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[1], Another point of contention for Phelps-Roper was how decision-making within the church changed. When Twitter users discovered the doctored photos she agreed that church members committed the sin of bearing false witness. [31] She is a member of Twitter's Trust and Safety Council and advocates overcoming disagreements between political and religious groups. One of their most popular parodies was Ever Burn based on the Lady Gaga song Telephone. Phelps-Roper: Louis had a lot of questions about what exactly had happened. [5] She stated that she is a “believer in humanity” and in that way still classifies herself as a believer. [9] When she was profiled as an adult, she was described as having acquaintances outside of the church, but no real friends. The activist and TED speaker Megan Phelps-Roper reveals her life growing up in the most hated family in America At the age of five, Megan Phelps-Roper began protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. We could be friendly and joke around, but I didn’t trust them at all. Megan Phelps-Roper: I do remember those early days on the picket line. The author's mother, Shirley Phelps-Roper, was the church's administrative leader and a zealous believer in its dogma, and she raised her 11 children to be believers as well. and the chorus's lyrics caused her to question the church's preaching tactics. 4K likes. If you’re interested in talking to other influencers’ representatives, along with members of the Megan Phelps-roper management team, The Handbook contains over 127,000 verified influencer contacts for planning events, interviews and promotions. My little girl is 14 months old now, and I completely reject that idea that I need to physically hurt my daughter to teach her anything. What I regret is the pain that we inflicted on so many people. I think he was trying to understand where my mind was and what had caused it to change so drastically in such a short amount of time. Specifically, the film will cover Megan Phelps-Roper, the now-31-year-old former WBC member who left the church in November 2012, and David Abitbol, the Jewish blogger … Megan Phelps-Roper is a writer and activist. Outside of that, I don’t think she’d pay much attention to my advice. [5], Phelps-Roper considered leaving the church in April 2012 when the song "Just One" by Blind Pilot played on her stereo. I recognized pretty soon after I left the church that those ideas wouldn’t just take care of themselves. [9] She liked using Twitter because it allowed her to share theology directly to people, instead of through a reporter. They celebrated their big day in the company of their friends and the new family they found. Megan Phelps-Roper was five when her parents first put a picket sign in her hands. Church elders stated Shirley repented for her sins and was forgiven by God, but Abitbol pointed out that she could not repent for her sins if she was punished with death. They shared their beliefs and doubts with each other and continued discussing plans for leaving the church. [1], Phelps-Roper has limited contact with family members that are still part of the Westboro Baptist Church. [1], As an adult, Phelps-Roper continued doubting the church's doctrine and discovered contradictions within the church's beliefs. She also uses Twitter to monitor changes in the church's beliefs and to learn new information about her family's personal lives. [5] Phelps-Roper stated that the church's strict beliefs were reinforced through this training and that, "as a child, it is physically beaten into you". She also disagreed with church elders that pressured her into posting doctored photos church picketing events such as the British Royal Wedding and the funeral of Whitney Houston. Phelps-Roper felt both events violated the church's interpretation of scripture and went against the group's concept of leadership. [13], She is married to Chad Fjelland, an attorney whom she met through Twitter while advocating for the Westboro Baptist Church. [13], Doubting Westboro Baptist Church doctrine, Life after leaving Westboro Baptist Church, CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (, "Granddaughter Of Westboro Baptist Church Founder Chronicles Leaving In 'Unfollow, "Megan Phelps-Roper of Westboro Baptist Church: An heir to hate", "How Twitter Helped Change The Mind Of A Westboro Baptist Church Member", "Megan Phelps-Roper on Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church", "At 5, She Protested Homosexuality. More effective, I think, would be a series of conversations, developing rapport and gently pointing out the internal inconsistencies in Westboro’s doctrines. [5][32], Phelps-Roper believes the Bible is not written by people under God's inspiration. Megan Phelps-Roper was just a child when she joined her family in Westboro Baptist Church’s picket lines. I reject the authoritarian style of parenting that I experienced particularly from my mother. Phelps-Roper: There was a verse my mom would quote: Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Phelps-Roper: