Thursday, March 20, 2014


I'm reading more about Fred Phelps than I ever expected to.  In the last week, I've learned he was a civil rights lawyer, he was excommunicated from his hate-group/church, he was dying, and now he's dead.  Most of what I've been reading boils down to this: "What do we do now that he's dead?"

What do you do?

I find this line of thought bizarre.  I understand that it is well meaning, rooted in the idea that because he was so visible, so loud, so religiously poisonous, we all have to do something visible, loud and anti-dotal in the wake of his passing.  I get that. But still, the question, "What should our response be?" It is...irritating.  When did we become so reductive?

A person's death is not like a Moral New Year's Eve, a grandiose occasion to contemplate life changes, life choices, life directions.  The death of another human being - whether they be evil, middling or saintly - is not about YOU.  The passing of Phelps is not a silver-lining to your day or even an occasion for macabre celebration.  

What do you do?

Did you know him and love him?  (It's possible).  Then mourn.  Did you know him and hate him?  (more likely).  Then rejoice in your freedom from him.  Are you like the majority of us, only aware of him because of news stories and internet memes and walking through picket lines?  Then let him be dead.

That's it guys.  Let him be dead.  

He was a person.  He wasn't a catalyst in OUR stories, a prop in OUR stage plays of life.  He existed separately from all of us and to reduce him to a motivator in our life decisions is a little bit creepy.

He didn't live and die so you could care about LGBTQ equality - hopefully that already was apparent.  He didn't live and die so you could have a more nuanced understanding of scripture and faith - theoretically you should have cared about that without him.  He didn't live and die so he could be the linchpin upon which your life turned - other people aren't tools for us to use for personal betterment.

What do you do?

Why do we "need" his death in the first place? Why can't we be loud, visibly and compassionate without someone coming before us being loud, visible and evil? Why can't we be merciful, kind, inclusive and gracious to START with?  

What do you do?

Let the dead be dead.  

And carry on with the work that you should have already been doing (maybe the work you ARE already doing).  Loving your neighbor.  Laying down your life for your brothers.  Loving your enemies.  Praying for those who persecute you.  Sharing all things in common.  Giving to everyone who begs from you.  You know - Jesus stuff.

What do you do?

Why are we just asking that NOW?

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