Megan Phelps-Roper was raised
in the Westboro Baptist Church, a church known for protesting at funeral
services for soldiers, against the LGBT community, Jews, and other religious
faiths. As granddaughter of church founder Fred Phelps and daughter of former
church spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper, Megan Phelps-Roper played a central
role in spreading Westboro’s signature brand of hate to a global audience
through its Twitter account.
Through the platform that
social media provided, Phelps-Roper delighted in exchanges with those who
questioned Westboro’s beliefs and actions. But after calm, civil online
interactions with empathetic individuals, including one who would eventually
become her husband, Phelps-Roper began to question the beliefs with which she had
been raised. She questioned her faith’s celebrations of human tragedy in the
name of punishment. In 2012, she and her sister made the brave and rare
decision to abandon their cloistered way of life, leave their family and home,
and renounce their teachings.
Phelps-Roper will visit
Midwestern State University as the first Artist-Lecture Series speaker for the
Spring 2019 semester at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 23, in Akin Auditorium. Her
talks advocate for a better, more empathetic way to overcome disagreements – for
engaged communication that not only heals wounds and forges bonds, but also expands
narrow perspectives. “Listening is not agreeing. Empathy is not a betrayal of
one’s cause. These are tools of effective persuasion,” she says.
In her TED
Talk – one of the top 10 most-popular talks of 2017 – Phelps-Roper shares
how understanding and compassion can transform lives, even across the widest of
ideological gulfs. She was also the subject of a 2015 profile
in The New Yorker that brought
her change in attitude to a more public light. An upcoming memoir to be released
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux is being made into a major feature film directed
by Marc Webb, scripted by Nick Hornby, and produced by Reese Witherspoon.
The Artist-Lecture Series was
established in 1964 and since then has since brought many noted lecturers,
musicians, and personalities to the MSU campus and the Wichita Falls community.
Admission is $20 to public;
$18 for senior citizens, active-duty military, and MSU alumni; free to MSU
students, faculty, and staff with ID. Tickets are available at the Clark
Student Center Information Desk. For tickets or more information, contact the
Office of Student Affairs at 940-397-7500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.