Fred Phelps, leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, has died, according to son Timothy Phelps, who confirmed his father passed away before midnight on Wednesday. Another son, Nate Phelps, who had long been estranged from his father, said he'd been excommunicated from the church last year. There will be no funeral.
We all know what this man was about, so there's no need to sugarcoat it: Fred Phelps and company did abhorrent, horrible things--attacking the families of dead soldiers, making one of the most painful moments of their lives even worse--and spewed nothing but bigotry. In my opinion, Phelps wasted much if not all of his existence on Earth creating chaos and division, clinging to the sad, self-righteous belief he was doing the world a favor by throwing up the bile he and his twisted flock called "the truth."
However, the ironic/perverse silver lining to his despicable antics could be the fact they forced so many who may have been unsure or on the fence to confront their own feelings about homosexuality--or religion for that matter. And judging from the way the culture continues to shift to a more welcoming atmosphere for LGBT folks, it's pretty clear many fell to our side. Or at the very least, made those who have a "love the sinner, hate the sin" attitude, insipid as it is, pause for a minute, and if not necessarily change their beliefs, tone their rhetoric down. Social pressure is a helluva drug, and being hit with a face full of hate, made many people, Christian or not, recoil and examine themselves, if only for the desire to "not be like that guy."
Though I don't believe in heaven, hell, god's judgment or mercy and all that jazz, I still feel uncomfortable celebrating or cheering another human being's death. But I ain't shedding any tears either.