He’s dead, but who was Fred Phelps, really?
He was a logician; a logician made flesh; the reductio ad absurdum of the anti-gay rights movement. God hates fags. It’s right there in the Bible. Thus he believed, thus he preached, and thus he lived. He took opposition to gay rights to its logical conclusion.
So helped Mr. Phelps the gay rights cause. He showed the anti-gay rights movement to be, at base, intellectually and morally bankrupt. People looked at Fred Phelps on the street corner with his religious dadaist signage and concluded, with Shakespeare’s King Lear, “Oh, that way madness lies. Let me shun that” (4:3:23).
The reverend Phelps thus became the face of gay equality opposition, serving the very movement he fought. He was a man who sunk his own ship of fools; a man who scuppered himself.
“Ship of Fools” woodcut (from Germany, 1549). Image source: Wikipedia Commons.