People are carving it right now.
(Image by Google Images w/caption by Rev Dan) Permission Details DMCA
It's not Christian to anticipate someone's death.
Unless that someone is the most hated man in America.
Waiting for someone to die has been looked upon by many as the ultimate of contempt: it conjures up an anticipation fueled by a very long, hard hatred. People who look forward to the deaths of others are seen as callous, their reasoning clouded by intense emotion. They are unforgiving.
Perhaps the most intense death wish (evidenced in theater and cinema) is that of Regina Giddons (Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes) to her husband Horace. Cold and with a kind of neuropathy of the soul, Regina delivers the line with a venom used to describe a deadly disease. But Regina had her reasons: she had been disappointed by a loveless marriage to a man who thwarted her willful ambitions. She felt justified.
So, like Augustine of Hippo's justified war, anticipation of someone's death may seem justified, even sanctioned by God.
And America seems justified in anticipating the death of Rev. Fred Phelps.
On the Facebook page of Nathan Phelps:
The irony may actually be in that any grandchild or child actually "loved" Fred Phelps. The anticipation of his death may have been complete.
While the Christian Right has tried to distance itself from Phelps (citing his picketing of soldiers' funerals and NOT his "God Hates Fags" theology), it cannot escape the memory of Phelps as the supreme homophobe (or homophobe of the Supreme). The eulogies (or lack thereof) will be telling: who of them will be secret mourners? Linda Harvey, Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, Scott Lively, Martin Ssempe must have admired Phelps for acting out their true feelings, sidestepping the convoluted rhetoric necessary to seem Christian in their view of homosexuality and homosexual activists. But are there others in the Phelps-Hate closet? Hate is insidious and even lurks in the hearts of the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin crowd. For example: how will FOX News handle his death?
And how much time/print will notable right-wing media give to the event?
Nate Phelps, who left the church 37 years ago, told the Capital-Journal that members of Westboro have voted Fred Phelps out of the church. They became concerned after the vote that the elder Phelps might harm himself, and they then moved him out of the church. When Fred Phelps was moved into a house, he "basically stopped eating and drinking," Nate Phelps told the paper.
A spokesman for the church declined to comment on the possible "excommunication."
For Fred Phelps to be "voted out" by his own church seems to be poetic justice, if not acutely bizarre: here was a man who had convinced many of his children that he was their "portal" to heaven. Here was a man for whom everyone in the family cult seemed willing to risk their lives. Here was a man who embodied their own form of "Christianity".* To "vote out" Fred would be akin to voting out God Himself.