibility then Go For It.
posted by bukvich at 9:20 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


It has to suck to be Fred Phelps. Imagine hating almost everyone, and believing (quite accurately) that everyone hates you. I can't get joy out of his death.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:22 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]


But personally I think it would be perfect if some folks showed up at his funeral with signs that read, LOVE FOR EVERYONE and LOVE CONQUERS ALL.

I especially like the latter one because it implies that we're all celebrating his death by playing games by Christine Love's company.
posted by NoraReed at 9:25 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


By all accounts, WBC was something of a cult of personality around Fred Phelps; the excommunication aside, I wonder how long after his death the already small and disintegrating sect will remain intact.
posted by kewb at 9:27 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


It is not tasteless or rude or uncivil or crass to speak ill of the dead.

Says you. The guy has relatives and family who aren't dead and who might deserve some small measure of compassion. Showing a little class is never wrong and is more likely to win converts to your way of thinking than all of the grave pissing.
posted by three blind mice at 9:30 AM on March 16 [17 favorites]


(Dang, how did I miss BlueJae's comment.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:32 AM on March 16


I was so hoping we'd catch him in bed with a a male prostitute, a pygmy goat and some warm pudding first.
posted by jonmc at 9:33 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


I wonder if his mind was going and the excommunication was a precaution against anything he might say to the media in that state that doesn't jibe with the WBC's message.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:34 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Good riddance to an asshole.
posted by freakazoid at 9:35 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


You know what I kind of feel? A tiny bit of pity at a long life wasted on hatred and meanness.
posted by jonmc at 9:38 AM on March 16 [23 favorites]


LOVE FOR EVERYONE, EVEN NOTORIOUS FART ENTHUSIASTS.
posted by horsewithnoname at 9:38 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


It is not tasteless or rude or uncivil or crass to speak ill of the dead.

It is karmically unwise.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:40 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Out of respect for the dead, I'd rather not associate them with him.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:41 AM on March 16


He may die, but his church won't. I think he's twisted and warped his kids, who have done the same to his grandkids. Hate breeds hate, and, when it's got a tax exemption, it will live forever.

*
posted by RakDaddy at 9:43 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Any "loved one" that has not disowned this vile festering pile of shit deserves any pain they get from the insults he has earned. He shares his opinions loudly, opinions that promote a culture of violence and abuse. In comparison, a few unkind words are negligible.
posted by idiopath at 9:45 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


The guy has relatives and family who aren't dead and who might deserve some small measure of compassion. Showing a little class is never wrong and is more likely to win converts to your way of thinking than all of the grave pissing.

Amen. Yelling at inanimate corpses is at best self indulgent and at worst counterproductive.


(Yelling at animate corpses, while natural, is also a bad strategy.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:45 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Wouldn't it be great if his funeral was not picketed by anyone, or covered by any media outlet, or had attention drawn to it in any way?

I sincerely hope this is the case. I can see the beauty in a thousand LGBT activists descending on the funeral with messages of love, but between the media circus, the schismatic family drama and the church itself, it would be hard to control that message.

Furthermore, the WBC members are seriously well-trained in always staying on the right side of the law with their actions, and let their opponents overstep it so that they can sue them. Any ad hoc group that formed to go to Topeka is unlikely to match up well to that if the WBC decides to tangle.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:46 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Any "loved one" that has not disowned this vile festering pile of shit deserves any pain they get from the insults he has earned. He shares his opinions loudly, opinions that promote a culture of violence and abuse. In comparison, a few unkind words are negligible.

Imagine that as a picket sign outside his funeral.

These are humans we are talking about. Our complaint with him is that he didn't treat others with humanity.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:47 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Furthermore, the WBC members are seriously well-trained in always staying on the right side of the law with their actions, and let their opponents overstep it so that they can sue them. Any ad hoc group that formed to go to Topeka is unlikely to match up well to that if the WBC decides to tangle.

There's no point in giving a downed boxer one more shot. We don't want to endgender any sympathy for the family from the outside. We want to give him and his church time to stop.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:49 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


To paraphrase something a friend said at the death of Margaret Thatcher, unless they actually build his gravestone as a urinal there may be a serious drainage problem.
posted by Hogshead at 9:51 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


Ironmouth, if we had deep cultural problems that led to the abuse and murder of religious old men, you would have a point.
posted by idiopath at 9:51 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


I can't get joy out of his death.

I can. His death will likely mean the end of WBC, being that it's all been a pretty strong cult of personality for a long time, and reports from escaped former members paint a picture of an organization which will not survive the death of the patriarch.

He and his clan have caused a lot of unnecessary grief for uninvolved parties for decades now. He dies, the church folds, there is no more of that bullshit in the universe.

I feel like I need to go shopping for special shoes in which to dance on his grave and then burn them so they don't walk on ground untainted by Phelps ever.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


"The WBC isn't a large group and can't withstand that kind of a defection rate for long. "
As a law practice I think the church retains its ability to hire and run a profitable business. (The freedom-of-speech lawsuiting-for-damages business.)
posted by surplus at 9:54 AM on March 16


I remember the first time I saw Phelps. It was years ago, on Ricki Fucking Lake of all places. I remember thinking "Whatta psycho!" and noticing that he didn't seem to have a single supporter in the audience. And over the years, what with protesting veteran's funerals and whatnot, I started to wonder just who was listening to this guy. Maybe, by showing bigotry and it's most baldfacedly stupid an mean (and my alienating jusrt about everybody on the planet in the process) he inadvertently did the gay rights movement a favor.
posted by jonmc at 9:54 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Folks who find Fred Phelps' early work defending black schoolchildren and American Legion members who were strip-searched and racially abused "confusing" might get some clarity from Fred's son Nathan, who spoke to The Telegraph last year:

Nate Phelps says the perception in some circles that his father was once this champion of civil rights, railing against discrimination, is laughable. “We would all call black people ‘DNs’ at home. It stood for Dumb Niggers and was our private language,” he says. “We thought it was clever to call them that in front of them. He was deeply prejudiced, and he believed the Bible said they were cursed.”

