Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope, leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

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Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope, leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper

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By Megan Phelps-Roper

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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.

Reviews

28 Nov 2019

Ciarán K

This book defies expectations and draws you into the trauma of exposing falsehood but at the same time (the necessary) abandoning real loving care.

Megan Phelps-Roper comes from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. This book chronicles her exodus. Her family is full of contradictions. They picket soldiers funerals yet treat each other with deep compassion and spend themselves in service to one another.

The author over time exposes the hypocrisy of the church, which has the side effect of unravelling doubts which she had pushed aside.

As a Christian, I found this an especially tough, though important read. I was sickened to see the way scripture was used as a hammer to bludgeon. I cheered as Megan rejected the Westboro depiction of God. I was saddened as she never saw the true picture of God in the Bible, one who hates hypocrisy but loves the world dearly and deeply.

The writing was engaging and eloquent. Recommended.

25 Nov 2019

SueM

I experienced the whole gamut of emotions reading this book, and I suspect that the author’s story will stay with me for a long time to come. A difficult read, made all the more compelling for the fact that it is autobiographical. Well worthy of 5 stars.

22 Nov 2019

JoanieM

This book is the account of the authors life inside, and subsequently outside, the Westboro Baptist Church. It tells of her upbringing and what was expected of her from an early age, based on their beliefs. I found it incredible that the members of that church thought it right to picket soldiers’ funerals, and schools where shootings had taken place, etc stating they had brought it on themselves. I was not surprised they were named The Most Hated Family in America after reading this account.

It was good that the author did eventually leave this “cult” - and it was obviously a struggle for her. But why did it take her so long!

29 Oct 2019

Cotcom

This is a memoir by former religious zealot Megan Phelps-Roper about her remarkable life journey. She was raised in the fanatical Westboro Baptist Church in America. The book tells the story of how she escaped the confines and hatred of her church and family, changed her beliefs and has today become an advocate of the people she was raised to despise.

Clearly this is a story of courage and change. Known in the media as the Most Despised Family in America, Phelps-Roper talks about what life was like living in such a closed circle. The members of the church were mostly her relatives and so the church was literally and figuratively her family. It was all she knew. Her parents were clever, educated people, as is she, but they believed they were the chosen people and anyone who didn’t fit their perceived God-directed mould was evil. It’s an extraordinary look into a destructive culture of control and unwavering faith.

Whilst the story is breathtaking, at times the writing gets wordy. There are a lot of biblical quotations which slowed down the storytelling, but these are always in italics and I found myself skimming parts. I found what Megan wrote about her life was more interesting to read than most of the scriptures that were generously sprinkled throughout. The flow of the story in the second half picked up at a faster pace. She writes honestly and openly, laying her emotions out for all to see. She doesn’t seem to hide much.

No spoiler alerts, but despite the sadness and cruelty and pain, there is redemption and happiness. I enjoyed reading this memoir very much and take my hat off to the courage and thoughtfulness of the author.

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