Laura G Owens ~ Writer. Raw. Real. Chronically Ambivalent.

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do, you apologize for the truth. – Benjamin Disrael

Category: Social Commentary

Westboro Baptist Church

How even the most hateful views can shift. Former Westboro Baptist member converts to love.

Westboro Baptist Church
Westboro Baptist Church

Last Sunday my Unitarian Universalist Reverend spoke about a former Westboro Baptist member, Megan Phelps-Roper.

“At 5, She Protested Homosexuality, Now She Protests The Church That Made Her Do It.”

Westboro Baptist if you aren’t aware, protest at LGBTQ funerals. Members wave signs at grieving loved one that slur LGBTQ people and support divine killings:

God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” “America is Doomed,” “Don’t Pray for the USA,” “Thank God for IEDs,” “Fag Troops,” “Semper Fi Fags,” “God Hates Fags,” “Maryland Taliban,” “Fags Doom Nations,” “Not Blessed Just Cursed,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Pope in Hell,” “Priests Rape Boys,” “You’re Going to Hell,” and “God Hates You.””God hates faggots” “Fags doom nations” “Thank God for 9/11”

Members protest at travelers disembarking from LGTBQ cruises.  This includes parents with kids in tow unprepared for the verbal onslaught.  Westboro, also with kids in tow, proudly pass on their hate-disease by enlisting little ones to hold “God Hates Faggots” signs as their kid’s faces shine with confused giddiness.  

These poor children have no idea why they’re so excited to scream vile phrases at innocent families, except that mom and dad told them that hating “those people” is God’s will.  And so, it must be.   

What I feel about Westboro Baptist can’t be printed. Although I blogged about them for the Huffington Post after the Pulse tragedy in my hometown, “To Westboro Baptist, We Win.”

It’s no surprise that when people challenge our deeply embedded worldview we double down on our argument. It’s the boomerang effect. Calling someone a “fascist pig, libtard, baby killer or evil disgusting homophobe” feels good in the moment but does nothing to change minds.  

We try to convince people that we’re obviously right and that they’re obviously wrong with their stupid thinking. Even if we don’t call them stupid, we imply it.  

This never works. You and I know that.

Nonetheless, I continue with my rage-du-jour on Facebook. I’m heavy into social activism and ranting is intensely cathartic. It releases my psychic outrage which seems to be growing exponentially as a Florida Democrat (in the news lately, DeSantis’s dystopian book banning).  

I never call names (in person or online, I save that for the privacy of my home when I can let loose). Online I present rational arguments with great – passion, and plenty of snark towards select politicians (thus igniting the tribalism at the root of “us vs them” thinking).

On Sunday my reverend presented five suggestions for how to disagree better, more convincingly.

1) Assume good or neutral intentions

I admit that I don’t assume good intentions for Neo Nazis, Westboro Baptist or people in favor of forcing a rape victim to carry her pregnancy.

Now, if I went way down deep into a Christ-like place I might find a morsel of “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” But I won’t, not for the real damage they’re doing.

2) Ask questions

I learned that our question shouldn’t be “Why do you think this (stupid) way?” rather, “May I ask where you learned your beliefs?” Then listen. Meet people where they ARE. We don’t know why they feel the way they do. Upbringing. Brain-washing. A bad experience. A need to belong.

3) Stay calm

If nothing else, do this. I stay relatively calm in my posts except when referring to laws that take women’s rights away, ban books, marginalize the LGBTQ community, and the like.

Since 2016 I don’t engage in face-to-face opposing politics. It’s relationship dynamite and puts me in a bad mood.

The last Trump fan I spoke to about Trump was about 5 years ago. This woman insisted nothing was wrong with his character, and as for the Me Too movement?

She said women “overreact” at work when men make lewd comments. She said she was smarter than most people in business because she knew how to use her looks to get what she wanted. For example, she agreed to get a boob job suggested and paid for by her boss to “boost her sales numbers with men.” Sad sack, yes. But do I have the will or energy to bring her to reason? No. 

