Unfollow : A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
by Megan Phelps-Roper


Overview -

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. 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. As Phelps-Roper grew up, she saw that church members were close companions and accomplished debaters, applying the logic of predestination and the language of the King James Bible to everyday life with aplomb--which, as the church's Twitter spokeswoman, she learned to do with great skill. Soon, however, dialogue on Twitter caused her to begin doubting the church's leaders and message: If humans were sinful and fallible, how could the church itself be so confident about its beliefs? As she digitally jousted with critics, she started to wonder if sometimes they had a point--and then she began exchanging messages with a man who would help change her life.

A gripping memoir of escaping extremism and falling in love, Unfollow relates Phelps-Roper's moral awakening, her departure from the church, and how she exchanged the absolutes she grew up with for new forms of warmth and community. Rich with suspense and thoughtful reflection, Phelps-Roper's life story exposes the dangers of black-and-white thinking and the need for true humility in a time of angry polarization.

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More About Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper
 
 
 
Overview

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. 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. As Phelps-Roper grew up, she saw that church members were close companions and accomplished debaters, applying the logic of predestination and the language of the King James Bible to everyday life with aplomb--which, as the church's Twitter spokeswoman, she learned to do with great skill. Soon, however, dialogue on Twitter caused her to begin doubting the church's leaders and message: If humans were sinful and fallible, how could the church itself be so confident about its beliefs? As she digitally jousted with critics, she started to wonder if sometimes they had a point--and then she began exchanging messages with a man who would help change her life.

A gripping memoir of escaping extremism and falling in love, Unfollow relates Phelps-Roper's moral awakening, her departure from the church, and how she exchanged the absolutes she grew up with for new forms of warmth and community. Rich with suspense and thoughtful reflection, Phelps-Roper's life story exposes the dangers of black-and-white thinking and the need for true humility in a time of angry polarization.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374275839
  • ISBN-10: 0374275831
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publish Date: October 2019
  • Page Count: 304
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.15 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Family & Relationships > Dysfunctional Families
Books > Religion > Christianity - Baptist

 
BookPage Reviews

Unfollow

There are two ways to write about a dam bursting. You can begin at the exact moment the cresting waters rupture the wall and surge toward freedom—or you can start long before that, with the first drops of rain that eventually overrun the embankments. In Unfollow, Megan Phelps-Roper chooses the second approach to explain why she left the notorious Westboro Baptist Church.

One of the most surprising aspects of this remarkable book is how loving the Westboro Baptist Church was—at least to its members in good standing. Phelps-Roper’s childhood was idyllic in many ways. She was surrounded by caring, intelligent and passionate adults who adored her. By the age of 8, however, she was joining them in protesting against the LGBTQ community and being rewarded for spewing vile slogans. This strange juxtaposition defined her youth: Phelps-Roper went to school, shopped at the mall, ate popcorn at the movies—and then rushed out to picket the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq or to publicly pray for more children to be shot after Newtown. By the time she was in her 20s, Phelps-Roper was in charge of the church’s social media presence, using her formidable intellect to defend the reprehensible. And yet, throughout her book is an awareness that each incident contributed to the erosion of her faith in Westboro’s theology.

It’s ironic that the very qualities her family instilled in her—intellectual rigor, intimate knowledge of the Bible, courage in the face of fierce opposition—led to her inevitable departure. When she could no longer support either the church’s theology of hatred or its belief in its own infallibility, she renounced them. 

Phelps-Roper is a masterful writer. She writes movingly about the searing pain of separation from those she continues to love, and beautifully about how freeing herself from a theology of hate has given her life greater meaning and purpose. In a time of growing intolerance, Unfollow is essential reading.

 
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