Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, just died yesterday and social media has blown up, as it tends to do with news like this. There’s talk of long-awaited peace, jokes about Phelps’s eternal fate, and plans to picket his funeral. So in the wake of a million other opinions in the forms of blogs, tweets, and Facebook updates, this is the last thing I’ll write about WBC. And you’ll find out why.
If you’re not familiar with WBC, you will be very quickly after a Google search. Just search images and you’ll find tons of pictures of those “GOD HATES FAGS” signs that I’m sure you’ve already seen on the news many times. So it’s no surprise that the death of the church’s founder is a reason for many to rejoice. There are families of soldiers who have had to endure their picketing at funerals, homosexuals who have had to listen to more messages of plain intolerance, and Christians who have felt very misrepresented by their hopeless rhetoric.
But there is practically no one besides WBC that agrees with WBC. Almost everyone would look at that group and say they are radical, disgusting, and wrong. They receive backlash no matter where they go. People are angry at them, and rightly so. So how do we stop a group like them? Do we hold up signs that say “WE HATE WBC”? Do we picket against them responding that “GOD LOVES EVERYONE”?
So you really wanna stick it to Fred Phelps? I propose the best protest against WBC is to do absolutely nothing. Don’t picket their picketing, don’t argue with them, and especially do not give them media coverage. They thrive on the attention, positive or negative. If they see a huge group of people coming out to protest against them, they must be thinking about how awesome it is how many people came just because of them. They’re practically celebrities. So let’s turn things around and not give them the time of day.
I know that’s easy for me to say considering I haven’t been personally affected by the group. I’m not saying that people who argue with WBC aren’t fully justified and I completely understand those who lash out at them. If someone disrespected my loved one’s funeral, I would probably react the same way. But let’s not react. Let’s take a breather, respond, and be the bigger man. If a child is crying, you don’t get them to stop by screaming at them. Don’t feed the troll. Don’t indulge the attention seeker.
In all honesty, this talk of picketing Fred Phelps’s funeral terrifies me. Protests at that funeral are exactly what they’re expecting, I’m sure. If WBC’s goal was to get attention, they’re succeeding. If it’s to spread hate, then they’re definitely succeeding. The truth is that we are just as worthy of love as WBC is. Their message is that nobody is capable of being loving, so let’s prove them wrong. What if we give them water when they’re thirsty? What if we choose not to disrespect their hero’s funeral despite how much they’ve disrespected our heroes’ funerals. It’s easy to build an army against them, but consider this: perhaps we enjoy hating WBC a little too much. As a society, lately we’ve been bonding over the things we hate. Let’s learn to love and teach to love.
Like I said, this would be the last thing I’d say about WBC. I wanna avoid giving them any more attention so they can stay out of our history books, we can just forget about them, and we can make them an inaudible voice of bitterness amidst a sea of voices shouting love.