Unfollow
LOUIS THEROUX: 'For anyone who enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy or Educated, Unfollow is an essential text'NICK HORNBY: 'A beautiful, gripping book about a singular soul, and an unexpected redemption'JON RONSON: 'Her journey - from Westboro to becoming one of the most empathetic, thoughtful, humanistic writers around - is exceptional and inspiring'As featured on the BBC documentary, 'The Most Hated Family in America' 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.

Unfollow Details

TitleUnfollow
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 8th, 2019
Publisherriverrun
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Religion, Biography Memoir

Unfollow Review

  • Laura Floyd
    January 1, 1970
    Hi. I'm Laura from Chapter 8. This is NOT an unbiased review. Some framework: I have the great privilege and pleasure to call Megan a beloved friend. I have been by her side - always metaphorically, sometimes literally - since the events of Chapter 8. As a person, I find Megan to be one of the most vibrant, passionate, and brave human beings I have ever met. The strength it took her to not only survive all the events of this book, but also to be the driving force behind them, takes my breath awa Hi. I'm Laura from Chapter 8. This is NOT an unbiased review. Some framework: I have the great privilege and pleasure to call Megan a beloved friend. I have been by her side - always metaphorically, sometimes literally - since the events of Chapter 8. As a person, I find Megan to be one of the most vibrant, passionate, and brave human beings I have ever met. The strength it took her to not only survive all the events of this book, but also to be the driving force behind them, takes my breath away. The strength she continues to display as she takes on the world and the Westboro Baptist Church, one TED Talk, one conference panel, one joyfully lived day at a time, leaves me in awe. Okay. Enough love letter. Let's talk about this book. I read a lot of early chapter drafts. Before reading this book as a completed whole, I knew what it was about. I knew its themes and history and narrative style. I have admired Megan's writing since the very first draft I read. Her language flows lyrically, I am jealous of her vocabulary. She really is as fast-talking in real life as the book implies, but in writing her words can keep up with the speed of her thoughts, and from those words she spins out love, heartache, and resolution, all in equal measure. No amount of draft-reading could have prepared me for the impact the book would have on me, read as a cohesive whole. I actually didn't mean to pick it up and read it straight through just now. I picked it up to admire its completion and to feel what it was like now that it was an actual book. My eyes caught on the opening lines. I found myself skimming through chapter one, and by chapter two I was properly reading and couldn't put it down. I already knew the whole story. I knew the plot twists, I knew the ending. I read anyway, gobbling it up as if it were the first time. The early chapters contain a lot of background. There's something very disconcerting and occasionally even repulsive, reading about the history and tactics of the WBC from the perspective of someone deeply entrenched, someone who not only knew the doctrines but lived for them, reveled in them. The unabashedness with which Megan could shout mockery and insults evokes a kind of visceral repulsion, and knowing that it was her loving family that trained her up in these ways of callous cruelty doubles the discomfiture. Seeing how the public preaching tactics sat hand-in-hand with the warmth and love that the Phelps family displayed to each other is downright disconcerting. Once Megan shifts from reporting on the history of her family/church to telling of how her own mind engaged with their teachings and began slowly unraveling the precepts she'd held firm all her life, the real humanity of her situation becomes apparent. It seems impossible that such love and such cruelty could live together in the same heart, and it seems obvious that such a mental paradox would eventually have to give way under its own weight, but most of us have never been so thoroughly trapped by our circumstances. The cost of disobedience and rebellion for Megan was not just high, it was everything. By the end of chapter 7, I was in tears. I've known loss to death less painful than the loss Megan describes of her living family, and you feel her loss in every word. I couldn't help but imagine how her family would feel reading this book. Will they read it? Can they get past the ugliness of plain truths that they will feel, instead, as lies and slander? Will they be able to feel Megan's love of them, her desperate desire to save them from themselves and have them back in her life? Can they even get an inkling, through the indoctrination that would inform such a reading, of her deep sincerity? I hope so. Throughout the book, Megan shows us plainly the workings of her mind and heart - the ways she struggled to understand herself, her family, and their places in the world. Megan doesn't just observe the events that shaped her - she passes judgment on the actions of her family, and on her own past actions as well. But she also comes away with a sense of purpose and determination to make changes for the better. I have learned so much from Megan about what it means to love, to lose, and to continue loving. I have learned resilience from her, and boundless hope. I have learned, above and beyond all, the earth-shattering importance of learning how to change your mind. I can't wait for the rest of you to read this book.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    I, myself, am agnostic/non-religious, but I don't have an issue with others believing in a higher being as in this life, we need to hold dear those things that bring us comfort. The trouble really begins when a religious group turns into a cult. I first heard about Westboro Baptist Church through Louis Theroux's programme some time ago and finding it intriguing I knew when I spotted this that it was right up my street. Megan Phelps-Roper delivers a scathing attack on the indoctrination and behav I, myself, am agnostic/non-religious, but I don't have an issue with others believing in a higher being as in this life, we need to hold dear those things that bring us comfort. The trouble really begins when a religious group turns into a cult. I first heard about Westboro Baptist Church through Louis Theroux's programme some time ago and finding it intriguing I knew when I spotted this that it was right up my street. Megan Phelps-Roper delivers a scathing attack on the indoctrination and behaviour she experienced all through her childhood and formative years. What I love is that it very much reads like a thriller but of course, it's real-life; you have to keep reminding yourself that the author went through these shocking things.Unfollow is a raw and honest written account of life both inside and outside the church and her struggle to escape from a life and family she no longer wanted to be part of. She has finally been able to move on from this and is living freely but there is no doubt it will impact her forever. A deeply moving and emotional read written in an exquisitely compassionate and forgiving tone, and I am so glad to hear of her meeting and marrying the man she loved. This rings with a powerful authenticity and will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time to come. Phelps-Roper pens a brave and fiercely inspirational book in which she sings like a bird finally released from its cage. Highly recommended. Many thanks to riverrun for an ARC.
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  • Carrie Poppy
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic.
  • Figgy
    January 1, 1970
    After watching Louis Theroux's original visit to the Westboro Baptist Church over a decade ago, and his visit around 2012 (either just before or just after Megan left), I was fascinated to know how someone so embedded in a familial culture of hatred could see the light, as it were, and leave that culture behind, especially knowing that it would likely mean excommunication from the family.So, needless to say, I am UNBELIEVABLY curious and excited to dive into this one!