4) Make the argument

I do, with facts, mainly with centrist media sources like the Associated Press, Pew Research etc.  Look for reporting that doesn’t lean left or right. Check media sites with

5) Speak with love and grace

I’m pretty damn gracious if I do say so, but do I speak with love? Sort of.

Love is a big word, wildly overused and diluted. I can be compassionate-ish and open to why someone is the way they are.  God knows I have my issues that shaped my least best traits.

I can be compassionate until someone uses words and actions that harm (“God hates faggots”). What do you think that does to a teenager struggling with his or her sexuality?

Or the 15-week ban on abortion in Florida with no exception for rape and incest. A girl is raped by her father but has to bear the burden of that horror for 40s weeks? There’s not enough crisis counseling in the world to counter that sort of psychic torture.

People much more patient than I am, people willing to open the door with Westboro Baptist, engaged graciously with Megan Phelps-Roper on Twitter. Enough people who vehemently hated her views remained calm, open, asked good questions and listened.

And over time it worked. Megan did a 360 and is now helping change people’s hearts.  

It would take Jesus himself to tell me, Come on Laura, do better and graciously engage with people who spew hateful venom. And even then, I’d need to be heavily medicated.

But we can all do better to close the gap between our divisive worldviews. Stay calm. Don’t insult, walk away, be gracious.

I noticed over the years that a few Trump friends unfriended me. They did it quietly. I just looked them up and they were gone. I completely understand. If I loved Trump, I’d hate my posts too.

And honestly it’s for the best that my QAnon friends went away. I don’t see much hope for us coming together when their views include the conspiracy theory that Hillary runs a secret chain of pizza restaurants as a cover for child sex trafficking.  

Sometimes there’s zero wiggle room to disagree lovingly. So just quietly unfriend, walk away, don’t discuss. You won’t change their mind, but you won’t make your relationship worse.  

 Former Westboro Baptist member Ted talk

Public preaching

When street evangelists scream preach I just ignore. But this guy is interrupting people working out.

I saw a viral video years ago of a girl at my daughter’s college in tears because a kid with some Christian group, was screaming that she was a “whore” for the way she dressed.

Certain places on campus allow these sorts of public soap-boxes.

Me personally, I’d just tell the guy he was a bully, and that I’d worn my favorite short-shorts that day, which I believed were not REMOTELY-whorish.

And that I’ve never taken a single dime for sex. So “whore” is not quite accurate. Then I’d tell him he was an asshole, likely in need of getting laid. Then I’d smirk while he turned away from the girl and shamed me instead. Sacrificial lamb and all that.

But this poor girl was genuinely shaken. Slut-shamed on her way to class. Fortunately a few kids spoke up and rallied around her and gave her a hug.

Bullies always lose. Mello Jesus wins.

Does this really work? Bullying people towards God? Seems counterintuitive.

Dude, read the room, no one wants you screaming while they’re working out.

Is this need to YELL the Good News a sickness? I was a Methodist. I know the Good News.

And calling people sinners is a huge no for me.

This being “born” a sinner is weird.

Seriously when was a baby a sinner? In the womb she sucked in too much amniotic fluid?

I’m wildly flawed, but preach “sinner repent!” and we’ll have words. I hate guilt preaching. I makes me want to run away from God. (My God is very LGBTQ friendly, pro-choice and doesn’t support burning in hell for non-believers).

Listen, I don’t go to my gym and preach the word of my Unitarian Universalists while someone jams out on their cross trainer.

The gall of ANYONE to preach ANY religion AT people, astounds me. Which is I why I get giddy when LDS folks come to my door.

They smile, hand me a pamphlet, share the Word. I then kindly and gently (I swear) share my Word (Unitarian Universalist: Nutshell: We don’t care if you’re protestant, Catholic, pagan or an atheist. Just be loving compassionate and open-minded.

My favorite preaching is when religious folks want to tell me about preparing for the “end of times” so that I’m not Left Behind while the sinners burn.

Now THERE’s a super upbeat conversation at my doorstep.

If you want to share Jesus, please quietly hand out pamphlets, invite people to your church, start a blog.

I wish people would stop YELLING God AT people in public places.

Jesus was a gentle peaceful guy. He’s well-known. We’ll find him if we need him.

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