Fred Phelps is dead, and I am sad.

Fred Phelps is dead.

The news is running across my Twitter and Facebook pages as I avoid the mound of grading on my desk and my students try to hide the fact that they are watching NCAA bastketball tournamnet on their phones under their desks. (They are terrible at whispering, apparently OSU is currently loosing.

Fred Phelps is dead.

I am surprised at the sadness I am feeling. I am surprised at the idea that I could be sad that a man who has spread so much hate and anger, has finally gone to meet his maker. But I am, I am sad that Fred Phelps is dead.

I hush my students and re-direct them to their grammar quizzes. I wonder about this sadness I am feeling. Am I really sad that the man who came up with picketing funerals is now starring in his own? I am. I am sad.

I am sad because I secretly hoped that one day Fred Phelps would come around. It sounds naieve and stupid I know. But I did. I thought perhaps there would be a major press conference and Fred Phelps would announce that he was wrong, and he was sorry. What can I say, I long for redemption.

I long for redemption. It is hard and it is messy and it is so breathtakingly beautiful. I guess I was secretly hoping for a figure known for spewing hate to become a man who was marked by love. What can I say? I’m a dreamer.

And I am sad because I can’t help but look at the life of Fred Phelps and wonder what could have been, with a man as passionate and charismatic as him could have done if he was willing to hold his beliefs a little looser, and his love a little tighter. When I reflect on the public life of Fred Phelps I see just a tiny bit of myself. I am not saying the man was right, or that I ever believed what he proffessed. But I understand the road he traveled and I have more than once taken a few steps down it because I thought it was the right thing to do. 

 I see the relationships I ruined, or the people I hurt because I was absolutely sure I was right. I see the black and white of my teenage years. I see the picture of Jesus I had in the black and white days. The way I knew and the way I did not need to consult Him very often about that knowing.

I don’t pretend to know what happened after Fred Phelps took his last breath. But I am still longing for healing, for redemption. I hope that one day I will see a man who longs to right what he made wrong. I hope even Fred Phelps is not beyond the reaches of mercy, that he will one day fully embody God’s love.

I suppose I hope that I one day, people say that about me too.

5 thoughts on “Fred Phelps is dead, and I am sad.

  1. Hey Abby, your links from the email are bad. And I can’t work up any sadness over Fred Phelps.



  2. Redemption is one of the sweetest rewards for aging– if you are willing to wait for it, redemption does come- often in the most surprising ways you could never even guess. Redemption is one of Life’s delicious little ironies. Fred Phelps and the court’s ruling are another.

  3. I had to think about this for a few hours. It is rather a John Donne moment, because we’re all in need of redemption.

    That said, what Phelps did, in terms of adding a burden of sorrow to that of those families who’d lost a loved one, was inexcusable under any circumstances. I hope, but doubt, that his death will mark the end of Westboro’s activities.

    I can’t say I wish he had lived a moment longer, but I do hope that in his last second of life he was able to square his sins with the Big Fella. I hope that for everyone.

    Good,brave post, Abby. I salute you.

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