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  • Anneke
    January 1, 1970
    Book Review: Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist ChurchAuthor: Megan Phelps-RoperPublisher: Farrar, Straus and GirouxPublication Date: October 8, 2019Review Date: May 16, 2019I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m aware that I had had access to the book months before publication. I usually wait until closer publication time to read and review NetGalley books. But in this case, I was ve Book Review: Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist ChurchAuthor: Megan Phelps-RoperPublisher: Farrar, Straus and GirouxPublication Date: October 8, 2019Review Date: May 16, 2019I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m aware that I had had access to the book months before publication. I usually wait until closer publication time to read and review NetGalley books. But in this case, I was very interested in the book and didn’t want to wait to read and review it. This is a memoir written by one of the family members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. The church is very small; it’s really primarily made up of the Phelps family. Megan is the granddaughter of the church founder, Fred Phelps. I remember reading about the church, as you may have. This is the group that picketed veterans’ funerals and held up signs saying, “God hates fags!”I remember being outraged when reading about their demonstrations, as were many others who read about them or held counter protests against their outrageous demonstrations. I love reading memoirs. This memoir reminded me of the book Educated by Tara Westover, and other memoirs of people who had grown up in cults and somehow came to consciousness and left their cults. During the course of my life, I’ve been involved with three cults, including a Christian one. So I have some understanding of what happens in cults, and what it takes to remove oneself from their mental and emotional grip. The WBC (Westboro Baptist Church) is a particularly insidiously hateful cult. Growing up in this cult must have been especially brutal. Megan, at around age 26, had an awakening one day, while painting a bedroom with her sister. Out of the blue, she saw how cruel her family had been and how she had been corralled into their cultish lifestyle. She, along with her sister, left the cult/the church/her family over the course of a few months.The memoir spells out her awakening and her leaving the church. My heart ached for her, and I am so grateful she had the strength to leave. The writing was a bit verbose, a little more detail about her feelings and process than I thought necessary. But I imagine the writing of the memoir helped her with her liberation. If you like to read memoir and/or have an interest in cults, this will be an interesting book for you. I give it 5 stars, despite some of the excessive processing. Highly recommended. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for allowing me an early look at this memoir. This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. #netgalley #unfollow #farrarstrausandgiroux #meganphelps-roper #memoir #cults
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  • Grace -breadandbutterbooks
    January 1, 1970
    As a queer person, attacked in the past by vicious homophobes, I never thought I would cry at a description of Fred Phelps's last days. But I did, I wept as this book ended. The infamous 'Gramps' was subject to the cruelty of the church he created in his final days, while sick and only semi-lucid, taken out of his home and marriage and put into a hospice, alone.This is a memoir as much about a family as it is about a religious cult known for its GOD HATES FAGS signs. Megan Phelps-Rop As a queer person, attacked in the past by vicious homophobes, I never thought I would cry at a description of Fred Phelps's last days. But I did, I wept as this book ended. The infamous 'Gramps' was subject to the cruelty of the church he created in his final days, while sick and only semi-lucid, taken out of his home and marriage and put into a hospice, alone.This is a memoir as much about a family as it is about a religious cult known for its GOD HATES FAGS signs. Megan Phelps-Roper is a wonderful writer, and her perspective is vital. Through her writing we can come to understand how sentiments like GOD HATES FAGS and PRAY FOR MORE DEAD SOLDIERS are justified by those who hold the signs. Where these beliefs come from, which Bible verses 'support' them, and the pressure on Westboro Baptist Church members to never question these beliefs. Never question the church. The church that, for Phelps-Roper, was mostly made up of her family - how, then, to leave your entire world behind when you no longer believe?This is not a tell-all, not a peep show into a 'crazy' family, this is not about the exceptional: this is about the everyday. Unfollow is practical, realistic, a memoir that details what it is that can change the mind of someone who has extreme, hateful views. A perspective we dearly need as hate spreads and becomes everyday.
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  • Lloyd
    January 1, 1970
    I can imagine this, Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, is the biography the author, Megan Phelps-Roper, needed to write, but publishing it all doesn’t make for nearly as interesting of a read as it could have been. It ends when her life really starts.The author seems very successful at putting herself back at that age in that place. And she touches many unimaginably emotionally sensitive times in her life including the legacy of physical abuse and t I can imagine this, Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, is the biography the author, Megan Phelps-Roper, needed to write, but publishing it all doesn’t make for nearly as interesting of a read as it could have been. It ends when her life really starts.The author seems very successful at putting herself back at that age in that place. And she touches many unimaginably emotionally sensitive times in her life including the legacy of physical abuse and the coup against her mother’s role in the church. It’s surprising that she doesn’t weigh the change in leadership of her church as the main catalyst of her disillusionment. How she described these events was also the chapter where I gave up on getting anything raw.I wanted to understand really who the new elders were and what her and the old leaders where like and how the transition happened. The message of how controlling they were was clear, but not by whose authority and how they maintained that authority. I couldn't relate to or understand adults being submissive to the emotional abusive community. The author touched upon how the decision process seemed open previously, but I suspect it was actually a straight patriarchy with her family being favored. If the change in leadership really was impenetrable to the author that would have been interesting to document and comment on more as well.Throughout the book it is a historical account sewn together with the Christian biblical quotes that enabled her justification. Although the prose is very good, I waited the whole book for her reflections and insights. It left me disappointed.Did the author finish the story? Did she exhaust herself in the emotional work by recounting her painful experiences? Or is she keeping her recent experiences for herself and the privacy of her new family. The book’s “back cover” description ends “Phelps-Roper’s life story exposes the dangers of ...” But we only get the less interesting *half* of her life.What is interesting to me is who she became in the seven years since freeing herself; how she continues to reprogram herself and how she made dating & relationships work while hopefully developing independence.The author doesn’t seem to revisit how gross her family’s view of the lack of possible mates was. How was she able to re-orient this to a healthy pursuit once she escaped? What makes her relationship with her husband successful? It’s wonderful she is a new parent. Does she have any professional plans?She tells us she is no longer praying, but what does her spirituality look like now?Since drafting this review, I've watched the author's incredible TED 2017 talk: I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here's why I left. Why wasn't that content included and expanded upon in the book?
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  • Becki
    January 1, 1970
    This is not the first (or even the second!) book that I've read by someone who left Westboro Baptist Church. One thing that I've so appreciated about these books (and about THIS book, by Megan) is how the authors are able to show the multi-dimentionality of their lives. Neither Megan nor her family members are horrible people, nor are they blameless. They are- like all of us- humans who are somewhat flawed but trying their best to do what they think is right, sometimes with horribly painful resu This is not the first (or even the second!) book that I've read by someone who left Westboro Baptist Church. One thing that I've so appreciated about these books (and about THIS book, by Megan) is how the authors are able to show the multi-dimentionality of their lives. Neither Megan nor her family members are horrible people, nor are they blameless. They are- like all of us- humans who are somewhat flawed but trying their best to do what they think is right, sometimes with horribly painful results. Megan does a great job of speaking transparently to that quandary. This book, uniquely, is filled with KJV scriptures running like a constant commentary throughout Megan's life, offering explanation for the inexplicable. Though the majority of the book centers on the lives of Megan and her immediate family during her time at Westboro, I was most interested in the story of her deconstruction- the first thoughts she had that were contrary to her teaching and how she worked through her beliefs after leaving. I do wish she had shared more about her current beliefs, though it may be that her beliefs are still in flux. She has interesting thoughts on political discourse in the Trump era, and I admire her desire to make a bridge for her WBC loved ones while expanding the idea of walking together, in spite of some disagreement.I wish her the absolute best in her efforts....I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion, which I am always happy to share. ;) #NetGalley #Unfollow
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  • *Layali*
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, my heart. I simply adored this, and I absolutely adore Megan. Review to come. I received an ARC from the author. Megan is a dear friend of mine, so my views might be slightly biased. Please don’t let this keep you from reading this beautiful memoir.
