Megan Phelps-Roper

Cindy Seip

Megan Phelps-Roper is a writer and activist. She was a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. She left the church in November 2012 and is now an educator on topics related to extremism and communication across ideological divides. Phelps-Roper began protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, when she was five. The church was founded by her grandfather and consisted almost entirely of her extended family, but the tiny group would gain worldwide notoriety for its pickets at military funerals and celebrations of death and tragedy. In her memoir Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) she recounts how church members applied the logic of predestination and the language of the King James Bible to everyday life and how, as the church’s Twitter spokeswoman, she learned to do it and applied it with great skill. Soon, however, dialogue on Twitter caused her to begin doubting the church’s leaders and message. As she started to wonder if critics sometimes had a point, she began exchanging messages with a man who would help change her life. Unfollow tells her tale of moral awakening, escaping extremism, falling in love, and exchanging the absolutes she grew up with for new forms of warmth and community. Publisher’s Weekly noted that “Phelps-Roper’s intelligence and compassion shine throughout with electric prose […] an eye for detail, and a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible. She admirably explicates the worldview of the Westboro Baptist Church while humanizing its members, and recounts a classic coming-of-age story without resorting to cliché or condescending to her former self. For anyone interested in the power of rhetoric, belief, and family, Phelps-Roper’s powerful, empathetic memoir will be a must-read.”