America's Most Hated Family In Crisis

Posted by : Rev. Ouabache | Sunday, April 10, 2011 | Published in

Yeah, I'm being lazy and making my fifth post in a row with a video. I think this one is worth it though. It's the first part of a news special by British journalist Louis Theroux about the Westboro Baptist Church. WBC, of course, is the hyper-fundamentalist group run by Fred and Shirley Phelps that likes to picket places with signs that say "God Hates Fags". I'm torn about the group personally. I feel that they have a first amendment right to picket in public and hold up whatever hateful slogans that they want. (Their Supreme court case is touched on briefly in this program.) On the other hand, I feel that they are attention whores who are experts at trolling the media. They almost always draw counter-protests that are 10-100 times bigger than they are. If everyone ignored them they would eventually go away.

However this special does do a good job of humanizing them. For the most part Louis Theroux let's them speak their minds and occasionally probes them with questions. He disagrees with him but doesn't yell at them, which is what almost everyone else would be tempted to do. Most of the interviews are with the younger female members, and several female members that have left the group.

The eeriest part of the whole special is that I actually understood the Christianese that the members were using. While growing up I attended Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches. The fire-and-brimstone I heard back then isn't radically different from the stuff coming out of Shirley and her daughters' mouths. Yes, they are on the very very far end of the bell curve but they share more in common with your everyday fundamental, Sola Scriptura Calvinist than they do with me. (If you look very closely you will see a TULIP poster behind Fred while he is preaching.)

The thesis that Louis is trying to pull out of the special is that the WBC group is losing members because their religious beliefs are robbing them of their humanity. The girls are not able to date, the boys aren't allowed to have friends outside of the family, the parents aren't allowed to talk to their children once they are exiled from the church. Strangely none of them seem to be angry or intentionally hateful. Their language is toxic but never venomous. The memes of their religion have taken over their minds and they don't even realize what is coming out of their mouth anymore.

Even weirder is that the Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs effect does not seem to be in play here. I think Fred's beliefs were so out there to begin with that "cooling" them even further doesn't nothing at all.

I'll just embed part one and link to the rest:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

(2) Comments

  1. Cramulus said...

    UGH - stomach turning. Great doc though, thanks for posting.

    April 13, 2011 at 2:51 PM
  2. Rev. Ouabache said...

    Is it weird that nothing in this was shocking to me? Jesus Camp bothered me but this didn't. Maybe I've been paying attention to right wing Christian crazies for so long that nothing they do or say surprises me anymore.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:54 PM

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