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  • Dawn Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Oh. My. Gosh. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am not even sure HOW to review this book - there is just so much here. And much of it was NOT what I was expecting, though, to be honest, I don't really know just WHAT I WAS expecting. But it wasn't this. I wasn't expecting to relate to Megan. At all. Westboro is a crazytrain "church". Everyone knows that. But what I did not know is that amidst all the crazy-town stuff [the protests, the vulgar language, the hate] is a family [most of the congregation initially we Oh. My. Gosh. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am not even sure HOW to review this book - there is just so much here. And much of it was NOT what I was expecting, though, to be honest, I don't really know just WHAT I WAS expecting. But it wasn't this. I wasn't expecting to relate to Megan. At all. Westboro is a crazytrain "church". Everyone knows that. But what I did not know is that amidst all the crazy-town stuff [the protests, the vulgar language, the hate] is a family [most of the congregation initially were related - children and grandchildren of Fred Phelps] that is just steeped in scripture. And not just any scripture, but the King James Version of scripture. The very scripture I was steeped in as a child and teen and adult [until I moved away and realized I would NOT go to hell for reading a translation]. And that they know it better than I can ever think to know it. And their interpretation of it is how they justify the hateful rhetoric that they spew. And I was shocked to see how often what I grew up with jibed with what they were teaching and being taught and if I am being honest, this totally and completely has messed me up. It is never simple and easy to realize that what you have been taught your whole life might actually border on hate [pro-life rallies come to mind] and seclusion and an unwillingness to accept new people into the "fold" for fear of "contaminating" what was already there. I have spent much of this book in tears and deep reflection. And will continue to do so as I work out what needs to be worked out in my own life. And for that alone, I thank Megan Phelps-Roper for being brave and writing this book. She is one of the bravest people I will never have the privilege to meet. I wish her well as she continues to navigate this road of forgiveness, healing, finding who she truly is, what she truly believes and walks that road without most of her family. I cannot even imagine. This is a beautiful, brave, amazing and also, very hurtful book. She spares nothing in getting from where she came from to where she is at and that includes ALL of the hateful rhetoric that she regularly used to spew with great vengeance [in the name of God and love] - there WILL be moments that you will despair from the pure hate that is being written about. And there will be moments of despair as she and her sister decided to leave, when you realize that her family will vanish forever from her life. And just how heartbreaking that is. And that, no matter what she did, no one ever deserves that. She does not shy away from any of that, and when you are not in tears over the whole church issue, you will be in tears over the idea of losing your family forever. This book will stay with me for a very long time, as I too work out the struggle I have with the Church as a whole [which I myself left 4 year ago and have just reentered very reluctantly] and just what I believe. If you are up for all the emotions that this will evoke, than this book is absolutely for you. Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • TJL
    January 1, 1970
    Second Verse, Same as the First:Don't feed the damn trolls, kids.Don't do it.And while she spoke in vaguer terms at the end, the author's got a good message about tribalism, and a total unwillingness to "give a platform" to speech you deem as "harmful", unwillingness to debate, etc, etc. I mean, just two days ago I was on Tumblr and- no joke!- witnessed one of the unironic, infamous instances of "Um, excuse me, I thought I should tell you that this person you' Second Verse, Same as the First:Don't feed the damn trolls, kids.Don't do it.And while she spoke in vaguer terms at the end, the author's got a good message about tribalism, and a total unwillingness to "give a platform" to speech you deem as "harmful", unwillingness to debate, etc, etc. I mean, just two days ago I was on Tumblr and- no joke!- witnessed one of the unironic, infamous instances of "Um, excuse me, I thought I should tell you that this person you're reblogging from is a Republican, and that means he's ~problematic~ and you shouldn't be following him/associating with him." And like clockwork, the replies were coming in "Thank you!" "OMG I DIDN'T KNOW!" "I am SO sorry that I've reblogged things from this evil person!" "Golly, I'll unfollow him right now!"It's fucking Orwellian (and very typical of Tumblr tbh), tribalistic, and I give the author a lot of credit for calling that sort of mindset out in the book- I give her even more credit for outlining why that doesn't really work in this day and age.I mean, it's gonna go in one ear and out the other because- well, y'know: "Me and MY side aren't the problem, they and THEIR people are!" But it's still a good message.
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  • Andy
    January 1, 1970
    Megan Phelps-Roper is the voice we all need to hear in an increasingly polarized, angry and hateful world. It's so much easier to think of the Westboro Baptist Church as a bunch of evil, stupid loony tunes. It's so much easier to think of a lot of people as evil, stupid loony tunes (and of course some of them are).But by introducing her family as intelligent, loving and complex human beings (with an abhorrent and hateful worldview) *in effect if not in intent*, Megan forces me to con Megan Phelps-Roper is the voice we all need to hear in an increasingly polarized, angry and hateful world. It's so much easier to think of the Westboro Baptist Church as a bunch of evil, stupid loony tunes. It's so much easier to think of a lot of people as evil, stupid loony tunes (and of course some of them are).But by introducing her family as intelligent, loving and complex human beings (with an abhorrent and hateful worldview) *in effect if not in intent*, Megan forces me to consider that all the people I want to write off might also be intelligent, loving and complex human beings. Furthermore, by writing about how good-faith human connection and engagement eventually changed her mind, Megan has challenged me to approach everyone in the world around me AS IF good faith human connection and engagement is the only way for me to ever get my point of view across or actually understand theirs. Taking this message to heart makes the world a better place. It makes my life more interesting and keeps me constantly learning. It leads me to have conversations across differences I would have blanched at before. It leads me to a place where I can actually understand the position of people I disagree with so we can at least have a conversation in good faith.Hearing Megan and Grace's story has made me a less hateful person. For that I will be eternally grateful to them. Everyone should read this book.
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  • Becki
    January 1, 1970
    This is not the first (or even the second!) book that I've read by someone who left Westboro Baptist Church. One thing that I've so appreciated about these books (and about THIS book, by Megan) is how the authors are able to show the multi-dimentionality of their lives. Neither Megan nor her family members are horrible people, nor are they blameless. They are- like all of us- humans who are somewhat flawed but trying their best to do what they think is right, sometimes with horribly painful resu This is not the first (or even the second!) book that I've read by someone who left Westboro Baptist Church. One thing that I've so appreciated about these books (and about THIS book, by Megan) is how the authors are able to show the multi-dimentionality of their lives. Neither Megan nor her family members are horrible people, nor are they blameless. They are- like all of us- humans who are somewhat flawed but trying their best to do what they think is right, sometimes with horribly painful results. Megan does a great job of speaking transparently to that quandary. This book, uniquely, is filled with KJV scriptures running like a constant commentary throughout Megan's life, offering explanation for the inexplicable. Though the majority of the book centers on the lives of Megan and her immediate family during her time at Westboro, I was most interested in the story of her deconstruction- the first thoughts she had that were contrary to her teaching and how she worked through her beliefs after leaving. I do wish she had shared more about her current beliefs, though it may be that her beliefs are still in flux. She has interesting thoughts on political discourse in the Trump era, and I admire her desire to make a bridge for her WBC loved ones while expanding the idea of walking together, in spite of some disagreement.I wish her the absolute best in her efforts....
