Leaving Westboro Baptist Church.. and Other Bubbles
When Donald Trump ran for President I lived in a liberal bubble.
Obviously, he was uninformed, self-interested, hot tempered — and just might blow up the world. And his sexist buffoonery appalled me.
I mocked him on Facebook, thinking no one else took him seriously, either.
And then some “red” friends unfriended me.
That got me out of my bubble.
I stopped chiding him and started trying to understand them.
And then something strange happened.
Several of my “red” friends — and some of their friends (I didn’t know them) started thanking me for the respectful dialogue we were having.
Some even thought both sides made good points. BOTH SIDES: right AND left!
People began changing their minds.
This was a big lesson for me. One bolstered by a TED Talk by Megan Phelps-Roper, who left the Westboro Baptist Church.
Why she left the Westboro Baptist Church
As a little girl Megan’s parents put hateful signs into her hands: “God hates… fags… Jews… American soldiers…”
And she believed it. After all, that was all she heard growing up.
When she got older she got on Twitter. But she punctuated her condemnations with smiley faces :).
Taken aback, some of the people who had been “yelling” at her began asking her questions. And that got her asking them questions.
She had never heard the other side before.
They began pointing out contradictions.
Why should gays be killed if Jesus said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone”?
How can you love your neighbor and want them dead?
Nowadays Megan is an educator on extremism, bullying and empathy. In a TED Talk she gives some advice:
Don’t assume bad intent
Assuming ill intent cuts us off from understanding why people think and act the way they do. It blocks understanding of the different worlds of experience that lead us to our unique ways of seeing.
Assuming positive or neutral intent allows dialogue.
We can’t make effective arguments if we don’t understand where the other side is coming from. And questions allow others to point out flaws in our positions.
Asking questions opens minds. When her Twitter followers stopped accusing and started questioning Megan mirrored them and began questioning, too.
And asking questions makes a person feel heard.
Megan had grown up believing that her rightness justified her rudeness. But rudeness only backfires. Conversations end and nothing changes.
Discuss with kindness and humor.
Make the argument
We may think our position is so obvious that we needn’t make our case. Others are just stupid or cruel if they don’t see things our way.
A lifetime of experience had created a mental framework that saw the world in a way that was foreign to Megan’s Twitter friends. And vice versa. If Megan had not heard persuasive arguments she would not have changed her mind.
If you want change you must make the case for it.
Reaching out is an option that is available to us all, she says.