Nate says Fred Phelps saw an opportunity with the passing of the Civil Rights Act to cash in. “There was a lot of money, and a lot of opportunity,” he says. “And suddenly my father was the man to go to.”

posted by mediareport at 9:55 AM on March 16 [35 favorites]


We want to give him and his church time to stop.

They've had time to stop.

I do think the WBC will eventually dissolve. Not immediately, maybe not even in ten years, but eventually. As I said above, an estimated 20 members of the church have left in the last ten years, most of them young people. There are only about forty people in the church. How long can they continue to lose their members at that rate before they're left with only a scattering of elderly people who can't produce more children, recruit new people, or even carry on with their demonstrations?
posted by orange swan at 9:57 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


[Here's the corrected link for Ironmouth's perhaps overstated "desegregating the schools of Topeka" link above (I'm not sure it's overstated, just uncertain how essential Phelps' contribution was to Topeka's desegregation, given the report from his son that Phelps was simultaneously calling black people "dumb niggers" at home.)]
posted by mediareport at 10:01 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Not everything has to be done to gain converts to a cause. Grave pissing might not be an effective form of activism, but it can be a fine way to spend a bit of an afternoon.
posted by NoraReed at 10:01 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


i think because of all the awful shit he's done people forget or gloss over his abuse of his kids and grandkids. i find myself wondering if he raised an abuser who was sick of waiting to be top dog or if as an old and frail man he no longer had the control he once did.
posted by nadawi at 10:02 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


There are people where the world is at least a little bit worse off for their no longer being present. Those are the ones we mourn – the ones who deserve respect.

A world without Fred Phelps is a better one. Good riddance.
posted by graymouser at 10:04 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Also worth noting that Kansas is one of the states which have banned protests at funerals, of course as a response to WBC, and that last week a federal court upheld a similar restriction in Missouri as content-neutral and thus legitimate.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:06 AM on March 16


Can we all at least agree that it's wrong to speak of the still-living as if they're dead and move the meta-conversation about what we should be allowed to say over to MeTa?
posted by mediareport at 10:07 AM on March 16


Hey, if any of you fellow MeFi's want to come on down and dance on his grave you can come sleep on my couch! I tore a hole in our air mattress several years back so that is the best I can do. Sorry. We have lots of blankets though!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:08 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Personally I like to badmouth the not-yet-conceived. Stupid future babies.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:08 AM on March 16 [25 favorites]


More pointless than tasteless, IMO.

Nah. Almost everything the living do after a person has died is for the living. Which is fine and understandable. Funerals, washing the body, a wake, mourning, that's for those of us left behind.

Insulting the dead fits into that category also. So it helps someone to literally get the last word, then go for it. Some people, such as Phelps, have certainly earned it.

Can we all at least agree that it's wrong to speak of the still-living as if they're dead...

No, we can not. Again, Phelps worked hard to ostracize people, so I see nothing wrong with people on an internet forum getting things off their chest.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on March 16 [10 favorites]


As a Topeka resident, I also want to say how happy I am that we will be free of this man. I remember walking through his crowd of accomplices and past him and his family on the way to mass at OLG church more than a few times when I was a child. The, I don't know, juxtaposition of seeing an old man holding a sign with stick figures engaged in a sex act while standing in front of my church is something that will for ever stick in my mind. Years ago, 20/20 did a story on him and I remember burning with shame that this is what Topeka was being mentioned for.

Good riddance and fuck you you stupid old fuck.

I wish I could have asked him why he had an upside down Canadian flag in front of his house for so long. What the fuck!?
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:12 AM on March 16 [15 favorites]


Can we all at least agree that it's wrong to speak of the still-living as if they're dead and move the meta-conversation about what we should be allowed to say over to MeTa?

Why? MetaFilter has never been shy with its opinions about Phelps. Whether he's alive and kicking or close to death or in his grave, there is no love for him here. Who is saying that we shouldn't be allowed to voice opinions about the man and his work so stridently that this required a MeTa thread?
posted by hippybear at 10:13 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


No, we can not.

uh - pretty sure the comment you quoted was saying that a conversation about what you can/should/can't/shouldn't say about the dead isn't germane here since he's not dead.
posted by nadawi at 10:13 AM on March 16


I see nothing wrong with people on an internet forum getting things off their chest.

Dude, I have no problem bitching about the stupid old fuck, who just happens to not be dead yet, so it's funny that folks are jumping the gun on that point, is all.
posted by mediareport at 10:14 AM on March 16


I think "Good riddance" is a sentiment equally applicable to the dying as to the dead.
posted by graymouser at 10:15 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


which is to say, i didn't see mediareport saying that no one should say shitty things about phelps. i saw that comment as saying that those who think you shouldn't speak ill of the dead are in a weird thread to do it since phelps is still kicking.
posted by nadawi at 10:15 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


And we have this "is it ok to speak ill of the dead?" conversation all the time; it shouldn't clutter up obit threads *or* pre-obit threads. It belongs in MeTa.
posted by mediareport at 10:17 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I'd rather speak honestly of the dead than not speak ill of the dead. I think it does an important service to the living.
posted by entropone at 10:20 AM on March 16 [26 favorites]


Honestly, I have always felt like nobody goes this far without there being some deep and abiding pain that was at the root of it. I don't know what that pain was--the perceived betrayal of a loved one, childhood abuse, his own tendencies? There's lots of things it could be, but I just don't see, in my personal life, very many vehemently anti-gay people who I can really bring myself to actually hate when I know them, so I try to avoid it of the ones I don't know. Like, there was one woman I grew up with whose husband left her for a younger and more attractive woman. And she went totally overboard in how Traditional Marriage was the one and only right way and all of it came together with this idea that if everybody valued Traditional Marriage as much as she did, her husband wouldn't have left her, and so somehow it was the fault of all the people who didn't that he had.

