Zach Phelps-Roper stood on one side of campus yesterday and AU students stood on the other.
The 19-year-old protested AU with three other members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a group known for picketing soldiers’ funerals and their stance on homosexuality.
A nursing major at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., he could have easily crossed the barrier and blended in with the students.
“I would be just like you,” he said. “If not for the mercy of God.”
Phelps-Roper doesn’t often talk about his activities at the Westboro Baptist Church with his Washburn University peers, a school three miles from his house.
“Generally I just get negative feedback,” he said.
Phelps-Roper, who commutes to school, described himself as an introvert.
“I can do what I have to do to serve the Lord and get an education,” he said. “I don’t spend my time hanging out at school all day.”
But it’s still “awkward,” to hear students talking about their weekend plans.
“I don’t have friendships with people outside the church,” he said.
Like other members of his family, he hopes to become a nurse after college. He said that his job requires him to be objective when dealing with patients.
“I like to help people,” he said. “If Hitler got injured and I was his nurse, I would just help him.”
Phelps-Roper said not all members of the church stay true to the message.
Some pack up and leave in the middle of the night, including a peer only a few months older than him.
Phelps-Ropers used to find it strange when people left the church but now realizes it is inevitable.
Phelps-Roper said he feels sorry for AU students who he thinks are wasting their lives.
“By the fact that they were out there, misusing his people – God’s people – by arguing with us, harassing us, throwing the eggs. It doesn’t look good for them,” he said. “They’re just headed straight for hell.”
“That sucks, it really sucks,” he added.