I received an email today informing me of the death of Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. This email expressed joy and excitement with sentiments of hope that he would rot in hell with Hitler. Rev Phelps believed that homosexuality would be the downfall of our nation. The church became infamous for protesting funerals and events with anti-gay, hate speech ridden signs.
Perhaps the worst pain to pierce my heart, or close to it, came when my family and I were on the receiving end of members of this hate group. In March of 2009, at the steps of the courthouse in San Francisco, feeling the crushing weight of that kind of hate up close and personal, honestly took away my breath and drove me to my knees. My children and I held each other, crying as we watched my husband Steve go uncharacteristically ballistic in an effort to protect us. It is hard to believe that kind of hate exists, so physically palatable that it robbed us of air, and for the first time made me feel afraid for our safety and future.
To survive this civil rights journey which I found myself thrust into, I had to evolve quickly, beginning with growing some pretty thick skin. I also learned that the only way I can protect myself and my family is to stand UP for something, rather than fight against anything. Only when I am in my authentic truth and love, am I more powerful than any force of darkness and hate.
My reaction today in hearing of the passing of this leader of hate is certainly one of relief, relief that his energy is being put to rest. Yet I am full of gratitude that no where in my body do I feel hate, that hate that he harbored and taught. Forgiveness is the prominent emotion and thankfully I had a wise therapist help me understand that forgiveness is simply letting go of hope for a better past.
Yes Fred Phelps, I forgive you. May you rest in peace.