It was completely and totally wrong, obviously. But pain is not known for making people more rational.

If I have any reason to celebrate this, it's that I hope in the end, he has some peace, and that the remainder of the church can find theirs, too.
posted by Sequence at 10:22 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


nobody goes this far without there being some deep and abiding pain that was at the root of it.

In the Pink News link above, the excommunicated daughter of the church spokesman says she thinks it's something that happened to him at West Point.

“But something happened, and something made him change his mind about the military, and in turn have kind of a crusade against sexual immorality and homosexuals.”
posted by mediareport at 10:31 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I take no joy in his death, because his life has been such a tragic waste. I can't even imagine the mental anguish he must have been in to spew such filth and hatred every day.

The world will be a better place without him in it, this is true. So my feeling here is sadness and pity for the wasted potential of an obviously charismatic, intelligent, and motivated person, and for all the lives he has broken.

I do hope that his imminent death will hasten the dissolution of the WBC, and will bring his victims some sort of peace, however they need to find it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:32 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]


There's only null space before birth and after death. The few minutes of his dying are the only time he will experience justice. May he suddenly realize how hatefully evil he has been and how his god would reject him for his actions on earth; so that he can experience terror and regret as he passes from here to the mythical hell in which he so fervently believes.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:34 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Although I would not celebrate the end of any life, I will feel great relief that a person this unhappy will no longer walk the earth.

I am definitely with those who would bear signage at his funeral, with quiet messages of peace. Forgiveness is a powerful force against hatred.

That said, I would also the like to see our interest in this person melt away with the spring snows.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:34 AM on March 16 [14 favorites]


That said, I would also the like to see our interest in this person melt away with the spring snows.

That's a beautiful image.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:37 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


his own pain doesn't excuse his homophobia and it certainly doesn't excuse beating his young children with a frayed barber's strap, mattock handles, and his fists.
posted by nadawi at 10:40 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


I don't think anyone is attempting to excuse him of anything here, unless I've misread.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:43 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


maybe excuse was the wrong word. i just don't find it hard to hate someone who has beat his kids so badly he cracked at least one of their heads open. homophobia is far from his only crime.
posted by nadawi at 10:48 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


surplus: As a law practice I think the church retains its ability to hire and run a profitable business. (The freedom-of-speech lawsuiting-for-damages business.)

Most ordinary people can't stand being widely hated and shunned, even by 'heathens'. Without some sort of cult exerting emotional control over them, it's unlikely the members will be able to stand up to it. Especially considering their fallback career is still 'lawyer'.

I bet, at least for the most part, it's going to disintegrate in the next five years. People will turn away from it and tell terrible stories of how abusive he was, other people will forgive them for for what they've done, and that will be that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:52 AM on March 16


I dunno. Hatred was what he preached. I feel kind of icky succumbing to being like him in any way, you know?

Don't get me wrong; pretty much every moment of his life since West Point is an inexcusable horror of hatred and rage and (self?) loathing and violence. He fails, in a really basic way, at being a human.

I guess I feel like he is an awful person, and we're better than him, so why sink to his level?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:54 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]


I would never speak ill of the dead, but it's OK to be happy that he'll be croaking soon! Yay!
posted by ReeMonster at 10:57 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Addicted to Hate is an amazing look inside the Phelps family and church. If you think Fred Phelps is a massive asshole, but you haven't read Addicted to Hate, you don't know the half of it.
posted by Flunkie at 10:57 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


I feel like expressing feelings of anger at what he did while he was alive and kicking and not being sad that he won't be around to do that anymore is not exactly stooping to the level of picketing his funeral or telling the families of dead veterans that their lived on died because America loves fags.
posted by rtha at 10:57 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


I think there are meanings being read into what I wrote that I never intended.

I said I am staying away from hate, because wrestling with a pig and all that. Never said or implied that anger is inappropriate, wrong, or something I don't feel about his disgusting actions.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:01 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I hate the part of me that is taking pleasure in the idea of his death - especially since Phelps is just the public face of a much larger, insidious bigotry that is ultimately more destructive. Phelps was easy to identify, hate, and mock, but a good number of our government representatives share his sentiments about homosexuality, while still appearing "respectable." They can do far more to sway opinion and set policy than this clown ever could. Homophobes could make themselves look tolerant in comparison: "Well, I disagree with homosexuality, but I'm not that guy."
posted by bibliowench at 11:03 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Really, a computer virus that changed instances of Fred Phelps to 'notorious fart-sniffer Fred Phelps' would make the world a happier place. I shall certainly be doing it in my head.
posted by theora55 at 11:04 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I was going to post this as an FPP last week but decided against it. It goes well here though.

He Looked Hate in the Eye

A gay father, a dead son—and the bigoted church that judged them both wrong.

posted by chavenet at 11:06 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


fffm - i feel like maybe we're all just dancing around what we personally mean by hate and what our personal calculus is for how we deal with empathy, sympathy, and anger.
posted by nadawi at 11:09 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Phelps is not a cause of hatred and bigotry. He is a symptom.

His passing will be one less ignorant shithead in the world, but he is one of millions. Lots of work left to be done.
posted by delfin at 11:11 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


Really, a computer virus that changed instances of Fred Phelps to 'notorious fart-sniffer Fred Phelps' would make the world a happier place. I shall certainly be doing it in my head.

Especially if the world made his legacy more about farts than about homophobia, so then future generations would say, "Fred Phelps? Wasn't he that fart guy?"

It would be like Herostratic fame, except with googlebombing, and farts.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:13 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I said I am staying away from hate, because wrestling with a pig and all that. Never said or implied that anger is inappropriate, wrong, or something I don't feel about his disgusting actions.

