By Megan Phelps-Roper
The metamorphic journey of Megan Phelps-Roper: a young woman raised in a religious hate group, who has become an advocate for equality, diversity and tolerance.
It was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in other ways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.
Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church - the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church's invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God's truth. She was, in her words, 'all in'.
In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.
Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself.
Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church: the Topeka, Kansas religious group known internationally for its daily public protests against members of the LGBT community, Jews, the military, other Christians, and countless others. As a child, teenager, and early twenty-something, she participated in the picketing almost daily and spearheaded the use of social media in the church. Dialogue with 'enemies' online proved instrumental in her deradicalization, and she left the church and her entire way of life in November 2012. Since then she has become an advocate for people and ideas she was taught to despise - especially the value of empathy in dialogue with people across ideological lines. She lives in South Dakota.
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- Publication date:
03 Oct 2019
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Megan Phelps-Roper is a beautiful writer, and her journey - from Westboro to becoming one of the most empathetic, thoughtful, humanistic writers around - is exceptional and inspiring. I met Megan shortly after she left her church. She said, 'I want to do good, but I don't know how.' With Unfollow she's figured out how. — Jon Ronson
Megan Phelps-Roper is one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. If you want to see how a girl raised on religious fanaticism and sectarian hatred can be cured by the power of honest reasoning, read this book. — Sam Harris
Megan Phelps-Roper finds a way to tell the story of the girl she was raised to be from the perspective of the woman she became, without rewriting history or losing touch with the earnestness that made everything in her world seem ok, if not downright righteous. Despite a fundamental transformation of epic proportions, Megan's core, her soul, remains the same throughout: kind, passionate, and open. Her process is wildly brave and incredibly thoughtful and this book gives us the incomparable insight into a world we all, and yet, none of us, know. This book will leave you holding your heart. — Sarah Silverman