Two granddaughters of Westboro Baptist Church firebrand Fred Phelps have split with the Topeka, Kan.-based congregation, indicating their views have evolved and they now regret the pain they have caused others.
She and a younger sister, Grace Phelps-Roper, in November left the congregation known for its anti-gay stance and for picketing funerals of fallen soldiers and others.
"We ripped the BandAid off," Megan wrote in a text Wednesday to the Kansas City Star.
A statement signed by both sisters and posted on social media Wednesday said the two were trying to figure out their future.
"We know that we've done and said things that hurt people," the statement said. "Inflicting pain on others wasn't the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren't so and regret that hurt."
Steve Drain, a spokesman for the church, said in an interview Wednesday that the sisters had rejected the Lord.
"Those two girls were kind of straddling the idea that they wanted to be of the world but that they would also miss their family, the only thing they ever knew," Drain said. "If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they're going to hell."
Megan and Grace are among 11 children of Brent and Shirley Roper, who is the daughter of Westboro pastor Fred Phelps.
Libby Phelps Alvarez, who left Westboro in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with some of its radical beliefs, told the Star on Wednesday that Megan and Grace had been staying at the Lawrence, Kan., home she shares with her husband.
In a recent blog I stated that while I have always known homosexuality would one day be recognized for what it is, a normal variation of human sexual behavior, even I have been very much surprised at the rate in which change is occurring. In todays Houston Chronicle, there appeared an article noting that the Illinois Senate had passed a bill to allow same sex marriage in Illinois. The bill now proceeds to the Illinois House where it is expected to pass in the chamber controlled by Democrats. Illinois will become the 10th state in which same sex marriage is now guaranteed by law. If my math is right, that means that a full 20% of the 50 states now support same sex marriages or civil unions. That is significant change from just a lustrum ago.
The article reprinted above is also significant for the change in people's hearts and minds concerning homosexuality and same sex marriage. It is easy to read the article and miss the full weight of its importance, especially if one is only tangentially aware of "the reverend" Fred Phelps and his family based cult, Westboro Baptist Church. Megan and Grace are individuals who have been brainwashed to hate homosexuals (and most of the rest of the people of the world) since the day they were born. Their whole lives have have been marked by emotional abuse and threats of eternal Hell should they disobey the rules their grandfather lays down in the name of God. Anyone who has had the experience of going against the will of his or her parents knows what a significant step that is in one's life. Suppose you had been taught all your life that your grandfather spoke for God and to disobey him meant you would live out eternity in a lake of fire!
Phelps is one of the preachers I've talked about before who has no formal education in theology. He simply self-appointed himself as the one true spokesman for God and formed a church to prey on the spiritually ignorant and the emotionally and mentally unstable. While the church attracts a few outsiders, it remains mostly an institution of Phelps' extended family.
To me the fact that Megan and Grace found the courage to leave not only their church, but their family, and in their family's eyes, God Himself, is a very good indicator of the magnitude of change in attitude that is sweeping the country concerning gay men and women.
Megan and Grace have the benefit of being taken in by Libby Phelps Alvarez who left the church in 2009. Mrs. Alvarez seems to have come a long way in shaking off the life-long abuse she endured at the hands of the family, though I'm sure her demons will continue to plague her to some extent. She appeared on the Anderson Cooper show on February 13, 2013 with the family of Sterling Wyatt who died in July, 2012 in Kandahar. Undoubtedly, it took a great deal of courage for Alvarez to come face to face with the Wyatt family, but she did it with grace and obvious contrition. Mrs. Wyatt was gracious to Alvarez though some papers reported otherwise. The video of the Anderson Cooper Show clearly shows Mrs. Wyatt commending Alvarez for her courage in leaving the church. That Alvarez was able to carry this meeting off is a big indication that she is progressing in shaking off the years of brainwashing. Hopefully, she can help Megan and Grace to do the same.
A clip from the Anderson Cooper Show and the meeting of Libby Phelps Alvarez and the Wyatt family was recently posted on the internet. You may see the clip by clicking on the URL at the beginning of this paragraph.
It has been said with friends like his, God doesn't need enemies. I think Westboro Baptist Church and the Fred Phelps family prove this point completely. As a person of faith, I am pleased to see the empire of Fred Phelps begin to crack and move nearer to its ultimate fall. But also as a person of faith, I continue to regret that Phelps and other less malicious though just as spiritually misinformed Christians continue to do great damage to the universal Christian church by being judgmental, unforgiving, self-righteous and narrow minded. Too many Christians see themselves as Saints. None of them are. They are all sinners just like everyone else in the world. As Christians, they are supposed to differ from the other people in the world in recognizing that no one can earn salvation; and therefore, earning it is not required. It is a gift freely given for all people. It is a gift which springs from the love of God for all creation. But like Phelps, too many Christians spend more time preaching and professing hate and rejection of others than they do preaching and professing love and acceptance. In doing so they are destroying the church.
To me, that is regrettable. Many non-believers see religion as a crutch for those who cannot accept that we are alone in the universe and there is no God to help us. Perhaps that is true. Perhaps not. Either way the observation is a matter of faith. It cannot be proven either way. Even as a person of faith, I often have my own doubts about the existence of God. If he does exist, he is nothing like the average Christian perceives him to be; and the Kingdom of God is as mistakenly perceived today as it was by the Jews over 2000 years ago.
But to me, it seems mankind does better when he believes in something bigger than himself. Much of the deterioration of society that we are all witnessing today is the result of too many people who do not believe in anything or anyone that is bigger and more important than themselves. Such viewpoints are destroying law and order, honesty and integrity, as well as religion. That is a shame. It is also very dangerous for all of us. As society deteriorates, as each of us begin to see our wants and our wishes as supreme over everyone else's wants, wishes, hopes and dreams of the future, incidents like that at Sandy Nook School and other barbarous crimes against even the most innocent among us begin to proliferate.
Certainly, one does not have to be a Christian to see the Ten Commandments as applying to all mankind, not just Christians. But as Christianity comes to be seen as a foolish anachronism supported only by small minded zealots, everything that is derived from it begins to be seen the same way including our civil laws which are based in large part on Judio-Christian values.
Currently, there are large and growing segments of our society that value nothing beyond their own pleasure and their own wants. If society is to continue to endure, that must change. People like Megan and Grace, who are still willing to risk everything they have ever known, give me hope.