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  • Charissa
    January 1, 1970
    The subtitle provides the perfect summary of Megan Phelps-Roper’s new memoir, Unfollow. This book gifted me with the most complete, most human, picture I’ve ever had of the Westboro Baptist Church—the church in which Megan, beloved granddaughter of Pastor Fred Phelps, grew up. It is a well-crafted description of Megan’s formative years, her devotion to her family and church, and how the very values she was raised to cherish eventually led her away from both. There were moments I was sick to my s The subtitle provides the perfect summary of Megan Phelps-Roper’s new memoir, Unfollow. This book gifted me with the most complete, most human, picture I’ve ever had of the Westboro Baptist Church—the church in which Megan, beloved granddaughter of Pastor Fred Phelps, grew up. It is a well-crafted description of Megan’s formative years, her devotion to her family and church, and how the very values she was raised to cherish eventually led her away from both. There were moments I was sick to my stomach at the truly vile actions Westboro members took. Yet the book forced me to hold, uncomfortably, the complex nature of humanity. Many of us are familiar with the experience of having loved ones who are incredibly dear to us who, at the same time, contain depths of cruelty that we are not blind to.But I’m a sucker for tales of transformation, and Megan’s story, both written and lived, makes me optimistic. Real, deep personal change is the process of a lifetime, and I like to hold out hope for even the worst of us. The chapter on her grandfather’s last days broke my heart wide open.Part of me believes in something like karma as well. When Megan experienced the most profound rejection of her lifetime, she was forced to come face-to-face with the reality lived by those she had hurled vicious words at her entire life—the LGBT community. Their response to her “coming out” can only be described as divine.It was a book that only a Westboro insider could write. I’m so grateful she has chosen to take her experience and turn it into a public discussion of extremism and the dangers of silencing dissent. This book is definitely joining my list of top reads for 2019.
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  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    A powerful book.Parts are hard to read because she makes it so clear how the Westboro group justified everything they did with scripture completely missing the logic of alternate interpretations. How could intelligent people be so taken in?!The rigidity and total domination of group members is frightening. I am SO GLAD that she and several of her siblings were able to escape from that tangled web.A clear tale of religion gone BAD!
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    I will submit a full review after I read it but I’m excited to obtain and read this book. Megan and her family live where I grew up and I still have ties to the community. I’m exited I won a copy (shocked honestly due to the amount of people who signed up) and look forward to reading and submitting a review. Thanks to Megan, her publisher, and GoodReads for sponsoring this giveaway. I look forward to receiving my copy and will write a full review once I’ve read the book.
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  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating book that follows a young woman's journey from growing up in a cult to breaking free and awakening to the world outside. Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a golden child within her family's infamous Westboro Baptist Church, protesting since childhood and gleefully snarking on Twitter to anyone and everyone. Until one day, her church turned on her own family and she realized, as she says in the book: "It was as if we were finally doing to ourselves what we had been doing to others - for A fascinating book that follows a young woman's journey from growing up in a cult to breaking free and awakening to the world outside. Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a golden child within her family's infamous Westboro Baptist Church, protesting since childhood and gleefully snarking on Twitter to anyone and everyone. Until one day, her church turned on her own family and she realized, as she says in the book: "It was as if we were finally doing to ourselves what we had been doing to others - for over twenty years." It's a sad but often true fact of life that people don't have empathy for others until they experience something themselves, but at least Megan finally did, was finally able to put herself in the shoes of those her family and her church viciously attack (to this day). It took real courage for her to leave behind her family, her home and the only life she'd ever known; to unflinchingly examine the beliefs that had been drilled into her since birth, and to come to her own conclusions about what is true, what is right, what is honorable. Add to this the fact that Megan is a fantastic writer, and this book is a real winner.
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  • Alisa Harris
    January 1, 1970
    How does an unshakable belief system finally fall apart? Megan Phelps-Roper is intelligent, well-read, raised in a loving family and in a community where everyone helps each other, oh and where they also celebrate AIDS as a punishment for homosexuality and they protest soldiers’ funerals every week with signs that say “More Dead Soldiers.” Megan goes to public school and protests outside it during the lunch hour, then goes back in to join her classmates and finish the school day. She’s completel How does an unshakable belief system finally fall apart? Megan Phelps-Roper is intelligent, well-read, raised in a loving family and in a community where everyone helps each other, oh and where they also celebrate AIDS as a punishment for homosexuality and they protest soldiers’ funerals every week with signs that say “More Dead Soldiers.” Megan goes to public school and protests outside it during the lunch hour, then goes back in to join her classmates and finish the school day. She’s completely committed, on message, unquestioning, and devoting her life to the cause. Then she gets on Twitter and starts having some conversations with people who actually listen and actually talk to her. After she makes her escape (which is beautifully and heartbreakingly told) one of those people, now a dear friend, tells her, “In a way, leaving Westboro Baptist Church was the most Westboro Baptist Church thing you could have done. They’re the ones who taught you to stand up for what you believe in, no matter what it cost you. THEY taught you that. They just never imagined you’d be standing up to them.” That rings deeply true to me from my own experience, and it gets at the heart of this complicated story. Megan doesn’t shy away from any of the complexity of her story— she’s learned to embrace humility, doubt, and questioning— and that makes the story so compelling. At heart it’s a book about the need to let people in, listen to them, and talk to them like human beings even when you disagree. That’s what changed Megan in the end. It’s something I used to do and believe in more, in the pre-Trump world, and it’s a lesson I personally needed to hear.
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  • Aryn
    January 1, 1970
    Megan Phelps-Roper once had an interview published that ended with "I'm all in," in reference to her belief and role in the Westboro Baptist Church. Her memoir Unfollow discusses the childhood and young adult life that lead up to the interview, and what happened when she realized that she couldn't be "all in" any longer. She was part of the administration of the group, and participated in the notorious pickets from the time she was five years old. Phelps-Roper does not try to soften the langua Megan Phelps-Roper once had an interview published that ended with "I'm all in," in reference to her belief and role in the Westboro Baptist Church. Her memoir Unfollow discusses the childhood and young adult life that lead up to the interview, and what happened when she realized that she couldn't be "all in" any longer. She was part of the administration of the group, and participated in the notorious pickets from the time she was five years old. Phelps-Roper does not try to soften the language or the rhetoric of the WBC, and I can understand why that might make this book unreadable for some people. In the end, this is a story about searching for truth, the importance of dialogue, and love. The Westboro Baptist Church is a hate group, I have no question in my mind about that, and I don't think Megan Phelps-Roper doubts that either, nor does she excuse the behavior of the group. She highlights that hate groups are made up of people, and people can learn, grow, and change. Some never will, some may do everything they can to hold on to all the power they can amass. But others will, and those changes are brought on by discussions, self-reflection, and time. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via GoodReads in a giveaway for an honest review.