It was certainly a process to overwrite the beliefs of Westboro that had become instinctive to me. The church protests against LGBTQ+ people, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Atheists, Soliders and their allies. Megan Phelps Roper and her husband Chad Fjelland enjoying their holiday. She left the Westboro Baptist Church in November 2012 and is now an educator on topics related to extremism and communication across ideological lines. When interviewers wanted the perspective of a younger member of the church, her mother would often have them interview Phelps-Roper. She is the daughter of Brent Roper and Shirley Phelps Roper. Phelps-Roper came to believe that the more the outside world condemned their views and actions, the more righteous they were. Megan Phelps-Roper is a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist American religious cult based in Topeka, Kansas. [18], Phelps-Roper participated in the church's protests against homosexuality when she was 5 years old before she could read the signs she carried. To request permission to reuse content, email editor@streetroots.org. But since I never witnessed an alternative, I’m constantly searching for examples of good, humanistic parenting practices. ", "Megan Phelps-Roper: I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church and its radical Christian doctrine Credit: Supplied But over the following decades Megan, now 34, would become one of the church's staunchest firebrands, participating in some of its notoriously despicable shock publicity tactics at the instruction of her older relatives. [9] Phelps-Roper stopped carrying signs which called for the death penalty for sins but stopped communicating with Abitbol so he could not further challenge her beliefs. [1], Every Sunday, Phelps-Roper's family attended her grandfather's service and listened to him preach what he claimed was a strict interpretation of Calvinist doctrine. This memoir details her upbringing in the Westboro Baptist Church and her decision to leave her community and family. He's showing my family—who have cut me out of their lives, but who will surely watch this documentary—my candid reaction to this news", "Megan Phelps-Roper returns to Topeka to launch book 'Unfollow, "Megan Phelps-Roper: If You're Raised To Hate, Can You Reverse It? She complied, reasoning that removing her focus from earthly matters would increase her spirituality. Only church members were acceptable friends. She rebelled against these changes because other members were given more leeway in their clothing choices by their fathers or husbands. She was taught the Westboro Baptist Church doctrine and at the age of 13, she was baptized as a member of the church. The church’s picket lines and demonstrations were so vitriolic that it was recognized as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Megan Phelps-Roper was born in Topeka, Kansas, on January 31, 1986, and is the eldest daughter of Shirley Phelps-Roper and Brent Roper. Louis Theroux with Megan's mum, Shirley Phelps-Roper, who became a spokesperson of sorts for the church Credit: BBC. A former member of Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper is now an author & educator on topics related to extremism, bullying, & empathy in dialogue. [25] The parody, sung by Phelps-Roper, changed the lyrics to claim that God will not listen to Lady Gaga's prayers and that she will be sent to hell. I am absolutely gutted thinking about a new mom in this situation, and this baby girl who will never know her dad. 151d She acknowledges that cutting off contact with former members and a belief of an imminent end to the world are cultish beliefs. The first inconsistency was outlined by David Abitbol, a Jewish Twitter user whom Phelps-Roper publicly contacted to encourage him to repent of his sins. It felt safe and innocent, and provided me with this wonderful outlet to really open up and connect with people. [22] Her strategy on Twitter was to counter angry responses with Bible verses, pop culture references and emojis. David Abitbol responded by asking questions about her beliefs and engaging in theological discussions. [8], At age 13, Phelps-Roper was baptized into the Westboro Baptist Church by her grandfather. Megan Phelps-Roper is an American inspirational personality, author, blogger, and former spokesperson of the Westboro Baptist Church.She became a member of the church since the day she was born as her grandfather was a pastor of the church. Megan Phelps Roper… [29], Phelps-Roper has appeared in various media formats to promote her new values and beliefs. Megan Phelps-Roper [8][11], When Abitbol discovered they left the church he invited Phelps-Roper and her sister to visit Los Angeles. She disclosed her thoughts to her sister Grace, who convinced her to stay in the group. (Photo courtesy of Megan Phelps-Roper ), Megan Phelps-Roper explains how her family micromanaged church members and how Twitter eventually led her to understanding, “Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.”, making