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

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Fifi de la Vergne
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book recommendation for Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Post by Fifi de la Vergne » Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:28 pm

I read this over the holiday weekend . . . WOW. The author is the granddaughter of the church's founder. She was fully devout and for many years she was the Church's social media manager. The book describes her childhood (a lot of it is very hard to read because of the extreme, hateful positions of the church and she is unsparing in her descriptions of their activities) and her excruciating journey through the first stirrings of cognitive dissonance to actually being willing to face the hard questions. Ultimately, she leaves with a younger sister.

One of the things I really appreciated about her writing was her refusal to sensationalize any of the story. Of course it's dramatic enough to not need any sensationalization, but she refers to things like physical abuse (which the grandfather and then his children inflicted on their families) without dwelling on them. She also doesn't hesitate to admit that there was a lot of deep and genuine love among them -- I hadn't realized that this church is mostly populated by members of an extended family. Leaving the church meant complete renunciation and removal from her family and venturing forth into a world that, with reason, hated that family. It took a lot of courage.

The parallels with the experience of leaving Mormonism are no doubt obvious. But it wasn't for that alone that I loved loved loved this book. It's going to stand as one of my top reads this year. Have any of you read it yet? What did you think?
Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous Yes to one's own true being.

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2bizE
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Re: book recommendation for Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Post by 2bizE » Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:04 am

Did she leave Christianity as well or just the church?
~2bizE

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Fifi de la Vergne
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Re: book recommendation for Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Post by Fifi de la Vergne » Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:29 am

2bizE wrote:
Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:04 am
Did she leave Christianity as well or just the church?
I don't think she comes right out and says either way. She does talk about visiting services for other denominations after she's left Westboro, and how she saw all the flaws in their arguments for their belief. She does quote a lot of scripture, mostly in the context of having come to see how Westboro was cherry-picking which parts of it to follow, but not as someone having chosen another "side", if that makes sense.

It is clear from her writing that the big take-away from her journey is that she no longer sees anything in black and white, even her experience in the church. I felt that she is in a place I would wish for many of us who have left Mormonism -- able to see it all clearly and yet value the good that truly was part of the experience.

Another thing I found very interesting, which I didn't mention above, is that these folks were all highly-educated. A LOT of them were lawyers, including the founder. He had been an fiery civil rights lawyer in Topeka around the time of Brown v. Board of Education. Many also had advanced degrees in other disciplines. It's not what I expected: I thought they were a bunch of uneducated hicks (excuse the expression). I assumed they would have to be. I think what it shows is that sometimes it's harder to get through to folks who have convinced themselves.

Also, I was surprised at their access to pop culture -- there was no effort to censor its consumption in any form by even the younger family members. It's a very complex culture, well-drawn and fascinating to me.
Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous Yes to one's own true being.

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oliblish
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Re: book recommendation for Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Post by oliblish » Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:41 am

Sam Harris interviewed her in October about the book.

https://samharris.org/podcasts/171-esca ... tian-cult/
Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides; holding the key of power also, pertaining to other planets; as revealed from God to Abraham

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Fifi de la Vergne
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Re: book recommendation for Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Post by Fifi de la Vergne » Wed Dec 04, 2019 10:28 am

oliblish wrote:
Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:41 am
Sam Harris interviewed her in October about the book.

https://samharris.org/podcasts/171-esca ... tian-cult/
I listened to this -- thank you for the link. Although a lot of their discussion was covered in the book, Sam asks her specifically how to engage someone mired in extremist thinking with any possibility of changing their mind. Her response to that was really insightful, not to mention timely.
Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous Yes to one's own true being.

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Journey
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Re: book recommendation for Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Post by Journey » Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:48 pm

Sounds intriguing, Fifi, I should add the book to my list, thank you for the recommendation!

I don’t listen to podcasts but I am interested in what you mentioned here. Is there a transcript or would you be able to summarize what she says about engaging believers?
Fifi de la Vergne wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 10:28 am
I listened to this -- thank you for the link. Although a lot of their discussion was covered in the book, Sam asks her specifically how to engage someone mired in extremist thinking with any possibility of changing their mind. Her response to that was really insightful, not to mention timely.

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