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  • Julie Garner
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this book.I wasn't sure what to make of this book when my sales rep placed it in my hands. I am a happily married lesbian and this person was a highly serving member of the Westboro Baptist Church who condemned me to a life in hell and prayed for my death. Did I really want to re-live that venom?I am so very glad that I did. You know how they say, walk a mile in someone else's shoes. That is what this book did for me. Yes, I had to re-live moments in history that I received an ARC of this book.I wasn't sure what to make of this book when my sales rep placed it in my hands. I am a happily married lesbian and this person was a highly serving member of the Westboro Baptist Church who condemned me to a life in hell and prayed for my death. Did I really want to re-live that venom?I am so very glad that I did. You know how they say, walk a mile in someone else's shoes. That is what this book did for me. Yes, I had to re-live moments in history that I would rather not be exposed to again but understanding it from Megan's perspective helped to forgive. Being born and raised in this Church is what I imagine it is like to be indoctrinated into a cult is like, however Megan and her siblings had no choice. This is what they knew, all that they knew. To them, they were right and the world was wrong.Reading about Megan's life as an integral part of the Church and then starting to have doubts about the direction the Church was going reminded me that behind the venom was someone who loved her family immensely and believed with all her heart that her belief in the bible was the way to live. Watching her start to question their message and the way the Church was taken over by a more aggressive group of leaders showed us her human side. I will be honest, when she was leaving her family my heart broke and tears fell. We are all human, we all love our families with our whole heart. I cannot imagine what it would be like to make the choice that she was forced to make.I did find it a little disjointed at times, jumping forward and back. I also struggled to read so much bible verse, but understand that it was/is part of Megan's story. I congratulate her on taking such a brave step in leaving her family, her Church and in sharing with us her journey towards hope.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    A little scattered, especially at the beginning, and was at least 100 pages too long.
  • Kokie
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating memoir that follows a member of the Westboro Baptist Church as she is indoctrinated by her family and eventually questions the pilers of her family's belief system. I found the use of bible quotes, especially in the beginning, a bit distracting and off-putting. I understood her desire to provide the evidence given to her as the backbone of the Westboro belief system, but it became overwhelming at times. I also found the middle lagging in forward movement. I was interested, but as she Fascinating memoir that follows a member of the Westboro Baptist Church as she is indoctrinated by her family and eventually questions the pilers of her family's belief system. I found the use of bible quotes, especially in the beginning, a bit distracting and off-putting. I understood her desire to provide the evidence given to her as the backbone of the Westboro belief system, but it became overwhelming at times. I also found the middle lagging in forward movement. I was interested, but as she became stalled out trying to decide what to do with her new questions I found the book lost its forward momentum. The ending surprised me in how completely she was able to come full circle and apply her life experiences to this 2019 moment. In the end, I'm glad I read the book, and I would recommend it to those who enjoy personal memoirs or are looking for insight into what religious fundamentalism can look like.
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  • Signe
    January 1, 1970
    I haven't followed the Westboro Baptist Church at all over the years, just occasionally would hear something in the news about them. This memoir by Megan Phelps-Roper accomplishes quite a bit. A memoir isn't something that should be rated because of the personal and sacred nature of sharing our lives with others, so I tend to put a blanket five-star rating on them. This one happens to be very well done. I had a hard time putting this book down. Her memoir is also a coming of age story of her chi I haven't followed the Westboro Baptist Church at all over the years, just occasionally would hear something in the news about them. This memoir by Megan Phelps-Roper accomplishes quite a bit. A memoir isn't something that should be rated because of the personal and sacred nature of sharing our lives with others, so I tend to put a blanket five-star rating on them. This one happens to be very well done. I had a hard time putting this book down. Her memoir is also a coming of age story of her childhood into her 20s when she starts learning to think critically about her family’s theology and methodology in public. Her memoir illustrates a more frequent observation as I get older: Every generation has to learn for themselves. Because I hadn't paid much attention to the Phelps family I had no idea they are a family of lawyers and that the patriarch, Fred Phelps, actually worked as a lawyer on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement after Brown vs. Board of Education. The man appears to have relished a fight and it did not bother him to ruffle feathers. He seems to have taken up the LGBT issue, again on the unpopular side, once race issue died down. He was a man driven to fight with others and he led his large family, those who could be molded by him anyway, into a nearly constant schedule of picketing and exercising their 1st Amendment rights to the extreme. Initially I wasn't interested in the book to learn about the family, however they are quite interesting if for nothing else, the reader can see the other side of them as a family, not just a news blurb of angry picketers. One can’t really learn about Megan without understanding the family she grew up with. This is Megan's discovery memoir coming out of American fundamentalist extremist Christian church. They seem to be some sort of mix of Calvinist pre-destination, King James translation only Bible who use their own interpretation of the Bible to create their rules and worldview. They convince themselves that only they understand the truth of the biblical message. As her grandfather, Fred Phelps pointed out, he wasn't saying anything much different from the Puritans and Jonathan Edwards of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" fame. What irony that the WBC would only read the King James version when he was the reason the Puritans left for Leiden, Holland where toleration was practiced. That King James I himself wanted the bible to support the divine right of kings and state sanctioned religion. While Megan doesn’t delve into American history and the strain of English Puritanical influence, she has put a lot of thought and effort into sussing out why people take the positions they do, how social movements have similar dynamics due to human nature. Now she recognizes the patterns of this type of organizational toxicity and rightly points out our current President and administration. What happens when Westboro Baptist Church us vs them thinking takes over the White House? When any hint of thinking for oneself results in immediate expulsion? I agree with her that the underlying thinking and relational patterns of the WBC are fairly common in the United States even if they aren't all out picketing and gaining notoriety in the process. Our country has mythologized the Puritan influence and the Dutch values of tolerance, multiculturalism, democracy seem to be in a struggle with Puritanical view of “we are right, everyone else is wrong”. The telling of her journey out of her family seems realistic because soon after she leaves her family, she realizes that she has long held patterns of thinking and behaving that are not easily overcome. She is aware that real change within herself will take a lot of diligent and thoughtful repetition to re-train her mind away from the hallmark adversarial mindset of her family. This isn’t a hackneyed tale of sudden epiphany resulting in a person going off on another tangent with the same underpinnings in their thought patterns. Change in a human being is often a long prospect, but one she is willing to take up.The leaving aspect of her journey is very well explained and how leaving her family caused immense pain, agony, confusion, stress, and overwhelming sense of loss. For this reason, she has compassion now for people who stay in negative groupthink situations that harm many people. Hopefully her lived and shared insights will increase awareness of this all too common dynamic but garners little honest discussion: …While I engaged church members as an outsider, I started to understand that doubt was the point--that it was the most basic shift in how I experienced the world. Doubt was nothing moe than epistemological humility: a deep and practical awareness that outside our sphere of knowledge there existed information and experiences that might show our position to be in error. Doubt causes us to hold a strong position a bit more loosely, such that an acknowledgment of ignorance or error doesn’t crush our sense of self or leave us totally unmoored if our position proves untenable. Certainty is the opposite: it hampers inquiry and hinders growth. It teaches us to ignore evidence that contradicts our ideas, and encourages us to defend our position at all costs, even as it reveals itself as indefensible. Certainty sees compromise as weak, hypocritical, evil, suppressing empathy and allowing us to justify inflicting horrible pain on others….Megan has come out of her inevitable shunning with grace, not bitterness, which is beautiful to see.And on a lighter note, my goodness, she's a dead ringer for Loretta Lynn! I applaud her courage and wish her all the best with her new young family and future endeavors.
