Just read, as you probably have, that Fred Phelps is very near death. His family is at odds, and there is word that even Fred himself was excommunicated from his own “church” a few months ago. He is hovering on the brink of eternity and the church he founded will likely pass into the hands of one of his progeny, perhaps his daughter. Fred will be gone soon.
I don’t know how I should feel about this.
How am I supposed to feel when Saddam is hanged or bin Laden takes a bullet? When great evil passes from this world there is a natural sigh of relief, a sense that the world is a better place. And the world would be a better place without the Westboro Cult (I’ve joined Marty Duren’s suggestion that we NOT call them either Baptist or a church – they are neither). I hope that the cult falls apart when its leader is gone and that it is no longer able to do evil.
But ought Christians ever rejoice when a lost man (it is hard to see Fred Phelps as a brother in Christ – that judgment is not mine) dies? There is a dysfunctional family, a lot of grief and pain, and even more bad publicity for the church – since there are always those who try to tie us to his cult. We are told to LOVE our enemies (as a Baptist preacher, I certainly consider him an enemy) and return good for evil. It is hard to believe that gloating over his death would fit into those parameters.
So, I feel conflicted. Honestly, a part of me is relieved that he will no longer be here and that the evil he has done will soon pass away. Another part of me believes that a follower of Jesus ought not to see the passing of an evil man as a good thing.
So, I guess right now all I can do is leave Fred Phelps in the hands of a just God, pray that his evil will come to nothing, that his family will find healing from the lies he taught them and the bitterness he instilled in them and keep wondering how I should feel in times like this.