Tuesday 7 March 2017

Woman Who Grew Up IN Baptist Church Explains Her Experiences

Westboro Baptist Church

Westboro Baptist Church are a notorious organisation known for using the funerals of fallen US soldiers to spread their hateful rhetoric.

The Baptist church, founded by Pastor Fred Phelps in Kansas during the 1950s, are often seen holding placards featuring offensive slogans against LGBT, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities. They don’t appear to discriminate – when it comes to hate.

A key member who grew up within the church has explained why she had to leave.

Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, stood on her first picket line aged just five.

Megan, now 31, recalled: ‘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.’

Her first sign read ‘Gays are worthy of death.’

Throughout her childhood, protests were an almost daily occurrence and the group gained international notoriety.

Westboro Baptist Church

Senior members of the church – including Megan’s family – framed life as a battle between good and evil, well-behaved members of the church and non-believing outsiders.

The good was my church and its members, and the evil was everyone else. My church’s antics were such that we were constantly at odds with the world, and that reinforced our otherness on a daily basis,’ she explains in a revealing Ted talk.

It was 20 years before Megan got a glimpse of the outside world, via social media, when in 2009, she joined Twitter.

‘Initially, the people I encountered on the platform were just as hostile as I expected. They were the digital version of the screaming hordes I’d been seeing at protests since I was a kid. But in the midst of that digital brawl, a strange pattern developed. ‘

Someone would arrive at my profile with the usual rage and scorn, I would respond with a custom mix of Bible verses, pop culture references and smiley faces.

‘They would be understandably confused and caught off guard, but then a conversation would ensue. And it was civil — full of genuine curiosity on both sides. How had the other come to such outrageous conclusions about the world?’

One day while Megan was holding a ‘God hates Jews’ sign during a protest in New Orleans, a man named David, who ran a blog called ‘Jewlicious’, approached her after several months of heated but friendly arguments online. Megan said: ‘He brought me a Middle Eastern dessert from Jerusalem, where he lives, and I brought him kosher chocolate.’

The interaction with the outside world blurred the lines of good and evil enforced by the church during Megan’s childhood and she slowly became aware of hypocrisy within Westboro Baptist Church’s preaching.

Megan said: ‘How could we claim to love our neighbor while at the same time praying for God to destroy them?

‘The truth is that the care shown to me by these strangers on the internet was itself a contradiction. It was growing evidence that people on the other side were not the demons I’d been led to believe.’

The realisations were life-altering for Megan and she left Westboro with her younger sister in 2012.

She was painfully cut off from her family, but still didn’t feel part of the world she had preached hate about for almost her entire life.

Westboro Baptist Church

She said: ‘That period was full of turmoil, but one part I’ve returned to often is a surprising realisation I had during that time — that it was a relief and a privilege to let go of the harsh judgments that instinctively ran through my mind about nearly every person I saw. I realised that now I needed to learn. I needed to listen.’

Closing her emotive speech, Megan said: ‘My mom said something to me a few weeks before I left Westboro, when I was desperately hoping there was a way I could stay with my family. People I have loved with every pulse of my heart since even before I was that chubby-cheeked five-year-old, standing on a picket line holding a sign I couldn’t read.

‘She said, “You’re just a human being, my dear, sweet child”. She was asking me to be humble, not to question but to trust God and my elders. But to me, she was missing the bigger picture – that we’re all just human beings.

‘That we should be guided by that most basic fact, and approach one another with generosity and compassion.’



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