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Book Review: Unfollow, by Megan Phelps-Roper

Book Review: Unfollow, by Megan Phelps-Roper

Book Review: Unfollow, by Megan Phelps-Roper

29 April 2020

Author Megan Phelps-Roper tells the story of how she left the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.

Reviewed by Barry Gittins

What would it take for someone thoroughly brainwashed into a repressive, controlling Christian sect to break free from the dogma, the abuse and the compulsion to “blindly trust the elders”, as she puts it?

Megan Phelps-Roper was born into the founding family of the homophobic, anti-Semitic Westboro Baptist Church in the US – a group of individuals infamous for picketing soldiers’ funerals and other events they find offensive. And in her memoir, Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope, Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, she shows incredible courage, an impressive measure of grace, and shares a whole lot of love from relatives and other people who shared her pain of being shunned by the cult that nurtured her.

She bleeds her life story out in these pages, and anyone who has wrestled with faith, abuses of power and easy answers will be able to relate to her tale.

The author shares vividly her earliest memories, family crises, theology and worldview. Her whole support system was based on the belief that interpretation of Scripture “by the faithfuls” was the only accurate rendering of the mind and will of God, and details how that particular interpretation led and continues to lead to spiritual abuse and abuse of the power held over a sect’s members.

Post her departure from Westboro in 2012, Phelps-Roper continues to watch what she calls “the human tribal instinct play out” in this age, which leads inexorably to the dehumanising polarising of judgment and the simplistic black and white theological power plays that follow.

We can learn much from the pain and hardships this young woman went through to escape fundamentalism and grow in grace and understanding.

Unfollow is available at major bookstores. 


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