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  • Luke Goldstein
    January 1, 1970
    It is horribly easy to hate people you don’t know. Through the distorted lens of a Facebook post or a contextually useless tweet, we all pour out our worst immediate reactions because it’s just pixels on a screen. We all know deep down it eventually leads to a person, but even then, they’re not like us at all. They’re everything that’s wrong with our country, our society, even our entire planet. And, you know what, it’s our patriotic duty to tell them such.But what happens when they It is horribly easy to hate people you don’t know. Through the distorted lens of a Facebook post or a contextually useless tweet, we all pour out our worst immediate reactions because it’s just pixels on a screen. We all know deep down it eventually leads to a person, but even then, they’re not like us at all. They’re everything that’s wrong with our country, our society, even our entire planet. And, you know what, it’s our patriotic duty to tell them such.But what happens when they finally get to say their piece, unfiltered and uninterrupted? In "Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church", Megan Phelps-Roper does precisely that. You would be hard-pressed to find someone connected to a more culturally and politically infamous organization, one universally despised by so many as an unspoken truth. If you do feel the need to test someone’s opinion of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), and they somehow don’t already know who they are, just ask their opinion of these two oft-used picket signs, “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for 9/11”.Two slogans. Six words and a couple numbers. That’s all most people need to know.The story goes deeper, of course, and Megan does a superb job retelling her upbringing, the details of the family structure, roles, and relatives, along with several facts you’d never see coming. The WBC is more than a church, a majority of the congregants are related. Taken over by Fred Phelps in 1953, he populated the pews with his own children, grandchildren, and cousins. Clutching the words of the Bible as “straight from the mouth of God,” Phelps preached biblical law as not only the right of every American but their privilege as well.That divine sword can cut in many unexpected ways. One not-well-known tidbit about the family is many of them are lawyers and incredibly smart ones to boot, including Pastor Phelps. Early in his career, when he first moved into the Topeka, Kansas area, he dropped into the legal and civil firestorm of Brown v. Board of Education. Shocking to some, Phelps used his skills to defend the rights of blacks against the segregationist establishment. Some say this was purely for money since there was no shortage of civil rights cases to be had and few to none wanted to play defense, but according to their family lore Phelps did it because he saw all men as created equal under God (albeit similar as we are all sinners and continually beg for forgiveness).How does that square with commanding the church picket squad to find where the funerals of dead soldiers are being held so they can show up with signs reading “Thank God for IEDs!”? The core thought process in America is guilty because we’ve allowed sin to flourish, especially in the case of gay rights and acceptance. Obviously, the argument “I was born this way…” doesn’t hold much sway.That’s the world Megan was raised in. Those are her brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and grandparents standing next to her holding their garishly colored signs, designed purely to offend your eyes and your soul. Try to imagine what that must’ve been like. All the counter-protesters yelling at you, screaming about what a monster you and your family are, all while back home in the confines of their tight-knit sanctuary, they are being told what they’re doing is out of pure and undiluted love for the souls of every single person.When someone has an invisible and incorruptible force telling them they’re right, good luck getting any other opinion through.Yet somehow, after decades of being an integral part of the WBC, Megan’s nagging doubts became too much for her to tolerate. She was told everything they did was out of love, but everywhere she looked was hate. On top of that, she bore witness to a virtual coup inside the church that sidelined her own parents, who were one-time defacto leaders. She saw too many examples of people disobeying their own rules and making up new ones to justify their behavior. It was time for her to leave, but leaving the church meant more than just not showing up for Sunday services or pickets anymore. Leaving meant near-complete disconnection from all family still inside the church.This is not how any church should work. This is how cults work. They isolate people from the rest of the world until they have nothing left in their life except that which exists inside the group. Once that’s achieved, anyone thinking about leaving is faced with knowing they have nothing to retreat to, nowhere to go, no friends or social contacts, no money or belongings. That wall of fear and isolation is the biggest and most difficult for many people to break through.For Megan, she had one stroke of luck as she was born at the perfect time to grow up in the Age of the Internet. Almost by default, she was put in charge of the WBC online engagement efforts, which connected her to an unseen army of people who vehemently disagreed with her and her family’s beliefs and actions. Imbued with the confidence you can only get from unfettered faith, she digitally danced with her attackers and deflected their arguments, but eventually, some people started to get through. As questions and doubts began to pile up, so did her fear of what was going to happen when she tried to leave."Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church" is an incredible and compelling statement from a genuinely battle-tested cult survivor. Megan Phelps-Roper once believed the hateful words she cheered were borne from love, but now she uses her experience and escape to help in every way she can. For that, I can only wish her the best of luck and say thank you.*I received an early reader copy via a Goodreads giveaway, but it in no way affected the content or tone of my review.*
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  • Kend
    January 1, 1970
    Happy book birthday to this amazing memoir! I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from the publisher, but I certainly will pursue laying my hands on a finished copy.(I'm writing this review while watching "The Dark Crystal" for the first time, so forgive me for being disorganized and a little weird.)There's something intensely affirming about seeing one's own life challenges writ large on the page, and that was my experience in reading UNFOLLOW. This memoir is a h Happy book birthday to this amazing memoir! I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from the publisher, but I certainly will pursue laying my hands on a finished copy.(I'm writing this review while watching "The Dark Crystal" for the first time, so forgive me for being disorganized and a little weird.)There's something intensely affirming about seeing one's own life challenges writ large on the page, and that was my experience in reading UNFOLLOW. This memoir is a hybrid of reporting on the history and evolution of the Westboro Baptist Church and straight-up recollections of Megan Phelps-Roper's personal experiences as a granddaughter of the WBC's most infamous leader. The author owns her own complicity in the WBC's hierarchy of hate, including her active and eager participation in picket lines protesting military funerals, gay civil liberties, and religious gatherings of other faiths. Phelps-Roper's past views are beyond well-documented, given her active presence on social media as a spokesperson for the WBC, so I won't rehash them here. Suffice it to say, a significant part of this book consists of both acknowledgement of and atonement for those past views. And yes, Phelps-Roper understands and repeatedly notes that there's no "undoing" or reversing of the damage that she herself helped inflict on the LGBTQIA+, military, and Jewish communities (among others)--but at the same time, she lays out the social and religious programming that created not just the conditions for her childhood, but the conditions for a much larger violence of language and polarization of conversation about faith, politics, and identity. Phelps-Roper helps connect the dots between individual radicalization such as she experienced and a wider culture of incivility. Her breaking away from the WBC positions her uniquely to show us at least one