Be sure to read Adrian Chen's gripping profile of former Westboro Baptist Church twitterer Megan Phelps-Roper, who left the church after coming to realize the futility of its hate gospel.
On December 20, 2009, Phelps-Roper was in the basement of her house, for a church function, when she checked Twitter on her phone and saw that Brittany Murphy, the thirty-two-year-old actress, had died. When she read the tweet aloud, other church members reacted with glee, celebrating another righteous judgment from God… But Phelps-Roper had loved Murphy in "Clueless," and she felt an unexpected pang—not quite sadness, but something close—over her death. As she continued scrolling through Twitter, she saw that it was full of people mourning Murphy. The contrast between the grief on Twitter and the buoyant mood in the basement unsettled her. She couldn't bring herself to post a tweet thanking God for Murphy's death.
If you're been wondering why Westboro's been kind of boring lately, it turns out that there was a coup of sorts within the church: day-to-day troll in chief Shirley Phelps-Roper (Megan's mother) was denounced, and a bunch of stodgy old men took over. Since then, women have been marginalized within the church and it has lost much of its media savvy.
Read Adrian's piece to the last sentence: there is an absolutely amazing ending to the life and mind of the church's founder, Fred Phelps.
[Image, top: Megan Phelps-Roper. Photoshopped from an image by KATY GRANNAN for NEW YORKER]