SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Farrar. Oct. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780374275839. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374715816. REL
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Phelps-Roper placed complete faith in the scripture of the King James Bible and the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) to guide her life. The granddaughter to Westboro Baptist Church’s founder, Fred Phelps, the author began picketing at age five to protest against lifestyle choices deemed sinful by WBC. Her dogmatic beliefs never wavered despite education, extensive Internet access, and exposure to pop culture—her lens on the world was always in the context of scripture. Phelps-Roper managed the church’s social media accounts, engaging critics on WBC’s controversial picketing, which became global in scope. Her acumen on Twitter attracted a vast amount of attention from media and everyday people. From this, an unlikely friendship developed with a man who had questions about WBC, fostering a depth of inquiry that eventually led Phelps-Roper’s beliefs to pivot. She thoughtfully unpacks her gradual awakening to compassion and living from the heart in order to help the very people against whom she used to protest.
VERDICT A unique, engaging memoir peppered with Bible verses to help illustrate how dogma can both shape and distort the truth. An excellent addition to collections containing Amber Scorah’s Leaving the Witness and Tara Westover’s Educated.

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