path toward ... simply put, becoming better, more kind, more loving people.Is this memoir perfect in its structure and in its approach to the meat and potatoes of what allows hate to fester in the heartland? No, of course not. But there's a very real danger that we would hold one book accountable for carrying the weight of many entangled and complicated ideas in the same way that we often hold one person accountable for carrying the entire weight of a system of interdependent and problematic systems of power and exploitation. All I can say, really, is that this book gave me a vocabulary for tackling some issues in my own life as a missionary kid (but that's beyond the scope of this particular review). UNFOLLOW also gave me a shared text to connect with others (including others who espouse fundamentally different viewpoints) while discussing all of the issues above, and may indeed help us all circle closer to tackling the issues at the heart of that knot of problems. No book can contain the whole, but this book is an important piece of the puzzle. One of the things that will stick with me as I exit from this book is the fact that WBC members, like many religious extremists, operate under the full and unquestioned assumption that their most cruel behaviors are being done as an expression of love, or for the good of those on the receiving end. They interpret the results of these actions--the emotional devastation of military families at the funerals they picket, for example--as the opposition not of broken-hearted people, but the workings of a divine Enemy. Predestination paired with a belief that persecution is a necessary and even *desirable* side-effect of faith is a total mind***k, really, because it dehumanizes those who disagree as merely the puppets or shadows on the wall of something perceived to be totally evil and unchangeable, and opposition as a badge of honor. Thus the grief and sorrow of the WBC's public victims actually feeds further hate. (Of course, as Phelps-Roper describes, the WBC leadership could find justification for pretty much anything by reading selectively from the King James Bible. So even when they received unexpected checks to their progress or kindness from their victims, they found a passage to buck them up for further pickets and protests.)Unlike many readers, I felt this book charted Phelps-Roper's reasons for breaking from the WBC community perfectly well. Sometimes, the smallest shift in perspective means that NONE of the other puzzle pieces fit together anymore, and that's exactly what happens here. When Phelps-Roper realized the WBC elders were not, in fact, interpreting scripture consistently, everything else began to fall apart: her trust in the elders as people, her trust that WBC's treatment of outsiders was scriptural, her ability to publicly defend the WBC's inconsistently applied beliefs, and her hope that they would tolerate--much less answer satisfactorily--her many questions. Without trust, Phelps-Roper's sharply inquisitive personality and all-or-nothing approach to matters of the heart meant that a break was inevitable.I hope that readers will give this book a chance, and that they'll be open to peeling back the layers of UNFOLLOW. Phelps-Roper has done something exceptionally risky in opening herself back up to criticism for a past she can't change, all in the hope of building some bridges and contributing some of the thread to stitch the open wounds cutting across public discourse today. We can honor those motives, even if we can't (and shouldn't) forget her--and our own--complicity in the systems and conditions that make incivility possible.
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  • Lissa
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars.
  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    Sorry, long.This story all started with religious obsession by the grandfather Phelps. His grandaughter Megan was living with perpetual spiritual, physical and emotional fear and abuse, even if there were good days as well.  She believed that their teachings and their public vitriol was the right of her family members, until someone came into her life, asking some basic but pertinent questions.  The grandfather, who started the cult, was a selfstyled pastor, who soon ran aground with neigh Sorry, long.This story all started with religious obsession by the grandfather Phelps. His grandaughter Megan was living with perpetual spiritual, physical and emotional fear and abuse, even if there were good days as well.  She believed that their teachings and their public vitriol was the right of her family members, until someone came into her life, asking some basic but pertinent questions.  The grandfather, who started the cult, was a selfstyled pastor, who soon ran aground with neighbouring churches and had to continue alone, turning his large family (with a few outsiders) into what he claimed was THE only true church.  He put God before his narcissistic cart instead of the other way around and letting God guide him. He ignored "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding". He appeared to preach to the congregation but never himself judging by his cruelty and abuse. The typical spousal abuse came with this, as it frequently does with such men who expect complete obedience and submission from their wives. The church claimed they trusted in God but in their teaching refused to leave eternal judgement of others to Him. They had specific sins in mind with their picketing, but never looked at their own bizarre treatment of their fellow man.There was tragic misuse and abuse of  Calvin's tenets of Doctrine summed up with the acronym T.U.L.I.P. For these people the Canons of Dort would have been beneficial. Further, Paul writes in 1Corinthians 5:  "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among "you." (my emph).I note these texts were never mentioned and certainly were ignored.  God asks us to share the Gospel that we know, and leave judgement to Him.As is common in such groups, rising resentment of usurped authority and hierarchy caused suspicion and backbiting. Simply because they can't discuss issues outside their own group, anger builds up and the church started eroding.  Just as the white paint in the basement would not totally cover the dark no matter how many coats, so the hierarchical attitude of the self appointed eders could not be whitewashed with Scripture. Reflection on how unloving the elders were, inevitably caused the authoress to realise with horror how unloving they all in turn had been to their fellow man. Its no wonder this girl was so confused. She began comparing texts with texts very literally with her own sense of justice, instead of seeing the old testament as "Salvation History" as it should be. The Bible is not meant to have texts found for each situation like a handbook with an index. This confusion was not surprising since her mother had instructed the children with a text quoted for every action, event or situation. So began a period of doubt and even a time of putting blame on God instead of heeding Him, causing doubt about where truth actually lies. The atmosphere in the family/church was so threatening that they didn't know who else was entertaining disloyal thoughts or doubts. Acting like spies in war time, overtures were made in small anxious increments to find other family members with similar ideas. There was huge and agonizing pain when the two girls left the family and church. They knew what was in store for them but this was their turn to feel the doors closing.Megan struggled with God "causing" people to sin and then sending them to hell. This understanding is wrong in itself, even though there are texts such as from Amos etc ("is there evil in the city and I have not done it") to back it up. What is missing is the concept of "God willing what he wills not". For example: God didn't want the kingdom of Israel split, yet directed Jereboam to be anointed as king. In the Institutes, Calvin deals with such subjects and explains them clearly.The Jews brought about Jesus' death. Is that wrong? Yes of course. It is also however a fulfillment of the prophesies of old and was directed in that sense for our salvation.  It's terrible that this family thought they needed to have answers for all things.  The confusion wrought in the minds of the children was horrific spiritual abuse. I'd be surprised if they didn't all go though times of massive depression and expect the church will completely disintegrate in time. I've experienced situations of this nature and it surely is painful to be ostracised in this manner. It does heal slowly and I hope at all times Megan stays pleased about being outside that ungodly group. God bless all the family who is hurting.
