Megan Phelps –Roper had a real life experience with destructive inclinations about the church and faith. She grew up in a home where an epic spiritual battle between good and evil was the way of life.  Good was her Westboro Baptist church and its members, and the evil was everyone else. They were constantly at odds with the world.

The trekked across the country with neon protest signs in hand to tell others exactly how “unclean” they were. Together with other church members, they embraced the motto, “Make a difference between the unclean and the clean.”  Together with her 10 siblings they Roper passionately pursued Westboro’s agenda with a special sort of zeal.

But the zeal did as a result of genuine curiosity

The zeal introduced her to twitter whereby after several engagements, which were both sober and hostile, genuine curiosity took toll of her. One thing led to another and with clearer understanding, the line between friend and foe was becoming blurred. It dawned on her that people on the other side were not the demons she had been led to believe. She could also agree to the fact that everyone was not the ultimate arbiter of divine truth but flawed human beings.

These shifts contributed to a larger erosion of trust with her church, which she left in 2012 with her younger sister oblivious of the consequences. At first, she was scared of the world, which could easily access her past through her tweets. However, many people embraced her with open arms.

She now needed to build a new life plus find a way to repair some of the damage

Roper could not believe the surprising realization, the destructive impulses that ruled her former church.  However, she is hopeful that something can still be done to correct this. First, it is important to talk and listen to the people we disagree with even with the knowledge that we are extending empathy and compassion to people who show us hostility and contempt.

Engage with people from across ideological divides by asking questions. This is the only way we will be able to present affirmative arguments because we have an understanding of the other side.

Finally, stay calm even though this requires patience and practice. Dialing up the volume and the snark is natural in stressful situations, but it tends to bring the conversation to an unsatisfactory, explosive end.  Instead of lashing out, pause, breathe, change the subject or walk away.