On Hating a Hater

By now you’ve likely heard that Fred Phelps, famous for his Westboro Baptist Church affiliation and “God Hates Fags” doctrine, is reportedly “on the edge of death”.  This really isn’t news, for the man’s 84 years old, an age when many elderly citizens battle deadly health afflictions.  Except it is news.  And good news at that (for many Americans and world citizens).

Visit any media outlet covering the story online, and you’ll find a host of comments advocating ill will toward Phelps, including:

We should protest at his funeral.

I hope he enjoys hell..

Goodbye! The devil is waiting for you, you piece of crap.

Please die soon, but painfully, Fred. May that be a little retribution for your hatred. Then, if there really is a god if (sic) your belief, may you burn in hell for eternity. Because I’m sure he hates you too. And then your legacy will be as an asshole.

I plan to drive up right after the funeral and urinate on his grave, if the line isn’t too long.

What’s surprising, however, are not the comments calling for hatred of a man so full of hate himself, but rather the comments soliciting compassion and love for him:

For us to hate him damages not him, but ourselves. Let that hate dissappear (sic) from the world. It’s done enough damage…to the people that were hurt by his family, but also to the children born in that family that were taught to hate so young.

We need to be better than the hate mongers… “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you” I pray he lets go of hate and pride in the face of death and repents of the sin of causing persecution and pain.

Wishing this man to die or advertising it is no better than the bigotry and hate he preached. Only love can conquer hate. How can we unharden hearts and enlighten minds when we wish or promote this mans death instead of bringing reason and love to the picture? When we realize this, when love occupies our minds and hearts only then will the Occupy movement mean something and perhaps make the significant change it’s long been trying to do.

If anyone pickets his funeral they should hold up signs saying “We pray for your forgiveness” and “May God forgive your hatefulness toward His children”

I’d like to say I belong in the second camp of commenters there — that within my heart lies forgiveness and light for this man.  To say I do would mean to declare a clean soul and conscience.  To say I do would mean I stand as a role model for my children and my students.

But if we’re being honest (and I believe honesty is the best and easiest policy), I don’t.  I am not made of the same fabric as the righteous.  I do not deserve to stand beside them.

Certainly I try to remember that for every terrible thing a person does, there must be great pain and suffering behind it.  For every transgression against one’s neighbor and every evil deed one contributes to the world, there is a host of torment and misery bubbling in the depths of one’s broken soul.  Remembering this breeds understanding and tolerance and contributes to humanity as we know it.

It only stands to reason, then, that Phelps must have endured a lifetime of agony to have been capable of such rancor.  What ailed him we may never know, but we should trust that it was deep and searing and unbearable.

And yet forgiveness?  It just seems so difficult — so impossible — for the likes of him.  Why should he reap the benefits of forgiveness?  What about the families he’s maligned and tortured?  What about the people upon whom he has wrought agony and defeat?  What about the good people of the world — the numbers of whom seem astronomical — he has reviled?  WHAT ABOUT THEM?

In the forefront of my mind I wish nothing but the worst for this man.  If there is a Hell, I hope he burns in it.  If we can see ourselves from the afterlife, I hope he quivers at the sight of people picketing his funeral in the same abhorrent fashion he and his followers pioneered.  If repentance is offered, I hope it takes him infinite lifetimes to atone for his sins.

I hope he hurts.

I hope he suffers.

I hope death is slow and cantankerous and that he is conscious of it until the end.

In the deep-seated recesses of my heart, I know I should hope whatever haunts him ceases.  I know I should hope he is quick to lament his misdeeds and immoral judgements.  I know I should hope he finds peace.

I know I should forgive.

Somewhere in the roots of my soul, I suppose I already do.  We all do.  And in time, I suppose we’ll be able to dig deep enough to discover it.

Photo Credit: BK on flickr
Photo Credit: BK on flickr