On Reaching Out Across a Chasm

A few days ago I launched this blog with lengthy Reflections on Facebook. In that writing I talked about the impasse that sometimes occurs when a person is locked into an “ism” or “phobia” that seems impenetrable. I said in these moments dialogue feels pointless if not impossible. And sometimes it is, but I wanted to take this up again today because sometimes such dialogue is possible.

Case in point: Megan Phelps-Roper of the infamous Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Many of you will recall that Westboro is the “church” that focuses almost exclusively on homosexuality and travels the country picketing funerals, including U.S. servicemen. They see almost every death, no matter how unrelated, as proof of God’s condemnation of homosexuality. Their thinking is cultish in the extreme: mean-spirited, rigid, circular and fanatical. If any belief system would feel impenetrable, this is it. But someone found a way with Phelps-Roper.

She had opened a Twitter account to push the church’s hate when predictably other users attacked her. Most simply directed their own hate back at her, but one user quietly and patiently posed challenging theological and other questions that Phelps-Roper found she couldn’t answer. If things got tense, the person backed off for a while. As this continued she eventually found she could no longer ignore or rationalize the many contradictions in her thinking and church’s teachings. She finally left the church and began a new life. She told her story at a TED Talk.

All comments are welcome. I only ask that we remain civil and respectful of one another. If you clicked over from Facebook, please comment here rather than back there.

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