I am Fred Phelps' Keeper
I write not to praise Fred Phelps, but to affirm that God loves him too. Rev. Fred Phelps devoted the last three decades of his life, more or less, to a crusade against "fags," and with the monomaniacal laser-sight of someone captured by fanaticism, he found fags everywhere. Even Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Bill O'Reilly -- all of whom exploited homophobia for personal and political gain -- did not escape his ugly words of wrath.
There will be very few eulogies said for this man. His earlier life as a legal champion of African-American civil rights in Kansas is (understandably) eclipsed by all the media attention that he and his Westboro Baptist Church, his rock of righteousness and citadel against the world's depravity, courted.
According to his Wikipedia page, Phelps wrote in a sermon of 2008 that Arminianism* was "a worse blasphemy and heresy than that heard in all filthy Saturday night fag bars in the aggregate in the world."
It is as an emotionally frail human being that I consider Phelps my brother. I too have known the energizing and clarifying force of being a "true believer." As I review the man's biography, certain facts leap out to me: like me, he was born in the Southern US and attended college on the West Coast.
Phelps would doubtless have denounced any suggestion that he would be spending many decades in Purgatory, carrying massive boulders long distances and walking zero-visibility smoky paths. (THOUGHTS BRED OF ANTICHRIST, I expect his response would be.) Still, that is where my theological imagination places him right now, having his pride and wrath cleansed away. It gives me no pleasure to picture him being tortured in Hell alongside Jerry Falwell.
*Phelps was a Particular Baptist, believing that Christ died only to redeem God's elect, not all humankind, and that God decreed the election of some even before the expulsion from Eden. These beliefs are not at all on the fringe in Calvinist history, although whether John Calvin would have accepted them is quite dubious. (Read the entries "Arminianism" and "Calvinism" in Essential Theological Terms by Justo Gonzalez for more details.)