Okay. Sorry I misread you - I didn't see anyone here expressing hate, so I didn't understand where/at whom that comment was aimed.
posted by rtha at 11:18 AM on March 16


That's a really powerful piece, chavenet, thanks. I didn't think Matt Snyder's father's lawsuit against Westboro for picketing his son's funeral had much of a chance of success, and think the Supreme Court made the right decision, but I had no idea Al Snyder was gay. The convolutions he and his partner went through to keep their sexuality out of court and out of the press are almost as heartbreaking as all of the other heartbreaking stuff in that story.
posted by mediareport at 11:25 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Phelps is not a cause of hatred and bigotry. He is a symptom.

His passing will be one less ignorant shithead in the world, but he is one of millions. Lots of work left to be done.


I agree, but I think it's important to be clear what Phelps is a symptom of.

The harm that he has done is, I suspect, largely by serving as a distraction. Phelps provides an opportunity to externalise homophobia, to say that it's a problem with the bad people who aren't like us. To some extent that's true, but if we focus too intently on Phelps and those who share his attitudes, there is a real potential for overlooking our own internalised and systemic prejudices.

Phelps is not just a symptom of what's wrong with the world's ignorant shitheads, he's also a symptom of what's wrong with the world, including what's wrong with me.
posted by howfar at 11:29 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


We're going to a better place.

One without him in it.
posted by tigrrrlily at 11:31 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Good. Fuck 'im.
posted by notsnot at 11:33 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


> I didn't see anyone here expressing hate

Wait, does that mean you don't read my comments?
posted by benito.strauss at 11:34 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


He may have starved himself to death after being kicked out. Son of Fred Phelps Sr. says father voted out of church
posted by Going To Maine at 11:35 AM on March 16


i keep coming back to the excommunication and how those who left the church are being kept from seeing fred. those two things seem at odds. if he were excommunicated, it makes sense to think that means shunned, but if he were shunned, those still involved wouldn't have the power to keep his kids and grandkids away. i wonder if the excommunication was more of a legal move, to keep him from being the head of the church as his health fails - but one would think if that were the case, it'd be publicized and more of a passing of the torch and less of an excommunication.
posted by nadawi at 11:35 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I honor the spirit of not speaking ill of the dead by refusing to speak well of the living.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:37 AM on March 16


ohh so a leadership coup. not shunned, but taken out of power. i don't buy for a second that there isn't someone who has assumed leadership, but i can see why they'd want to claim that.
posted by nadawi at 11:37 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


A life wasted, no full stop for him.
posted by arcticseal at 11:37 AM on March 16


From chavenet's link:

as the losing party in federal litigation, [Al Snyder] was now responsible for Westboro’s court costs, totaling nearly $16,500 for the appellate process alone. Westboro subsequently requested that Judge Bennett order Al to reimburse an additional $93,000 for the church’s original trial costs, an issue that is still not resolved. That Al was suddenly looking at debt in the tens of thousands of dollars again made his predicament national news. Among those who promised to come to Al’s financial aid was Bill O’Reilly, the conservative Fox News host, who offered to pay the entire amount Al owed. [Emphasis mine.]

Mind. Blown. But when even the KKK has staged counter protests against the WBC, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The WBC is so horrible it brings out the decent in people.
posted by orange swan at 11:51 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


This post has been left intentionally blank...
posted by Monkeymoo at 11:53 AM on March 16


I was so hoping we'd catch him in bed with a a male prostitute, a pygmy goat and some warm pudding first.

$250 worth?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


They should bury him in a closet, not a coffin.

But really, as so many others have suggested above, the best to be done here is forget him, let him vanish from our minds and exist no more. Let us direct our energies to the work that is still to be done instead.
posted by The Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas at 12:03 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


$250 worth?

If you think he's worth $10 more than Barry & Levon, I guess...
posted by Navelgazer at 12:10 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


Mind. Blown.

Well, it's not clear if Bill O'Reilly knew Matt Snyder had two gay dads. If so, and he still donated, then yeah: good for him. But remember, one of the worst things Phelps accomplished was making garden variety anti-equality voices (like so many at Fox News) seem reasonable in comparison by giving them something worse to point to and denounce, while at the same time regularly throwing red meat to anti-gay bigots in their audience.
posted by mediareport at 12:12 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I hope that hospice is giving him the best care possible... lovingly provided by a cadre of its best gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and otherwise queer professionals.
posted by Madamina at 12:14 PM on March 16 [7 favorites]


I actually remember reading somewhere (can't recall the quote) where even Jerry Fucking Fallwell expressed a disdain for Phelp's funeral picketing.
posted by jonmc at 12:17 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


In a weird sort of way, I think Phelps made the world much better in his time here.

His naked, unvarnished, ugly and open homophobia probably helped push a lot of heterosexual Americans to re-evaluate their position on gay rights and marriage equality, enough such people to give gay marriage the majority support it enjoys today. His brand of homophobia was so blatantly ugly, that I think it caused many heterosexual people to run away from their own prejudices in fear of feeling like they were like him and, in turn, thus de-legitimized the more mainstream homophobic efforts of the Republicans and conservative Christian groups.

WBC's hateful protests became mainstream around the time of the great wave of anti-marriage amendments and public opinion has changed dramatically in the decade following. Of course, not all the credit for this would go to Phelps but I think he inadvertently played a huge role.

If my theory is correct, then Phelps deserves an ironic eulogy when he finally passes. He hated people of color but he defended their rights and improved their lives immensely. He hated gay people but helped turn America into a more accepting place where open homophobia is something for only the old and ignorant.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:18 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]


!
posted by umberto at 12:24 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Phelps is not a cause of hatred and bigotry. He is a symptom.
He seems obviously both to me. It's not an either/or thing.
posted by Flunkie at 12:24 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I agree:

!
posted by five fresh fish at 12:31 PM on March 16


I can't read the phrase "almost dead" without thinking of the "bring out your dead" scene in Pyyhon's Holy Grail. One imagines Nate Phelps in the John Cleese role, Fred as the body and perhaps all of us in the Eric Idle part.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:31 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


The guy has relatives and family who aren't dead and who might deserve some small measure of compassion.

