Everything that Megan Phelps-Roper was taught to believe as part of the family running the Westboro Baptist Church began to unravel because of a thoughtful comment made by an outsider.
In an interview with author Jeff Chu, Phelps-Roper recounts how a point made to her by Jewlicious blogger David Abitbol struck with the fierceness of epiphany, and then it gave birth to more and more questions about what she'd been taught to believe, as a granddaughter to the infamous Fred Phelps.
"One day, he asked a specific question about one of our signs — ‘Death Penalty for Fags’ — and I was arguing for the church’s position, that it was a Levitical punishment and as completely appropriate now as it was then," she told Chu of the conversation. "He said, ‘But Jesus said’ — and I thought it was funny he was quoting Jesus — ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ And then he connected it to another member of the church who had done something that, according to the Old Testament, was also punishable by death. I realized that if the death penalty was instituted for any sin, you completely cut off the opportunity to repent. And that’s what Jesus was talking about."
Phelps Roper and her sister Grace say they left the church in November and are now considered "betrayers" by their family. They issued a lengthy statement Wednesday, headlined "Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise," to the world apologizing for what they had done.
"We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people," they wrote. "Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt."
They're clearly worried about adding hurt to what's already been done, but this time to their family. Still, they are pressing on, trying new things, like sushi, and attending a church that doesn't require women to cover their heads.
"We know that we can’t undo our whole lives," they wrote. "We can’t even say we’d want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on."
Don't assume too much, though. The two aren't now saying that being gay isn't a sin. But they appear sure that Westboro was wrong in saying gay people should be killed or can't be forgiven. And more revelations, of a kind, could be coming, because Megan Phelps-Roper told Chu, "I don’t feel confident at all in my beliefs about God. That’s definitely scary. But I don’t believe anymore that God hates almost all of mankind."