Date: July 07, 2021 09:25AM
Megan Phelps-Roper has an interesting past. Granddaughter of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church preacher Fred Phelps and former spokesperson for the organization, she is now a political activist who works to promote understanding between extremists. The Westboro Baptist Church are best known for standing on public sidewalks holding protest signs saying that “God Hates F**s” and celebrating the tragedies of others as righteous judgments of an angry God. Phelps-Roper grew up on their compound in Kansas and was pictured as a child wearing offensive T-shirts and standing proudly alongside placards that also included the statements “God Hates Jews” and “America is Doomed”.
When Phelps-Roper turned to Twitter to preach on the platform, people listened, and challenged her way of thinking. It was the beginning of an unraveling that she details in her book “Unfollow: A Journey From Hatred to Hope”.
“The interesting thing is that I didn’t view our worldview or our actions [in the Westboro Baptist Church] as hateful; I believed it was the opposite, and didn’t feel motivated by hate,” she told me. “Over time, it became clear to me that the doctrines I had been taught were wrong, that the arguments were circular, and that we were unnecessarily hurting people.”
It also became clear to Phelps-Roper that the problems within her church were common in American society: “I used to think most people weren’t like Westboro, but it’s become more and more apparent to me that these problems — tribalism, confirmation bias, scapegoating, the flattening of complex situations into black-and-white moral pronouncements — are not Westboro problems.”
Because that kind of thinking has become the norm, she continued, staying silent is now its own form of violence: “Looking away or staying silent — particularly when so many people are doing so — gives the illusion that we approve of that violence, and that the people engaging in crime and slandering innocent people are free to continue their activities without obstacle.”