The Escape from Westboro Baptist
In 2017, Megan Roper published her life story called “I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here is why I left.”. Megan Phelps-Roper was a former member of the Westboro Baptist church, Roper spent her days protesting those of different beliefs and stating her opinions on Twitter. Roper successfully used ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos to persuade her audience to view her reasonings for leaving her church. She was born and raised in Topeka Kansas, attended Washburn University then later worked in her family’s law firm. This congregation was known for preaching messages of hate, judgment, and fear as part of their religion. Her church family made many public appearances on the Howard Stern show, but she made her own debut when she decided to publish a story explaining her reasoning for leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.
The rhetorical situation intervening with this part of the story comes forth when Roper announced the issues behind the church she was in, to give the public and audience her side of the story and what she went through. The audience she is trying to target is people who come from different religions as well as those with no religion not to force anything upon them but to educate. With every different situation Roper faced, she established her feelings as well as foreshadowing what was to come. Roper also raises questions from several members of her church as well as her family when Roper and sister decided to part from the church after being loyal to it for or so long.
In this article, the author uses ethos to describes what it was like living in her family, “In my home, life was framed as an epic spiritual battle between good and evil.”. As she goes on in this statement, she explains that her church was the good and saw fit that anyone who wasn’t in her church was evil. Growing up she thought the only way to remain “clean” in God’s eyes was to follow what the church says, “This was the only way for me to do good in a world that sits in satins lap”. She decided having this outlook forced upon her lead her to continue to protest with Westboro. Roper along with 80 members of her church would picket soldiers, schools and other events holding up signs such as “America is doomed”. In 2009, Roper decided to expand her church beliefs on Twitter, instead her perspectives changed due to the arguments she had on twitter with her “enemies”. She met many people from different religions including a Jewish man named David Abitbol. When she would talk to them, they wouldn’t try to change her mind, but they would be accepting of her beliefs, “Twitter is where my first doubts came from”. By simply making these relationships online, it led her to make a life altering decision to leave Westboro because her doubts of the church started to become reality.
Roper uses pathos or emotional stories that captures the audience’s attention all throughout the message. She talks about what it was like the day she decided to leave her church, Roper describes the feeling she had as “almost paralyzing”, she had known nothing but the church but now a new reality for her set in. After a few days of being gone she started to think about her family, the church members, as well as those she denied her whole life, “I wanted to hide from the judgement of my family, who I know would never talk to me again — people whose thoughts had meant everything to me”. Her decision to leave Westboro was a very life changing choice she had to make and understand the consequences that came along with it, “Losing them forever was definitely the hardest part about leaving, and it still is.”.
What Roper is mainly trying to get across to the audience while using logos in this message is that everyone has a purpose in life of what they can do to help their community. Even though we find ourselves confining with society majority of the time, it takes one person to stand out to make a difference, “The end of this spiral of rage and blame begins with one person refuses to indulge these destruction, seductive impulses.”. It can be easy to point out how people are different instead of what we have in common which can lead to a political climate, “We need to talk about things that we have in common and things that unite us.”, even though the Church saw this as Roper’s downfall, she saw this as a new light and a new meaning for her.
Still today Roper is sharing her story to those all over the world, as she tries to install courage to those who feel the same as her. Roper went on the “The Story of Us” with Morgan Freeman to continue sharing her story to raise awareness of other churches like the one she was involved with. She shares ways to talk and deal with people of different beliefs and how to make the conversation as beneficial as possible, not to upset but to enlighten. Roper explains it can be difficult to break through to someone, but if you want to truly have an impact on someone so that they too question their beliefs, it’s the most impactful way she can think of. She still has a close relationship with the Jewish man David Abitbol and is married to Chad Fjelland, she published her book “This Above All” and is now in the making of a film directed by Marc Webb. In many of Roper’s interviews she credits Twitter for opening her eyes to different perspective in the world, she see’s social media as something that not only changes her views but as a new platform for others in her battle, she doesn’t see the church as evil, but she knew her life was to differ. Roper is seen as a role model to many all over the world ever since she made the life alternating decision to leave the life she had known, the only life she’d ever known and begin a new chapter without Westboro in her life.