Ayaan speaks with Megan Phelps-Roper about leaving the Westboro Baptist Church. They discuss how we can bridge the divide and have empathetic conversations across ideological lines.

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, the Topeka, Kansas church known internationally for its daily public protests against members of the LGBTQ community, Jews, other Christians, the military, and countless others. As a child, teenager and early 20-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 speaks widely, engaging audiences in schools, universities, faith groups, and law enforcement anti-extremism workshops. Her book is titled Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Extremism. 

Follow her on Twitter @meganphelps

Follow Ayaan on Twitter @ayaan.

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Published in: Religion & Philosophy

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  1. OwnedByDogs Coolidge

    Some wonderful advice in this episode. I will try and use it when talking to people I know who have become distressingly leftist. But it is hard to assume good intentions, stay calm and make your argument when the other person assumes you are ill intentioned and becomes angry and upset and flings really ridiculous left wing talking points as their only argument. 

    Unfortunately, sometimes the best thing seems to be to just avoid contentious subjects if you want to retain any relationship.

    • #1
  2. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne

    Ayan and Megan spoke wonderfully about the dangers of religious extremism. However, I still can’t make sense of human rights unless there is a morality above common humanity. I must admit to feeling great emotion to her appeal to empathy and compassion but I have to ask why her liberal values are objectively better to religious values.

    In order for us to have rights, language must be a reflection of reality, reality a recognition of truth, and truth unchanging.  God is Truth, and is unchanging, and is therefore antithetical to socialism.  God doesn’t empower man by forcing him to recognize God’s definitions, or by requiring uniformity … men disagree with one another, they disagree with God, and they sometimes deny him altogether.  Recognition of God, however, is recognition of unchanging truth, which enables man to think; it allows him to see and recognize truth, to debate facts and ideas; to disagree. 

    Without something above humanity, why is humanity special and deserving of human rights?

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  3. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda

    Another great episode.

    • #3