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A Fresh Start

There is nothing positive I can say about the Westboro Baptist Church.  Absolutely nothing.  I can’t think of a single thing they have done for this world that isn’t disgusting and hate-filled.  I fully support freedom of religion, but there is no excuse for the horrible ways the WBC takes advantage of this freedom and attacks people who are wholly undeserving of such terrible treatment.  I’m not sure if they are motivated solely by their religious beliefs or if there is a cry for attention there as well, but no reasoning can justify the things they do and the way they treat people, other children of God according to the bible they claim to follow.

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Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of church leader Fred Phelps, has been on my radar since she made a scene at one of Kevin Smith’s movie premieres.  Phelps-Roper left the movie premiere in typical WBC fashion; making a scene and bringing attention to her hate-filled church.  Smith and Phelps-Roper had been engaging in a heated back and forth on Twitter, which continued for a while after the movie premiere.  I followed their argument fairly closely and it honestly just made me sad.  Worse than what the WBC does is the way the younger members of the church are brainwashed into becoming close-minded sheep who waste so much time on hate that they have no time to truly live.

Recently, Phelps-Roper posted a link to her blog on Twitter.  She wrote:

“There’s no fresh start in today’s world. Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what you did. Everything we do is collated and quantified. Everything sticks.”  Don’t act surprised that I’m quoting Batman. At WBC, reciting lines from pop culture is par for the course. And why not? The sentiments they express are readily identifiable by the masses – and shifting their meaning is as easy as giving them new context. So put Selina Kyle’s words in a different framework:  In a city in a state in the center of a country lives a group of people who believe they are the center of the universe; they know Right and Wrong, and they are Right. They work hard and go to school and get married and have kids who they take to church and teach that continually protesting the lives, deaths, and daily activities of The World is the only genuine statement of compassion that a God-loving human can sincerely make. As parents, they are attentive and engaged, and the children learn their lessons well.

This is my framework.  Until very recently, this is what I lived, breathed, studied, believed, preached – loudly, daily, and for nearly 27 years.  I never thought it would change. I never wanted it to.  Then suddenly: it did.  And I left.  Where do you go from there?  I don’t know, exactly. My sister Grace is with me, though. We’re trying to figure it out together.

There are some things we do know.  We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.  We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.  We know that we can’t undo our whole lives. We can’t even say we’d want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.  Up until now, our names have been synonymous with “God Hates Fags.” Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what we did. We hope Ms. Kyle was right about the other part, too, though – that everything sticks – and that the changes we make in our lives will speak for themselves.

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Megan Phelps-Roper has had enough.  She has left the WBC, a decision that cuts her off from the majority of her family whether she likes it or not.  She is now faced with the daunting task of starting over and shedding the hate-filled image she has lived in for most of her life.  As Phelps-Roper pointed out, the ease of acquiring information makes it impossible for her to fully escape her past.  To be honest, she doesn’t deserve to escape it fully.  Apologies should be made and bridges should be mended, but the acts should not be forgotten and pushed aside just because she now desires to be free of the WBC.

That said, Phelps-Roper does deserve to be given a chance.  It takes a lot of courage to walk away from something so big, leaving your family and everything you know behind.  It took a lot of guts for her to question the WBC’s message and to finally stand up and say that it isn’t right.  It’s going to be quite the challenge for her to move forward without the support of her family and her church community.  It’s going to be even harder for her to convince people that she has in fact changed and is ready to start over with a new outlook on life and on her community.

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If Phelps-Roper is serious and genuine, and I believe that she is, I wish her the very best of luck and I am hoping for her to find success and happiness in this new path in her life.  The fact that she is stepping away, after all the work she has done in social media to bring attention to the WBC, speaks volumes.  The mentality of the other church members makes me feel certain that she will not be welcomed back if she has a change of heart, so this is a very permanent step for her.  I hope that she is given the chance to prove herself and isn’t instantly dismissed by people who wish to hold her past against her regardless of what she is presently doing.

One thing we should take from Phelps-Roper’s decision is that it’s not only okay to question what we are taught, but it’s an intelligent decision to do so.  The teaching of any church, or even lessons from our parents or other elders, are just words coming from other human beings.  Imperfect human beings, fully capable of making mistakes and being misinformed.  We cannot allow blind trust to override common sense.  We cannot stand by and be content in a world view when deep down we feel that it is wrong.  We have the right to ask questions, we have the right to make our own decisions, and we have the right to educate ourselves.  For all her faults, Phelps-Roper made those first steps.  Here’s hoping more of the WBC, and groups like it, follow suit.

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About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on February 12, 2013, in Crazy People, Life, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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