Posted in Commentary, Growing up/old, Lessons Learned

An Open Letter to the Late Fred Phelps

Dear Fred,

You have gone to meet your maker now, and I suspect the experience was not what you thought it would be.  In fairness, I’m sure this is true for every single person who has ever lived and died, but I do think that some of us are considerably more surprised than others.  I imagine you thought you’d be welcomed as if to Valhalla, a hallowed warrior against the forces evil (or your perception thereof, anyway), and if I were in the habit of making metaphysical bets, I’d guess you were disappointed.

I will say that I don’t know what happens after we die, but my own experiences, and those of people I love and trust, have given me solid reasons to believe there is, if not a heaven or an afterlife, some kind of continuation.  What form that takes, or how it works, or what it means, I haven’t the foggiest, but I’m as certain as one can be about the unknown that this life, this collection of years’ sensual experiences, isn’t all there is to Reality.  (And the good news is, if I’m wrong about that, I’ll never know.)  In the meantime, I live my life the way I do not because I’m expecting some reward, a prize at the bottom of this mortal Cracker Jack box.  There is no Sky Daddy whose approval I’m hoping, but ever-failing, to earn.  I live my life by one rule, and one rule only:  Don’t be an asshole.  It’s a simple, ethical stance that works for me, and for the people around me, as far as I can tell.

But even if there were a divine power; even if there is a reason for our existence, a purpose for our lives, a mission we’re supposed to accomplish in the material world, I am 100% certain, as I am about nothing else in this world, that that reason is not hatred.  Nor persecution.  There is nothing in this life beyond a really unhealthy entanglement with one’s own ego, and the fear that brings that about in the first place, that would lead a person to believe that it was their sacred duty to behave in breathtakingly assholish ways to other human beings just trying to get on with the business of living their lives the best way they know how.

There are few things we humans agree on generally, but I think purposefully wounding (further) the hurt and grieving is one of them.  I would guess most cultures have some admonition against kicking someone when they’re down.  The idea that you and your followers would picket anyone’s funeral for any reason is well beyond the pale of decent society.  That you did it to advance a vehemently and unapologetically bigoted message aimed at the LGBTQ members of our human family just multiplied the despicableness of an already terrible action.

I think, if you’re given the opportunity to review your life in the light of greater spiritual understanding that I hope comes after death, you are going to be shocked at how very wrong you’ve been.  That, if there is a god, it will not thank you for dedicating your life to hating other people in its name.  That if there is only US, the collective of all souls, you will see that we are all one and choosing to hate one part of that unity was to hate yourself; mistaken at best, cruelly foolish at worst.  That you will understand that love was the point of this whole earthly exercise, and you missed it by light years.  That you will lament the time you wasted; 60-some of your 84 years going in the completely opposite direction of the Christ you claimed to represent.  And that you will be ashamed for twisting others to your erroneous views, and for the hurt you all caused to already suffering people.  That you will realize that the only hell that exists is of human making on earth, and that you contributed greatly, and gleefully, to its construction by insisting that hate is the road to light and redemption, an impossibility even on the surface.

And so, as much as I abhorred your words and behavior while you were still among us here, that is not why I’m glad you’re dead.  I’m glad for your sake, because you will no longer persist in such dark and immovable error as to what it means to live a good human life.  Because as awful as you were to other people, it must have been a horror to live inside your head every day.

While I do not usually wish the dead to rest in peace, I wish that for you. I think you could use a timeout to consider your actions in this life, and the harm they did, to others and to yourself.  Because if I know anything at all, I know it’s love, caring, and compassion that matters in this life, and any others.


Kristie Cunningham



I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.

5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Late Fred Phelps

  1. I always like and admire how reasonable you can be! That being said not to be so in this instance would be merely to practice the same hate as he did (even if for a more justifiable reason). I personally do not believe in the afterlife on continuation of any kind, I see the purpose of religion in many ways as a whole as being a homo-centric structure to mollify that there is no absolute end to be feared (leaving aside the social control angle perpetrated by many of its representatives, and leaving a side Jesus who was just a nice proto-hippy who thought we should try being nice to each other!)

    But all that being said it would give me satisfaction if when Fred Phelps died his soul was transported to a gay bar for all the late queens to fuss over him. Just to see the look on his face! Oh if God were gay, think of the changes…!

  2. i like that the concert goers at a recent Lorde show that phelps people were planning on protesting countered their hate with a big banner that said, ‘sorry for your loss.’

  3. I appreciated that, too…so often, people who have been hurt are highly tempted to hurt others in the same way, but they took the high road. I did think it took a tremendous amount of balls, though, for Westboro Baptist to put out a statement requesting that people NOT picket his funeral, and show respect for them at this difficult time. Oh really? Is that not how decent people act?

  4. part of me is proud of the concert goers. i aspire to be enlightened and forgiving. but most of me was like, yeah right, lady. im an eye for an eye kinda guy.

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