Today the first day of spring, International Day of Happiness, and the day of Fred Phelps’ death.
What a strange thing to say you might think. Well, if you didn’t know Rev. Phelps let me tell you a little story. Rev. Phelps and his family for the past few years have been protesting American soldier’s funerals and the funerals of many others.
This came from the idea the GOD hates all gay people. If the government allows gay people to be in the military then its Gods will that soldiers die. How do I know this, because it was yelled by the Phelps and they carried big signs that said exactly that. He and his family would arrive at the graveyard and would protest as the funeral procession would arrive.
I first met the Phelps in 2001 as an Episcopal priest, while presiding over my very first funeral. We set up around the grave on a wonderful spring afternoon. The Family of a 19 year old hemophiliac, who had died of AIDS contracted through blood transfusions, was being laid to rest. Then a cold booming sound from a loudspeaker yelled, “He is going to hell, he got what he deserved, all fags will burn, God hates all fags” and so on. We all froze in place. I couldn’t say a thing, I was so shocked by what was going on. So, I started to sing, I sing a song of the saints of God. That was the first thing that came to my mind. A song I was taught in Sunday school. The family tried to sing with me but they, the Phelps were just so loud. It was like a cold shower, upsetting, shocking. When I finished the service and walked over to the protesters and asked why. I was insulted, filmed by one of the Phelps so to use it in court if I tried to stop them. I was so surprised by the hatred that I received it took me years to get past that first meeting of the Westboro church members showing up at funerals. For years I would look around for the protesters each time I was conducting a graveside service.
Today as we celebrate the first day of spring, which is making all things new. I hope and pray for a man who yelled so much hate and that with his death also comes the death of the hate that surrounded him. Perhaps on this day of happiness and rebirth not only can the hate Fred Phelps held in his heart be laid to rest, but that of his church as well. Still more though, I hope that with his passing those who are on the opposite side can let go of the hate for him and not rejoice in his death, but rejoice in the hope for a different future.
Submitted by: Sam A. Mason
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