a one-time or recurring gift today, I never looked back: Terry Gilliam was always drawn to Britain, Opinion | The real impact of universal preschool and a tax on the 5%, Athletics Director Valerie Cleary stands out at Portland State, Bill Bailey and the first American revolt against the Nazi flag | Book Review, He was dying, but he was free: Special report tells the tragic and brutal story of Billy Baggett. In 2012, she left the church and cut ties with much of her family, a story she recounts in her new book, “Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.” She’s since become an advocate for overcoming conflicts between religious and political groups. McMurdock: You still send your mother greeting cards. Phelps-Roper did not want to post these images on her Twitter feed but was pressured to do so by church elders. In her book, she recalls her life inside the cult and how joining Twitter helped her escape. [10] At 13, Phelps-Roper was debating Westboro Baptist Church sceptics in the church’s chat rooms[8] and was an active member of the church’s logistical and legal operations. Phelps-Roper: Cults have a lot to recommend them: an intense sense of community, of purpose and sanctity and identity, a promise of reward, a comforting sense of certainty in a chaotic world. [3][4] She was raised in the church, and lived in a compound that included the church building, houses for members, adjoining backyards, a trampoline, running track, playground and swimming pool, all surrounded by a tall fence. She was raised in Westboro Church by her mother, with her siblings, Rebekah Phelps-Roper, Joshua Phelps-Roper, Isaiah Phelps-Roper, and Samuel Phelps-Rop. [1], Church members Photoshopped images and falsely claimed that they protested the Royal Wedding in the United Kingdom and Whitney Houston’s funeral. Reese Witherspoon, known for playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and for starring in/producing recent HBO hit Big Little Lies, is producing a film about the “God Hate Fags” folks from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). That if I had any hope of lasting change, I would need to be very deliberate about putting myself in situations to challenge those beliefs and to create new memories and associations. The fact that tweets were only 140 characters, too, gave me the sense that my engagement there wasn’t the kind of deep connection that could get me in trouble. The two sisters stayed one night in Topeka in the basement of a former teacher before moving into their cousin's home in Lawrence, Kansas. [1][8] During her youth, Phelps-Roper felt happy being close to her extended family members, both in her relationships and her physical proximity to them. Phelps-Roper: I would encourage my 16-year-old self to consider how she knows what she thinks she knows. She travels around the world to speak about her experience in the church and advocates dialogue between groups with conflicting views. [6] Previously, the church employed a consensus decision-making model and women had influential roles in this process. [1] Phelps-Roper preached the church's doctrine to celebrities and prominent users of the platform. Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, the Topeka, Kansas, church known internationally for its daily public protests against members of the LGBT community, Jews, the military, and countless others. He was incredibly kind and empathetic. Those negative thoughts about people don’t really happen anymore and haven’t in a long time. She also appeared as a regular guest on a Kansas City morning show, "Afentra's Big Fat Morning Buzz". Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), founded by her grandfather Fred Phelps, was protesting what members believed was an unacceptable number of gay men in their town’s park. [6], Phelps-Roper avoids using the word "cult" to describe the Westboro Baptist Church. She was reminded of her conversations with C.G. She lives in South Dakota. [14][5] She kept her maiden name to, as she describes, “reform the legacy of the name.”[13] Her daughter, Sølvi Lynne, was born in 2018. [21] Reporters and documentary filmmakers also came to her home to speak with her. McMurdock: You talk about how great it is to have freedom now, even cherishing walking down the street alone. [1] She protested major historical events like the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the AIDS pandemic. During this discussion, Phelps-Roper encouraged her sister to leave the church with her, and they announced their intention to their parents. 15.2k Followers, 614 Following, 215 Posts - See Instagram photos and videos from Megan Phelps-Roper (@meganmarie) How did you tear down that instinctive barrier? Megan Phelps-Roper (born January 31, 1986) is a former member and spokesperson of the Westboro Baptist Church.Her mother is Shirley Phelps-Roper and her grandfather is the church's founder Fred Phelps.She grew up in Topeka, Kansas in a compound with other members of the church.

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