How often do we say “I was wrong”?
How difficult are those words to pronounce?
How apt are we to take the time to deeply consider the things we hold evident and unassailable, and to admit there is a chance that some things are not as I have always believed them to be.
Megan Phelps-Roper was forced to admit that many of the fundamental opinions and beliefs that she was raised with were misguided and destructive. Megan was a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, a granddaughter of the founder of the infamous Kansas sect that makes national headlines for picketing funerals of fallen soldiers and spouting virulent hate speech toward the LGBT community, other religions, and anyone who does not conform with their very narrow worldview.
In 2012, Megan fled from her family and from the church whose hateful messages she had been vocally promoting for decades. In this TED talk, she describes her process of awakening and disenchantment, spurred by relationships she had developed on twitter that engaged her with civility and encouraged her to question and dialogue.
“The truth,” Megan explains, “is that the care shown to me by these strangers on the internet was itself a contradiction. It was growing evidence that people on the other side were not the demons I was led to believe.”
Surprised and intrigued by the lack of hostility that some of her twitter contacts displayed, Megan began to open to their questions, which led her to explore ideas that she had never fully considered.
“My friends on twitter didn’t abandon their beliefs or principles, only their scorn,” she says. That attitude of respect and conciliation disarmed her and allowed her to drop the walls that had been keeping her from seeing beyond her limited perspective.
Megan’s powerful and uncommon experience of reconsideration and reconciliation has led her to speak out on the malignant state of our country’s current political and social discourse.
“I can’t help but see in our public discourse so many of the same destructive impulses that ruled my former church. We celebrate tolerance and diversity more than at any other time in memory, and still we grow more and more divided.”
Applying the lessons she has learned from her process of dialoguing with those she previously deemed evil and irredeemable, Megan provides 4 steps that all of us can take to repair the fractures in our relationships and our society.
From an environment of doom and damnation, Megan has emerged with an instructive and inspiring message of hope that is much needed in these contentious times.
You can watch Megan’s TED Talk here or by clicking on the image above.
Marc Erlbaum, Contributor