Friday, March 21, 2014

On Fred Phelps and Projective Identification

I'm not entirely sure the first time I heard of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. For a group of about 40 people, it has had an oversized impact on the media and our perceptions of anti-gay hostilities in the United States.

The damage that those 40 people have done is immense. Their pickets has caused immeasurable pain to countless families. The Phelps clan's vitriolic creed of alienation, destruction, and hate will impact our world for years to come.

Phelps died yesterday. Many have celebrated that his presence has been removed from this world. I'm not entirely unsympathetic for those expressing a great deal of hatred toward him as a result of the pain he has brought into this world.

I also worry a great deal.

  • I worry about how difficult it is to rise above our wrathful and vengeful desires. 
  • I worry what it says about us when we direct the same evil Phelps directed toward us toward him. 
  • I worry that we are no better than Phelps: we wish harm and destruction upon those we do not like. 
  • I worry about the ways in which we have become the projective identification of Fred Phelps.
  • I worry about the ways in which Fred Phelps has become a projective identification of us.

I also remember the funeral of Matthew Shepard. I remember the power of that small group of people who found another way. A group of concerned caring people gathered around the protestors from Westboro Church dressed in angel costumes. The angels turned their back to the protestors and with wings soaring up toward the sky, stood with silent power repelling the hatful projections of Westboro Church. They shielded those who came to mourn.

It's time those angels turn around and face Fred Phelps. We need to look silently toward him and see ourselves. We need to see our anger. We need to see our hatred. We need to see our own destructive potential.

We need to look at Phelps and find another way.

We need to change.

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