aired March 29, 2014 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUFzUMaDkeI
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of March 30th, 2014.
The most hated man in America – well, besides me – is dead. Fred Phelps, the founding pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, passed away of natural causes on March 19th. Somehow, he made it to 84 years old without enemies taking a bat to his head or sprinkling anthrax in his undershorts.
Now, we can’t expect right-wing Christians to be forward-thinking or even moderate about such issues as abortion, gay rights and Lady Gaga. Bible thumpers aren’t wired like that, and if they wanna tie a straitjacket around the Old Testament and interpret it the way Muslim extremists bungle the Koran, that’s their business. The reason Freddy Phelps was so loathed is that he went out of his way to spread hatred, and he targeted people who were guilty of nothing more than living their lives differently from what he thought the bible recommended. Fred Phelps was not a live-and-let-live kinda guy. He was more a “hurt and disrupt” sort of person.
H e didn’t start out that way. In 1954, on the day Brown beat the Board of Education, Phelps, who had a law degree, took it upon himself to fight civil-rights cases. I mean, on the black side – really! Really! Of course, a few years later, he was disbarred for corruption, but there was something righteous in the guy before he turned self-righteous. Back in the early `90s, he ran for governor, senator and mayor – on the democratic ticket. He lost and lost and lost, and maybe that’s what set him off on the path of bitterness and bile.
Whatever goodie points Phelps racked up defending schvartzes in Kansas have long been pissed away in his tirades and protests against homosexuals. To preach in a sermon against the sin of being a buttmuncher is one thing. To send your followers out in public on streetcorners with signs that read “God Hates Fags” is another thing. But to bus your parishioners to funerals… that takes balls the size of planets. These Westboro wackos would send – or threaten to send – protesters to everything from the Boston Marathon bombing funerals to school-shooting victim burials, warning everyone that God Hates America, which is why He kills people so randomly.
On the web, these Baptist boneheads post gleeful messages anytime an American soldier gets killed overseas. “You see?” they say. “That’s God showing how much he hates gays and lesbians.” This has about as much logic as a guy tripping over a curb and thinking, “Hmm, I know why this happened. Somewhere in the south of France, a farmer is raising too many geese.”
Here’s the truth, Fred Phelps, wherever you are down there. God does not hate fags. Well, maybe Perez Hilton, but otherwise, no. If he’s mean to them, it’s because he’s mean to everyone because he’s the Old Testament fire-and-brimstone rageaholic we all know and love. And as far as God hating lesbians, well, if man is made God’s image, that means God is a lot like man. And let me tell you: men love lesbians. Case closed.
Do I have a personal vendetta against the WBC? Well, it’s not enough they hate gays; they hate Jews, too, saying we stole Israel and killed their favorite Jew – the one on the cross with the big mouth and the death wish. Westboro put up videos calling us filthy Jews and Christ killers and fag enablers. All the way back in 1996, Phelps led a protest against the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC – possibly the only decent institution in Washington DC – writing, and I quote, “American taxpayers are financing this unholy monument to Jewish mendacity and greed and to filthy fag lust. Jews, thus perverted, out of all proportion to their numbers energize the militant sodomite agenda… Jews are the real Nazis.” And that was just his warm-up joke.
But seriously, now that Fred Phelps is becoming fertilizer instead of spewing it, the question is, how do we react? I ask this because Passover is coming in a couple of weeks, and during the Seder, we spill ten drops of wine when talking about the Egyptians, because we’re not supposed to be a hundred percent happy when our enemy is vanquished. Even though the Egyptians enslaved us, treated us like cattle, turned us into fifth-class citizens in a country where we’d been welcomed just a few Pharaohs earlier. Even though we were overjoyed to escape and watch the slave owners get what was coming to them…still, death of the first born is a heavy price, and they are God’s creatures, too, so…hold off on the noisemakers a bissel. Fireworks and disco dancing – no problem, but in moderation.
That can be a hard principle to accept, however, in modern times. On May 8th, 1945, don’t tell me every surviving Jew in the world didn’t want to drown every last German in the Danube. When bin Laden bought it, I danced a hora in the living room and flushed a Koran down the toilet. I admit it: I was flooded with emotion, and then just flooded – it’s a thick book in a very old toilet. But the point is, I understand the desire to rejoice at the finish of Phelps. He’s not having a funeral, but if he were, what release and elation to show up where they’re shoving him in the ground and jeer at his inbred followers. Curse at them, mock them, drown them out with glam rock, have gays and lesbians kiss and roll around – especially the lesbians…yeah – find the triggers for these ludicrous people and pull those triggers till they go off.
A bigger man than I would say we must take the high road, lead by example, and don’t sink to the Westboro level by stooping to their tactics. But that would be a bigger man than I. I’m a small, angry Jew, and I hate these fucking people. If you find where they’re burying Phelps, or holding one of their protests, go with a rainbow banner in one hand and a spray can of piss in the other. But most of all – and I wish I had written this so I could take credit, but blessed be the man or woman who wrote: “Live your life in such a way that the Wetsboro Baptist Church will want to picket your funeral.” Isn’t that great? And then, during shiva, bend them all over and show them exactly what you can do with a yahrtzeit candle.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
(c) 2014 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.