March 22, 2014

Where is Fred Phelps Now?

This last week Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church–known for its protests and picketing of funerals, public appearances, etc.–died at 84 years of age. Phelps and his church were outspoken critics of homosexuals. They displayed a disdain and hate that was so abhorrent to the public that it likely tipped the debate over same-sex unions in favor of them.

Still, some agree with Phelps' position on gay marriage. But a great majority do not. Does one's firm beliefs allow them to spew hatred? I don't think so.

On the day Phelps passed, actor and LGBT activist George Takei wrote on his Facebook page: "Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one. Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life."

Takei's words beg the question, Where is Phelps now? Certainly, some are hoping hell. Others assume that his beliefs will find him in heaven. I have to say that my views on the afterlife have been deeply impacted by C. S. Lewis' novel, The Great Divorce. (If you haven't read it, you should.) As I reflect on Phelps' passing I find myself thinking about Lewis' imagery. I think Phelps is in God's presence. But I also think we spend our lives preparing ourselves for eternity, being in God's presence–in one way or another. And I wonder if this means that for some, being in God's presence is hell.

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