Yeah, that's absolutely classic concern-trolling. Because, what, if his grandchildren somehow didn't realize that he was a world-class bigot- that in fact his entire schtick was peddling hatred- it might hurt their feelings to find out now? Oh no!

Showing a little class is never wrong and is more likely to win converts to your way of thinking than all of the grave pissing.

Funny that you should say that, given Phelps entire MO, which was... basically precisely grave-pissing.

Funny how this advice only ever goes one way- to the hated, advising them to be polite to the haters, because otherwise... all the people who read this thread, who teeter on the edge of homophobia and intolerance, wanting only the tiniest show of politeness in order to land on the side of the angels, will decide "you know, if only those immoral and literally damned sodomites had shown some love to Fred Phelps, I would believe that God doesn't hate them"?

Fuck that lukewarm pietistic bullshit, and fuck Fred Phelps and the WBC.
posted by hap_hazard at 12:37 PM on March 16 [41 favorites]


Fred Phelps and the WBC were seen by almost everyone as monomaniacal and as crossing all bounds of taste and sense. Probably their influence on American politics was a wash--some homophobic conservatives may have been given pause and re-examined their positions, while others used the fringy wackiness of the WBC to paint their own anti-LGBT stances as reasonable. As always, what people perceived about Phelps and the WBC were filtered through their own belief systems.

I once had a very frustrating argument with a conservative vet, who was fired up with anger at "those unpatriotic liberals who have been protesting at funerals for servicemen, carrying signs, with no respect for the mourning families." I pointed out that the protests he was complaining about were organized by the WBC and why, but he could not accept that a church group or people on the political right would do such a thing, and was convinced that I was misinformed or duped or some weird conspiracy theorist.

Fred Phelps' death isn't going to change anything, I'm afraid. If only we lived in a world where LGBT advocates had some cartoon arch-nemesis whose defeat would actually secure liberty and justice for all. . . It would make things a lot easier.
posted by DrMew at 12:37 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


There have been some who speculated the excommunication was a cynical legal move to absolve the Church of having to cover the cost of his medical bills which can be quite expensive for end of life treatment.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:47 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


The WBC has always struck me as the fullest expression of the "race for the bottom" approach to fame and notoriety. Just as in the punditocracy, where if you've no hope of achieving prominence on merit you do it by appealing to the worst in people (Coulter, Limbaugh and about four-fifths of Fox) and saying the things no one else will sink to. If you haven't got it in you to be king of anything worthwhile, you can still be king of the shitbags.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:59 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Sort of? It's worth bearing in mind that folks like Rush Limbaugh are very popular, while the WBC has always had an extremely small membership.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:05 PM on March 16


It's unfortunate that his death won't stop the hate-machine he founded.

That's really all I think about this. His dying doesn't affect me one way or the other; he's not worth hating enough to rejoice over.* It's just unfortunate that WBC won't stop when he does.

*Rejoicing does not mean "refusing to find enjoyment at appalling Fred Phelps jokes" so bring 'em.
posted by cmyk at 1:07 PM on March 16


Every now and then, O'Reilly does something that makes you think that somewhere under all that bluster there's a human being trying on occasion to connect. The Al Snyder thing is one more example. His hatred for Limbaugh and Hannity, friendship with Colbert and Stewart are other positives. FSM knows there's a hundred negatives for every positive and I'll never call him a stand-up guy but now and then he does something that makes me think he's got a sliver of humanity. Unlike say...Fred Phelps.

At times like this I am reminded again of the words attributed to the legendary demon Bette Davis that I have been saving for Phelps and Dick Cheney. "I was taught to speak only good of the dead. Joan Crawford is dead. Good!"
posted by Ber at 1:20 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Okay, now this is funny.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:08 PM on March 16 [16 favorites]


This one has some lovely meta-levels.
posted by tzikeh at 2:18 PM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Good for him
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:32 PM on March 16


!
posted by runincircles at 2:42 PM on March 16


"The... *wheezes* ...the Aristocrats!"

#FredPhelpsLastWords


Ok, now *I'm* dying.

For maximum effect, imagine it with Phelps doing The Aristocrats Snap.
posted by mediareport at 2:43 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


It's unfortunate that his death won't stop the hate-machine he founded.

That's really all I think about this. His dying doesn't affect me one way or the other; he's not worth hating enough to rejoice over.* It's just unfortunate that WBC won't stop when he does.


I wonder if they can maintain all that toxic energy and vitriol without him at the center. I'd be very happy to see some retrospective article ten years from now about their decline, for example.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:51 PM on March 16


And I really can't decide between one heck of a humongeous picket line at his funeral, all bearing placards with things like "God loves even you, Fred!" or "Only the good die young: good riddance to Fred Phelps",

This is truly one of those "What would Jesus do?" moments.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:59 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Most everything I know about Phelps and his church I know from two excellent TV documentaries by Louis Theroux:

The Most Hated Family in America

America's Most Hated Family in Crisis

It's clear to me from watching those docs that the death of Phelps will likely not be the end of his "church," as most of the heavy lifting is done by his eldest daughter and the church spokesperson quoted in one of the articles linked to above, both of whom are clearly filled with enough hate to continue to mobilize the rest of Phelps' followers. I don't doubt that their hateful little group will continue to show up here and there to "protest" and deliver their message.

