Haven't seen this posted anywhere on Daily Kos, but if I missed it please let me know and I'll delete it.
We all know about Westboro Baptist Church. They've made quite a name for themselves over the years for showing up and mocking peoples' grief with their hateful rhetoric. Something amazing has happened: Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Westboro pastor Fred Phelps, has left the church along with her sister Grace Roper.
She gave some explanation on Medium tonight:
We know that we can’t undo our whole lives. We can’t even say we’d want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.The post seemed a bit ambiguous and I was wondering about its authenticity, but at the bottom of the post was a backgrounder from Fast Company's Jeff Chu that went into more detail. The story is legitimate.
At times, there’s something about the way she unpacks these observations and answers my questions that makes her seem much younger than her twenty-seven years. There’s an innocence, almost a naivete. But how else would it be? How else could it be, given the boundaries that have always marked the hours of her life?Megan also confirmed the piece is hers on her Twitter account.
Now that those boundaries are gone, “I’m trying to figure out which ones were good and smart, and which ones shouldn’t be there anymore,” she says. “I don’t feel confident at all in my beliefs about God. That’s definitely scary. But I don’t believe anymore that God hates almost all of mankind. I don’t think that, if you do everything else in your life right and you happen to be gay, you’re automatically going to hell. I don’t believe anymore that WBC has a monopoly on truth.”
I come from a hyperfundamentalist background myself, although thankfully not one as outwardly extreme as Westboro. Two things I feel confident about. First, merely seeing the need to change is not easy. You're so wrapped up in that culture that seeing an alternate, better truth is extremely difficult. That Megan even got to that point is really huge, in my view. Secondly, once you've seen that truth it takes some courage to walk away. What Chu describes in his story (as it pertains to Megan's journey after leaving) makes me a little sad for her because I know it a bit myself. It's like cutting off an arm or leg, a piece of yourself that not only has been there but has been an anchor for you as long as you've been alive. She's realized it's poison for her but it's all she's known. Megan is showing courage here to take the step of leaving.
I see bits of my former self in her childlike questioning and sense of the unknown after making such a dramatic break. This is a critical time for her and one in which she can become a tool for tremendous good. It's my hope that she'll continue to pursue this and that that she'll get support from people she once called enemies.
No doubt she has caused much hurt over the years and I got the sense from these pieces that she knows this. I do believe her when she says her only motive was to help people. Having been in environments like hers, I definitely can see how she'd convince herself of this. I do hope that she'll realize she not only has to make amends but also realizes that the best way to start undoing that damage is to commit herself to being an agent of change that fights against the things she used to stand for.
Every time someone escapes oppressive church environments, it gives me hope. I lived through that and I love seeing more people find their footing. I'm so happy Megan has taken this step and hope she'll keep going.
UPDATE: Wow, first time on the rec list! I will turn the spotlight on the comments, which have been a very good discussion about compassion, forgiveness, and how one exactly atones for mistakes like these. Very good discussion.
I also want to spotlight my favorite comment, shared by sfbob.
I find it amusing and ironic that Megan's change of heart appears to have stemmed from a conversation she had with an Israeli Jew who was quoting Jesus. The capability to demonstrate to someone that they are wrong based upon their own professed beliefs is a skill we could use more of.Couldn't agree more. I don't believe in fighting hate with hate, but rather with reason. It won't always break through, but I find myself wondering whether her engagement with social media led to the opening of her mind.
To the discussion itself, I want to add that I believe people can change and that while she can't erase what she did she can begin to reverse it with her actions. Discussions about whether she can truly make up for it miss the point, in my view. Her Selina Kyle quote at the top of her post is telling. She realizes that the past sticks, but so do her actions going forward. I'm heartened by this news and hope she sticks to it.