Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman continues his quest with National Geographic in a new series, "The Story of Us." In the premiere episode he interviews former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper.
"The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman: Us and Them" will debut Wed, Nov. 8, and asks: "Can we bridge the divide between us and them?"
"At a time when the whole world seems to be polarizing into irreconcilable camps, Freeman sets out on a journey in search of the forces that push us apart, from intolerance of differences to fear of outsiders, and the possibilities of coming together," according to the show's synopsis.
Featured in the premiere episode of "The Story of Us" is Daryl Davis, an African-American who's a devout Christian and blues musician who has spent years befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan, former President Bill Clinton, and Megan Phelps-Roper, the granddaughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder, the late Fred Phelps.
"The challenge we face is learning how to accept those who are not like us,' Freeman said before introducing Phelps-Roper.
Phelps-Roper was born into the religious cult, which despite its name is not affiliated with any Baptist denomination. Founded in 1955 with only 80 members, Westboro Baptist Church which hails from Topeka, Kansas, is well-known for their hateful interpretation of the Bible.
"We thought it was our duty to go out and warn people when we saw them sinning, so that they wouldn't go on in their path to Hell," Phelps-Roper told Freeman. "Anybody who came out against what we were saying we thought they were coming out against the Word of God."
Westboro Baptist Church garnered controversy by staging protests near American soldiers' funerals, outside churches that hold divorce care classes, music concerts and NASCAR, and holding signs that read "God hates fags," "American is doomed" and "God's fury" citing Nahum 1:3.
Freeman was noticeably shocked as the 31 year old described how a small group of people could be convinced that "their way" was "right way."
"I believed that I was doing good. I believed that I was doing what God wanted," Phelps-Roper assured the actor.
In 2009, however, things changed as she began tweeting on behalf of the group. Phelps-Roper went back and forth with a Jewish blogger for some time on social media and his kindness showed her that not all people were as hateful as she was taught.
She said the blogger presented her with the Bible verse, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
It was then that the former protester realized the group's hateful words were advocating that the government cast stones against people.
"I had never connected that, if you kill somebody you completely cut off the opportunity to repent and be forgiven," she continued.
Phelps-Roper eventually broke ties with group despite fearing that she would lose her entire family. She now spends her time trying to help heal the brokenness in the world that her family contributed to.
"The fact that people are being kind and understanding and compassionate to me — that contradicted what I had been taught to believe about outsiders," she said. "They didn't seem to be the demons that I'd been taught that they were."
"Kindness is powerful. I think it's more powerful than hostility," Phelps-Roper added. "It's so important for us to learn to reach out across these intense divides," she concluded as Freeman assured her that her story will do just that.
Freeman ends Phelps-Roper's segment by saying: "Megan's story is encouraging. It shows that we can harness the power of social media for good. That it can be a medium for gentle and patient conversation, that it can help us to find our share in humanity."
"The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman" will be broadcast on National Geographic Wednesday, Nov. 8.