Regarding Phelps' excommunication, while the legal reasons other's have suggested seem the most plausible (and Phelps' own long delayed coming out would be the most entertaining), I can't help but wonder if it has something to do with his ill health. In both of Louis Theroux's reports on the Phelps clan there is a recurring theme among church members that misfortune of any kind (especially illness – AIDS being, in their minds, god's punishment for homosexuality) is a symptom of spiritual shortcomings.

I know, the idea that signs of mortality might be grounds for excommunication sounds pretty irrational, but these people are anything but rational. Keep in mind that their mission has nothing to do with conversion or putting an end to homosexuality. They don't actively recruit new members (except through procreation), and they're not trying to "save" anyone.

They honestly think – and this is, to me, the height of their irrationality – that the members of their flock who remain faithful to Phelps' teachings are the ONLY people in history who are going to heaven. Al; sorts of religious ideas can seem incredible, but that's fucking BONKERS. What sort of person would you have to be to believe that only you and the less than fifty people you know are the only chosen people, not just alive on earth today but throughout history. It's completely delusional. I don't think it's beyond reason that they could have envisioned some sort of immortality for Phelps.
posted by eric1halfb at 3:06 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


You can thank Apple for his excommunication. Apparently, fags autocorrects to Freds.
posted by dr_dank at 3:26 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


This is truly one of those "What would Jesus do?" moments.

I think a truly honest appraisal of what Jesus would do in this situation is exactly what this situation needs.

I'm no Christian, and I'm not sure how much I believe in the power or utility of forgiveness (it's something I flipflop on a lot; a foolish consistency etc). But from what I know of him, I'm guessing JC's response would basically be "You are a useless shitheel who has done nothing but abuse enormous numbers of people, using My name to justify your hatred. That was wrong, and you need to understand how wrong it was. But I will still give you a hug, because no matter how venial and immoral your life's behaviours have been, you are still a human being."

Or I just think the world needs a lot more hugs.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:36 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]


Remembering that everyone is endlessly able to rationalize and justify their actions, I feel for the guy - what he saw from within his head must have been uniformly horrible. I'm glad he won't be hurting anyone else, and I hope the hurts he has already caused begin to heal better.
posted by Mooski at 3:53 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


The guy has relatives and family who aren't dead and who might deserve some small measure of compassion.

I might agree if they all were not also hateful bigots themselves (with a couple of rare exceptions).

But as it is, fuck him, and fuck them. They are terrible people, and deserve nothing but condemnation.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:59 PM on March 16


Yeah, I really can't work up the energy to be very sad about this, or to feel bad that I'm just a wee bit gleeful to see the WBC in all likelihood to eat itself in the aftermath.
posted by dogheart at 4:04 PM on March 16


It's ironic, since the WBC teaches that only its members can be saved, the excommunication of Fred Phelps damns him for eternity?

As far as WWJD, Jesus (in my reading) held religious leaders, those who would tell others how to live their lives, to a much higher standard than the commoner.
posted by coldhotel at 4:18 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


It is not tasteless or rude or uncivil or crass to speak ill of the dead.

In general, it is crass and uncivil to speak crassly and uncivilly of the dead. That doesn't mean you have to say only positive things about the dead. You can be critical while being respectful. The fact that you passionately disagree with someone's political views shouldn't ordinarily be enough of a reason to be disrespectful about the person's death. The person might have been absolutely wrong on some issues, but they're still a human being.

But none of that matters in the case of Phelps, who's been effectively begging for all the disrespect that will be heaped on him when he dies. I only wish there were an afterlife so he could get what he deserves for all the evil bigotry and just plain stupidity that he devoted his life to spreading.
posted by John Cohen at 4:29 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


because no matter how venial and immoral your life's behaviours have been, you are still a human being."

So fucking what? There's seven billion human beings, we're well past the point that I've got to accord the vilest among us some worth just be virtue of breathing. He dedicated his life to harming others, I'm glad he can't do that anymore, and making a big display of "forgiving" assholes who show no more remorse is just posturing. Carrying on about how you won't speak ill of the dead isn't empathy, it's bragging about one's good breeding.
posted by spaltavian at 5:07 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]


It'd be awesome if people would choose to treat Fred Phelps and his family graciously during this time. What a fitting repudiation of his message.
posted by BurntHombre at 5:11 PM on March 16


*
posted by bigbigdog at 5:13 PM on March 16


And I realize in my last comment I quoted someone who was essentially paraphrasing Jesus; but my point stands: no one in history bragged about their breeding more than Jesus.
posted by spaltavian at 5:15 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Compared to the cruelty of the Roman occupiers, the WBC ain't nothing.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:31 PM on March 16


What have the Phelpses ever given us?
posted by ColdChef at 5:38 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


Eh. Jesus wasn't exactly friendly towards the overtly sanctimonious, and if not embracing someone who wants the world to burn in hell makes me less than the Son of God, I'll just have to live with it.

He and his family provide someone even other bigots can point to and say 'At least I'm not as bad as them.' Other than that, they have spent decades trying to force hatred onto times of grieving and love. He is an empirically bad person. The tragedy will only be if he never realises exactly how completely, utterly wrong he was.

And surely if you can forgive him for his spite, anger and hatred, you can do the same for me and all the others who feel that way towards him and his ilk. Otherwise I'd wonder why you only reserve forgiveness for the worst of us.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:50 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


When I read the report that he'd been excommunicated from his own church, it made me wonder if he fell off a mule while riding to Damascus or something.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:21 PM on March 16


Well, I guess haters gonna hate haters.
posted by swift at 6:26 PM on March 16


George Takei: "I take no solace or joy in this man's passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding 'God Hates Fred' signs, tempting as it may be. He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end."
posted by scody at 6:30 PM on March 16 [22 favorites]


Interesting perspective on Phelps from historian Brent Sirota:

After LGBT people, Fred Phelps seems to train most of his ire on Arminianism.

