This was originally published on Liberal America on March 7, 2017.
The Westboro Baptist Church is a hate group and religious cult headed by the Phelps family. They are known for their protests with the signs saying, “God hates fags.” They protest at soldiers’ funerals and other inappropriate places. After the shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando last year, they protested the memorials for the victims.
From the church’s about page:
“Established in 1955 by Pastor Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas still exists today as an Old School (or, Primitive) Baptist Church. We adhere to the teachings of the Bible, preach against all form of sin (e.g., fornication, adultery [including divorce and remarriage], sodomy), and insist that the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace be taught and expounded publicly to all men.”
Megan Phelps-Roper grew up exposed to this hate and brain-washing. At age 25, she left the group and her family. She recently gave a Ted Talk on her days at Westboro and what it was like to leave.
She was forced to spread the hatred from the age of five onwards:
“I was a blue-eyed, chubby-cheeked five-year-old when I joined my family on the picket line for the first time. My mom made me leave my dolls in the minivan. I’d stand on a street corner in the heavy Kansas humidity, surrounded by a few dozen relatives, with my tiny fists clutching a sign that I couldn’t read yet: ‘Gays are worthy of death.’ This was the beginning.”
She discusses being exposed to conflicting beliefs when she joined Twitter in 2009 to help spread the hate on social media. Hearing conflicting beliefs caused Phelps-Roper to start to doubt the ideas she grew up with. She was finally able to ask questions. She also learned to not be so harsh when talking about these kinds of topics.
She describes leaving the group with her sister as “walking into an abyss.” Personally, I applaud the courage to leave the hateful cult.
She ended the talk with:
“Each one of us contributes to the communities and the cultures and the societies that we make up. The end of this spiral of rage and blame begins with one person who refuses to indulge these destructive, seductive impulses. We just have to decide that it’s going to start with us.”
Here is the entire Ted Talk: