I have been listening to/watching interviews with Megan Phelps-Roper today. She was formally a part of Westboro Baptist Church but eventually left a few years ago with her little sister. Her family disowned them both but she is the better for it (shockingly, she still says that she loves them and prays they will change, but that’s her business). She now works as an activist against bullying of the downtrodden (but in her own, loving way) and advising on how to de-radicalise.
She says that what helped her realise she was wrong about the world, that her hatred was unjustified, was talking to people on Twitter and in real life. People who challenged her but also acted with great decency towards her. It taught her that the world was not full of filth and sinners and ~evil gays~. She was shocked that she was treated with kindness by a Rabbi she had once protested against: he let her stay in her house when she first left her church and came into the real world. She said learning about different people, different cultures, being exposed to that, and being constantly met with kindness, even in the face of her ugly words, was what changed her mind in the end. She’s actually now married to a man she first met through Twitter, a man who debated her hateful views but has watched her move from her indoctrination into peace and open-mindedness.
It inspired me quite a bit, tbh. I am prone to be angry, particularly at bigotry but her words struck a cord. I mean, what I would like is for bigots to change, to have a moral compass and empathy, in the way that I and many others do. I’m not sure I agree with her philosophy entirely. Some people, I believe, are simply evil and too far gone for any of my human decency. But I also believe in my ideas and I’m naturally a kind and loving person who would like people who look at the world and see nothing but garbage, to actually see something beautiful instead.
Megan Phelps-Roper had been taught the Westboro Baptist Church’s message since birth, and she joined Twitter to spread its doctrine. But when she was faced with questions she couldn’t answer, her steadfast belief began to erode. Read Adrian Chen’s story in our annual Tech Issue.