A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
“Megan Phelps-Roper is a beautiful writer, and her journey— from the Westboro Baptist Church to becoming one of the most empathetic, thoughtful, humanistic writers around—is exceptional and inspiring.”
—Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
At the age of five, Megan Phelps-Roper carried signs protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. As she grew, she watched the church—an enterprise consisting almost entirely of her immediate relatives—expand its activities. It became notorious for picketing soldiers’ funerals and celebrating death and tragedy, causing the BBC to label the Phelpses “the most hated family in America.” For Megan, however, Westboro was a source of comfort and inspiration. And as the church’s Twitter spokesperson, she mastered its messaging—skillfully expounding upon pop culture, current events, and all the reasons “God Hates Your Feelings.” But Megan’s Twitter evangelizing triggered a remarkable transformation. As she jousted with online critics, observed church members mistreating one another, and tried to make sense of her own evolving beliefs and desires, she started to question her mission. Soon, she was exchanging messages with a man who would help change her life. Unfollow relates Megan’s painful departure from Westboro and how she replaced the dogmas she had absorbed with a new community. The tale of her moral awakening is rich with suspense and thoughtful reflection, exposing the dangers of black-and-white thinking—and illuminating a possible way out of our age of angry polarization.
Megan Phelps-Roper is a writer and activist. She left the Westboro Baptist Church in November 2012 and is now an educator on topics related to extremism and communication across ideological lines. She lives in South Dakota.