5B. that where there is error, I may bring truth

Megan Phelps describes leaving Westboro Baptist Church (15 minutes), the group renowned for truthing against error in a very non-Franciscan-peace-prayer way. Phelps’ story is worth hearing, especially because interactions on Twitter led to a peaceful transition of believing, belonging, and behaving.

She wasn’t defeated in a Twitter war. She wasn’t subtweeted into submission. She developed relationships with people who treated her with respect, sought understanding, remained civil, and clearly but graciously articulated their differences.

She offers 4 things that made real conversation (and real change) possible. I’ll list them, just in case you don’t get the chance to hear her say it, or you can’t find a pen:

Don’t assume bad intent: “When we assume good or neutral intent, we give our minds a much stronger framework for dialogue.”

Ask questions: This “…signals to someone they’re being heard,” she says. “When my friends on Twitter stopped accusing and started asking questions, I almost automatically mirrored them.”

Stay calm: During her time with Westboro, “I thought my rightness justified my rudeness.” Despite the frequent anonymous and abusive behavior online, she notes that we also “have a buffer of time and space between us and the people whose ideas we find so frustrating…. Instead of lashing out we can pause… come back to it when we are ready.”

Make the argument: We sometimes assume what we believe should be evident to everyone. “As kind as my friends on Twitter were, if they hadn’t actually made their argument, it would have been so much harder for me to see the world in a different way. … If we want change, we have to make the case for it.”

“The good news is that it’s simple. The bad news is that it’s hard.” It’s hard for me. This is hopeful.

I’m grateful to K. Rex Butts for posting this link.

I’m writing short reflections on the Franciscan peace prayer through Lent. The series begins with 1A, right over here.

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