Phelps seemed to instinctively understand affinity between Arminianism and liberalism. Still, Synod of Dort-level animus unusual in 21st c.

Phelps called Billy Graham "a lying, money grubbing Arminian heretic." Said Falwell "sold his soul to Free-Willism (Arminianism) for lucre"


Granted, it's probably easier to explain Phelps' conduct by some kind of emotional or psychological damage, but throwing in a good helping of hyper-Calvinism didn't help matters. Bad theologies hinder good people, and make bad people worse.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:46 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


coldhotel: "It's ironic, since the WBC teaches that only its members can be saved, the excommunication of Fred Phelps damns him for eternity? "

Man that is going to be an awfully lonely place.

spaltavian: "no one in history bragged about their breeding more than Jesus."

This seems unlikely; lots of dictators and emperors have made either the same claim or the claim to actually be god and they were a lot more, uh, vigorous in promoting that claim. Any bible scholars want to chime in on how often Jesus made a big thing about his god father?
posted by Mitheral at 6:52 PM on March 16


Your expressing “hatred” for Fred Phelps at the time of his death is no more a sign of failure for you than it is a sign of victory for Phelps. Nor is your expressing “forgiveness” for Phelps a sign of his defeat or of your victory (especially if what you really want is “victory” over him and his ilk). Fred Phelps dedicated his life (and the lives of his offspring) to spreading hatred for people he never met and knew nothing about. On the other hand, anyone who has come to know of his vitriolic “ministry” knew Phelps well enough to be able to say “good riddance” without having to feel the least bit guilty about it.

It’s laudable to want to nurture your higher self, but denying your lower self (especially as a substitute for genuine virtue) can lead to the sort of campaigns of self-righteous hatred for which Phelps is most famous.
posted by eric1halfb at 7:03 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Will someone mess with funeral? They shouldn't even dare to hold a funeral for him.
posted by knoyers at 7:15 PM on March 16


And surely if you can forgive him for his spite, anger and hatred, you can do the same for me and all the others who feel that way towards him and his ilk.

No one's talking about forgiving him, they're only talking about maybe dialing back the "let's all line up and piss on his grave" jokes and taking the high road by maybe frowning, muttering "well, that was a wasted life" or something, and leaving it at that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


My rotting compost is much more worthy of praise than this rotting man.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:22 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


You take the high road and I'll take the low road...

Forgiving and forgiveness have been explicitly as well as implicitly mentioned. It is my firm belief that some people deserve more than a tsking of my tongue. Fred Phelps falls in that category by almost any metric you could name.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:30 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Forgiving and forgiveness have been explicitly as well as implicitly mentioned.

Yeah, but I think it's the "yeah, he was a spode, but let's just let it be" kind of forgiveness rather than the "he deserves our pity and love because he was human and surely repented so aw, it's okay" kind of forgiveness.

Mind, I've got no opinion in the matter and totally understand those who are wanting to go all ragegrar; I just spotted what looks like a confusion about the definition of "forgiveness" at play here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:43 PM on March 16


No great loss. Not worth the effort to piss on his grave.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:46 PM on March 16


If he never attoned, then I don't know if wants or requires forgiveness, let alone from - us? God?

I'm about out of cheeks to turn towards people like him. Those of you who aren't, good for you if it works for you.
posted by rtha at 7:47 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


"Fred Phelps, I'll see you soon. Kidding! I won't be seeing you."
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:39 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


"I take no solace or joy in this man's passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding 'God Hates Fred' signs, tempting as it may be. He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end."

So does love, though. Everything goes to its lonely, dusty end. Go to yours forgiving Fred Phelps in your heart, or flipping him the bird, as you prefer. I'm leaning towards the bird, myself, but if it cost a buck to do it I would probably dig around in my pocket for a minute and then get distracted by something else. And that's how I prefer to remember him, come to think of it: as not even worth incurring a small flipping-someone-off fee.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:40 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]


Dale Carrico
Millions plan to stage mass "Skip It" demonstration of Phelps funeral as prelude to erecting permanent "Forget It" monument to his life.
posted by hap_hazard at 9:36 PM on March 16


You know, i really want someone to try and salesman at me on the whole "never give them any attention ever, that's what they want" thing because i never bought it. It sounds really nice, but i just don't get it and it seems to be one of those things that as claire on six feet under said, "sounds really cool, but what does it even actually mean?".

Because what they never wanted was attention, they wanted a positive reaction and reciprocation and agreement. Pointing at them and going "lol fucking dumbasses" is the opposite of what they could ever want. Yea, they made a business out of harassing people who tried to shut them up but that doesn't really tie back into that at all.

I was always on the side of give them constant attention so everyone can see how fucking awful they are.

And i fail to see how protesting their funeral and "turning the tables" or whatever is somehow not fair game, or giving them what they want, or whatever.

That said, i know multiple people who were organizing an actual dance party on his grave if and when it happened. Like with speakers and strobe lights and everything. I feel like the place is going to need 24/7 armed guards.
posted by emptythought at 11:46 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


You don't understand the concept of "even bad publicity is still publicity"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Fred Phelps is still dead.
posted by bad grammar at 2:34 AM on March 17


A sensible possibility: "So here, instead, is something else to think about. Another option — a different choice of direction leading to much better habits. Much better, I think, to spend our time thinking about Fred Rogers than to spend another moment thinking about Fred Phelps."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:54 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Because what they never wanted was attention, they wanted a positive reaction and reciprocation and agreement.

the people who have left the wbc and written articles and books and have spoken about their experiences disagree with you about that. they say that the church was looking for the hate - that the madder people got the more sure the members were that they were on the right path.
posted by nadawi at 5:16 AM on March 17


Because what they never wanted was attention, they wanted a positive reaction and reciprocation and agreement.
If that's what they wanted, then their behavior would make no sense. They deliberately seek out targets who seem totally sympathetic and who are unconnected to the cause they're harping about. There is literally nobody outside of their group who thinks that a reasonable way to protest the acceptance of gay people is to torment the parents of the kids who were murdered at Sandy Hook. It's behavior that is designed to seem unhinged even to other homophobic extremists. I think that their goal is to create a clear distinction between the tiny number of spiritually-pure elect people and everyone else, not to convert anyone.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:00 AM on March 17


I don't really care what the WBC wants for themselves, and I don't really see why it should be taken into account. What should be taken into account is what's good for essentially everybody but the WBC.

