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A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Book - 2019
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The activist and TED speaker Phelps-Roper reveals her life growing up in the most hated family in America. Rich with suspense and thoughtful reflection, her life story exposes the dangers of black-and-white thinking and the need for true humility in a time of angry polarization.
At the age of five, Phelps-Roper began protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Founded by her grandfather and consisting almost entirely of her extended family, the tiny group would gain worldwide notoriety for its pickets at military funerals and celebrations of death and tragedy. She became the church's Twitter spokeswoman, but dialogue on Twitter caused her to begin doubting the church's leaders and message. Here she relates her moral awakening, her departure from the church, and how she exchanged the absolutes she grew up with for new forms of warmth and community. -- adapted from jacket
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2019.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780374275839
0374275831
Branch Call Number: 286 PHE
Characteristics: 289 pages ; 24 cm

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EBirdy
Oct 15, 2020

This was quite a good memoir. Her writing is excellent, and her description of life growing up in what was essentially a cult was very interesting. What I found most fascinating was her use of Twitter - I don't think of the platform as being a tool for actual substantive discussion, but she sure found a way to make it one. The people she met on Twitter actually helped her when she left Westboro and became friends.
Touches on deeper subjects than a book like The Glass Castle or Educated, but if you liked those you would like this, too.

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jheck326
Jul 20, 2020

This book is a great read if you enjoyed Educated. It is a great testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome even the deepest brainwashing. Unfortunately, her story is tinged with a great deal of sadness and pain, as she is forced to give up her family in order to escape the brainwashing. Nonetheless, Phelps-Roper continues to be hopeful that they, too, can be freed from their upbringing. If you can, it is totally worth a visit to drive by the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. It makes reading the book all the more real, as you can visualize this compound in the midst of a normal Midwestern residential neighborhood. You can also see the house that Phelps-Roper mentions. It is just across the street and is painted in rainbow colors with words of affirmation for LGBTQ people. It is a great reminder of the goodness of humanity despite the cruelty of some.

j
Jtulsa
Feb 04, 2020

I thought this book was well written.
I used to live in Kansas and have relatives who live in Topeka (home of the Westboro church) and Lawrence. I am familiar with their hate speech and wondered why they believed that way and why did Megan leave the church and her family. They are of the fundamentalist ( and are extremist) Baptist faith. The last chapter of this book is why I gave the book a 5 rating. Megan writes about her insights and conclusions to that way of living that really pertains to any hate group. You wouldnt expect such a group to be as educated as her family is.

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lilypad_1
Nov 20, 2019

I wanted to read this and I didn't want to read this. I have been so bewildered as to the actions of this Westboro Church and to how any group of people could be so hateful that I didn't want to let any of their beliefs into my mind. But the fact that she got out of it made me very curious. Her ability to separate their actions from the words in the Bible which they draw their beliefs from is astounding considering she had to start protesting with signs at age 5. She had these beliefs shoved down her throat her whole life and was able to peel away the signs of cognitive dissonance only when the church leaders started attacking her immediate family. Like all cults there was emotional and physical abuse which was hard to read. When she started questioning the Bible I was right there with her, all these different religions interpreting it differently who is to say what is right? Her strength to leave her family and write this book is astounding and I admire her and wish her well.

LPL_LeahN Nov 10, 2019

Megan Phelps-Roper and I are the same age and I'm a lifelong Kansan, so I have followed her Westboro journey for a long time. I particularly remember a time in my early 20s when she was interviewed on my favorite radio program. I was completely blown away by her ability to speak about Westboro and her beliefs with such candor and intelligence. And she was only one of many educated, well spoken, successful people in the Phelps family. I kept thinking, "How can people this smart be so brainwashed?" As it turns out, they can't.

This book is a fascinating look at the power of persuasion. The persuasion of our upbringing, countered by the persuasion of the world. There's irony in the fact that the undoing of Westboro will more than likely be their strangely progressive insistence on educating their members, and also the necessity of a global, public presence. They can't hide from the world because this would be counterproductive in spreading their message, but it's this very exposure that has time and time again turned the hearts of their members away from Westboro.

Megan tells her story with the same cleverness and jarring honesty I've always heard from her. Her voice coupled with a subject that has long fascinated me made for a read I couldn't put down. Not to say that I could ever fully understand the ideology behind the machinations of the Westboro Baptist Church...but after reading this I am as close as I will likely ever be to understanding their behavior as a symptom of the fear they carry around with them, and can only escape by completely upending their lives and leaving it all behind. 

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