MFT Alum Appears on the O’Reilly Factor

1 Commentby   |  07.20.10  |  Uncategorized

Mathis Kennington, 2009 alum of ACU’s MFT program, appeared on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor on April 9, 2010, for his role in organizing a counter-protest when members of the Westboro Baptist Church came to Blacksburg, VA, to demonstrate their belief that tragedies that have taken place on Virginia Tech’s campus in the past several years were a result of God’s punishment. Mathis is currently a Ph.D. student in VT’s MFT program. This is what he had to say about his decision to counter the message of hate proliferated by WBC with a message of God’s love and hope:

The job of a therapist is not unlike the job of a book editor.  The narrative therapist, Michael White, once suggested that a therapist collaborates with their clients to edit the stories they tell. In my experience, these stories are tendered greater value when they are partnered with friends and family. Our social networks foster this type of personal agency.  They have the power to turn devastating tragedies into opportunities for resolve and growth.  It is for this reason that when a group of protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church (I regret the religious affiliation) decided to visit Blacksburg, the important question was not how we would respond, but rather, what stories would emerge from the rubble of a collision between arbiters of hate and an impassioned Virginia Tech community. The Westboro group reported their decision to come to Blacksburg was to protest the university in support of the deaths of 32 individuals who were killed in the tragic April 16th shootings just over three years ago.  They came to attribute the death of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who disappeared in mid-October of 2009 on the university’s advocacy for tolerance and equality.  In truth, however, they came because they knew Virginia Tech would be the most vulnerable platform by which they might gain the most media attention.  What they did not expect, however, was what would be waiting for them when they arrived.

I was fortunate enough to partner with the undergraduate response to the Westboro group.  Our goal was simple: we would demonstrate that hatred could be overcome through peaceful collaboration.  One student said it best: our job was to insure that our community would not be subjected to hate-speech without the presence of a positive counter-message.  We organized a massive student and community response aimed directly at the messages of intolerance and hatred touted by the invading Westboro group.  We were comprised of students and teachers, town council members and parents, university faculty and religious leaders, and an intergenerational blend of the community.  We gathered with peaceful messages ranging from the comedic to the dramatic and pointed. We turned back the Westboro voice and managed to divert local and national media onto the community’s resolve to write our own story in the face of an immediate challenge.  We dethroned the potential narratives of bigotry and revulsion and authored victory through peaceful community collaboration.

You can read the transcript of Mathis’ interview on the O’Reilly Factor here.

1 Comment

  1. Sarah Musick
    10:59 am, 07.21.10

    Wow, what a great opportunity to change the narrative of an entire community! WBC certainly knows how to bully and pick on the emotionally vulnerable, so it’s great to finally see a group of people counter and distract from their hate speech. Cool to see a MFT grad at the center of it.

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