Megan Phelps Roper and her sister Grace have followed in their uncle Nate’s footsteps and have left the Westboro Baptist Church.
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.
I’m sure, to Megan, taking her first unfiltered look at the world outside the church walls of the WBC is akin to emerging into the light for the first time in her life. I’m sure it’s blinding and frightening for all of its unknowns. And though I suspect that the fear of what the world will want to do to her for her past is less intimidating than the weight of her own conscience, I’m certain it’s still a lot to deal with.
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.
It is perhaps one of the greatest lies ever conceived: that absolution is free, as free as believing a man once rose from the dead. The truth is that absolution comes not from god, but from other humans. And it comes only when your conscience has become so heavy that you require others to help lift it off of you. We’re willing to do that, Megan. Contrary to what you’ve been told for your entire life, sins are not something for which you deserve to be punished forever. Atheists know that.
What you have done in your past brought a great deal of suffering to people, but torturing yourself won’t unmake that. Come with Nate, explore the life and the world you’ve been denied. Take some time to learn what love really is. Share it with others and, when you’re ready, start spreading real love – the love that abhors hate, the love that forgives those who truly regret their mistakes, and the love which seeks to prevent the suffering of other humans – all other human beings. Therein lies the remainder of redemption, and we will help you find it.
Hell, most of us had to find it ourselves. That is why, as I hope you will find Megan, that Jesus was never there, but we always were.