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  • Carin
    January 1, 1970
    Megan grew up in the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. You know, the ones who picket funerals of veterans and others with unconscionably cruel signs? They were all over the news about a decade ago. Well you can guess their politics but you'll only be half right. You'll also only be half right about the religion, and in the end you'll be very surprised and happy that Megan got out.She was raised in the church and community. They didn't live on some compound out in the wilderness, but Megan grew up in the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. You know, the ones who picket funerals of veterans and others with unconscionably cruel signs? They were all over the news about a decade ago. Well you can guess their politics but you'll only be half right. You'll also only be half right about the religion, and in the end you'll be very surprised and happy that Megan got out.She was raised in the church and community. They didn't live on some compound out in the wilderness, but did live in a very tight-knit neighborhood where they helped build each others' houses and all lives within a block or two off each other. Megan's grandfather was the minister, and she was related to everyone in the church. She was brought to her first protest when she was about five years old--long before she even understood what the signs she was carrying meant.I was shocked to find out that her grandfather, mother and aunt were all lawyers. In fact, I was gobsmacked to hear that her grandfather had been a strong civil rights attorney, fighting for the rights of African-Americans. He somehow reconciled this with his later hatred of gays, and I suppose they are two different things, not a continuum, but that's a world view I was unfamiliar with to hold both of those ideas simultaneously. Megan's mother and aunt really ran the church and the family law firm. Another thing that surprised me was that the family was very involved in the outside world and not closed off. Megan and her siblings and cousins went to public school. They obviously has to know what was going on, in order to protest as they did. Usually with such rabidly conservative outside-the-norm views, blinders are necessary. But not so here. In fact, as the internet blew up, Megan became the voice of the church on social media, in particular on Twitter.Lots of people engaged with her there. Some much more civilly than others. And she thought she had an answer for everything unbelievers could throw at her. But a couple of doubts crept in. Especially after an incident involving her mother and the church, she had a hard time hanging onto her beliefs. And eventually, Megan left. Which didn't just mean leaving the church but also her family.I don't want to give too much more away, but it's an amazing story of realization, understanding, and forgiveness. Megan is so open to others and to really looking thoroughly into herself and her blame in everything and her beliefs and her culpability, it's refreshing. Especially in this day and age when people are just getting more polarized--to hear about someone who completely changed sides and what accomplished that and how she coped with the radical change, was fascinating.
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  • Shaun
    January 1, 1970
    How fortunate I was to win a preview copy of this book from the publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux! I know it's popular and expected for reviewers, in such circumstances, to make a statement like "I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review." Such a statement, from me, would be dishonest because that was not the case. No such agreement was entered in to. The book was an unconditional gift and I made no promise of a review. But it would be a travesty to leave a gem of a How fortunate I was to win a preview copy of this book from the publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux! I know it's popular and expected for reviewers, in such circumstances, to make a statement like "I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review." Such a statement, from me, would be dishonest because that was not the case. No such agreement was entered in to. The book was an unconditional gift and I made no promise of a review. But it would be a travesty to leave a gem of a book like this unreviewed. This is one of those inspiring, life changing books that comes along but a few times in one's life. It's not just a "great book." Lolita is a great book. Giovanni's Room is a great book. The Help is a great book. Unfollow is in a higher category altogether in that it compels the reader to re-examine the self-righteousness of their worldview. This book will open your mind. Unfollow is the memoir of Megan Phelps-Roper, the grand-daughter of the infamous -- and, as I now know, misunderstood -- Fred Phelps, Pastor of Westboro Baptist Church (of "God Hates Fags" fame). WBC gained fame through its antagonistic pickets protesting the evils of homosexuality. Megan was the social media spokesperson for the church and a regular attendee of these pickets. The world was shocked when she seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth only to reappear along with her less publicly known sister, Grace, as repentant ex-church members. This was back in late 2012.The WBC is almost universally despised. The most fascinating aspect of Megan's story, for me, is the humanization of her family members who are still in the church. These are not bad people trying to do evil. These are good people doing evil things because they think they're good. They've been indoctrinated their whole lives. They believe, fervently, that living any other way will condemn them to everlasting torment in hell. But it was reason and logic from the outside world that inspired Megan to leave the church. Perhaps, in time, such reason will persuade her mother, father, Gran and remaining siblings to leave as well. We should all try to make it so.If you hate the late Fred Phelps and other WBC members, you won't when you have finished reading this book. This book is not a defense of their theology or practices. But it's a reminder, simply, that we're all human. This book is scheduled for release on October 8, 2019. I think it's very likely to be a best seller. I can't recommend it strongly enough.
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  • BookOfCinz
    January 1, 1970
    I was slack-jawed to realize that there was more than one way to read the text—that from one passage, multiple meanings could be deduced without contradicting the language in the original. That interpretation was a phenomenon with real implications for believers. That quote basically summarizes why we are here today and why this book was written. Before reading this book I did not know about Megan and the Westboro Baptist Church. I decided to give this book a read because of the blurb and beca I was slack-jawed to realize that there was more than one way to read the text—that from one passage, multiple meanings could be deduced without contradicting the language in the original. That interpretation was a phenomenon with real implications for believers. That quote basically summarizes why we are here today and why this book was written. Before reading this book I did not know about Megan and the Westboro Baptist Church. I decided to give this book a read because of the blurb and because as a Follower of Christ I wanted to hear from someone who "left the church". Needless to say, I wasn't prepared for the doctrine Westboro Baptist church preached and believed in. Megan gives a deeply personal look into how she was raised, how she ended up with these beliefs, how the Bible- or the improper use of the scriptures gave her a firm standing in her hate and how her family beliefs shaped hers as well. There is so much to unpack and I think Megan tries with this memoir but so much more still needs to discuss. In reading her accounting I kept wondering-, "how did they get it so "wrong". God is love and He requires us to love so for church to build their beliefs on something so counter to the God they serve was an eye opener. Also, this is nothing new, for centuries people have been quoting the Bible for their benefit. Overall I liked how Megan came to the realization and her whole journey through that. I like that she questions and makes me question what I hear. I would have liked to find out more about what Megan's life is like now. What are her beliefs, how is she unpacking this world as it is- but alas, this is not "Life After Westboro Baptist Church: A memoir". She gave us exactly what she said she would in the title- anything else would just have been really nice...An interesting read to say the least....If you are like me and did not know a thing about the Westboro Baptist Church but is still curiousIf there truly was more than one legitimate way to understand the world, then there was nothing inherently wrong with people who believed differently than we did. We could cease presuming most people were evil and ill-intentioned.
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