By Alan Bean
Fred Phelps is dead and there is no one to mourn his passing. In the end, poor Fred was abandoned even by the cult his hate built.
One is tempted to see Fred Phelps as an extreme expression of the evangelical impulse. Don’t most prominent evangelicals hate homosexuals just as much as Fred does? Doesn’t the evangelical tribe condemn America for tolerating the sin of Sodom?
Perhaps, but there is a difference. Pastor Fred learned in the early 1990s that condemning America for being soft on sin was getting him nowhere. By spelling out things out in the most graphic and objectionable fashion Fred and family gained the attention of the world. Westboro Baptist was the Church the world loved to hate, and that was fine with Fred so long as he got his headlines. For the next quarter century, Fred and company made hate their private cottage industry by transforming gross, pornographic insensitivity into an art form.
Theologically, Phelps was an old school, Jonathan Edwards Calvinist. Read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and you’ve got Fred’s theology.