Perhaps "what's good for essentially everybody but the WBC" is "ignore them" or "be compassionate towards them" or "don't yell at them", but the idea that we should ignore them because they don't want to be ignored, or that we should be compassionate towards them because they want us to not be compassionate towards them, or that we shouldn't yell at them because they want us to yell at them seems... well, who cares what they want?

In any case, for what it's worth, this is how I personally think the WBC should be dealt with.
posted by Flunkie at 6:14 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


They need "born to be alive" dance-a-thon on his grave.
posted by stormpooper at 7:20 AM on March 17


FWIW, what they wanted -- at least for the past several years -- is nothing more than for them to successfully provoke someone to violence so that they could then sue them and gain enough filthy lucre to continue running their "church" of professional trolls. They may have successfully convinced themselves that they have some sort of wrath of righteousness behind their actions, but I doubt it.
posted by KathrynT at 8:30 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "Do not dignify his passing with any word at all, or any acknowledgement or notice. He sought our attention; let us give no further to his passing. I'd even go so far as to bury him in an unmarked grave in a potter's field."

The term of art here is damnatio memoriae.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:57 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


You don't understand the concept of "even bad publicity is still publicity"?

I perfectly understand this conept, and still don't see how it's "letting them win" in this context by giving it to them. Every single person i've ever met who saw anything by them went "Eww, fucking gross". And i absolutely agree with the argument above that all the publicity they got was actually helpful in painting homophobes as not just bigots or maybe vehemently religious people or whatever, but actually loony toons wackjobs totally off the end of the spectrum of normalcy that no one should take seriously.

They made being anti gay so uncool that even most bigots didn't want to be associated with that brand, and every bit of attention they got hammered even more nails into that coffin.

It just really seems,to me, like some sort of really basic "don't feed the troll/attention whore, that's what they want" logic without any thought put into it.
posted by emptythought at 4:29 PM on March 17


AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Sorry, folks. No protest you can think of will ever top what the WBC is actually about to do.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:15 PM on March 17


Wait, nevermind, that's not real. The paper got hornswoggled by a spoof account.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:18 PM on March 17


Wait, nevermind, that's not real. The paper got hornswoggled by a spoof account.

A pity. That would have been hilarious. Think of the signs.

GOD HATES FAGS FREDS.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:39 PM on March 17


Elders excommunicate Phelps after power struggle, call for kindness within church

"Hey, guys...we've been assholes for so long, and I'm finally dying, so you think we could start being nice?"

"SCORN THE UNBELIEVER."

"But it's my church! I started it!"

"THAT'S JUST WHAT AN UNBELIEVER WOULD SAY TO AVOID A SMITING."

You create a monster, you shouldn't be surprised when it turns on you. Damnatio memoriae, motherfucker.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:56 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


i don't buy for a second that there isn't someone who has assumed leadership, but i can see why they'd want to claim that.

This council is from my understanding made up of men, so I think the elder daughter has also been nudged away a bit.

Always thought that Mr. Drain would take over - he chose to come and join, unlike the family, and he was running everything from making the signs to doing the video and website.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:16 AM on March 19


And now he's dead.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:01 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]


And he's dead.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:01 AM on March 20


Paging dw to the thread to direct traffic...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on March 20


The Washington Post blog had a fairly good commentary, but had a very succinct and moderate-yet-still-on-point reaction:

"He is dead. May the rest of us live in peace."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:08 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


As a person who believes in universal compassion, I am really scraping the barrel here. About the best I've come up with is a fervent prayer that the fire tornado of miserable hatred he blew forth will flicker out along with him, and that the peace of the grave will spread through the rest of his so-called "church."
posted by KathrynT at 9:11 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Now he knows that he is wrong and I was right re: God hating fags and that's the only joy I'm allowing myself from his passing.

(Yes, the air up here on the smug high road is delightful; thanks for asking.)

My earlier thoughts on Phelps are what I will offer again as a eulogy:

A long time ago, I realized that the Phelps clan was probably going to do more for the acceptance of gay people in America than I ever would. College activist Mike, who thought the most bigotry he'd ever personally encounter was the church who led the charge against adding sexual orientation to the town's non-discrimination policy, would have laughed at that notion. But Older Mike, who saw that same church lead the counterprotest when the Phelpses came to town to protest a military funeral, just has to laugh at the WBC.

When your "soft bigotry" means you have to line up along side real assholes, I think it forces you to examine your beliefs. And like it or not, counterprotests make people realize that the homophobic side isn't the only side, the largest side, or even the loudest side. And unfortunately, that's still a message that needs to get out there at every opportunity.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:19 AM on March 20


...'Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down...
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:08 AM on March 20


Now he knows that he is wrong and I was right

He doesn't know anything; he doesn't exist anymore.
posted by aught at 10:15 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]


New thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:37 AM on March 20


[Here's the corrected link for Ironmouth's perhaps overstated "desegregating the schools of Topeka" link above (I'm not sure it's overstated, just uncertain how essential Phelps' contribution was to Topeka's desegregation, given the report from his son that Phelps was simultaneously calling black people "dumb niggers" at home.)]

That would jibe with the faxes of racial hate coming from the church to news outlets. As I said earlier, a confusing man. Did some good, a whole lot of bad, and probably caused some good to come out of his bad by being sooo bad.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:30 PM on March 20


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