Sunday, April 15, 2007

Three Weeks Among The Righteous

I just got through watching the BBC’s hour-long documentary “The Most Hated Family In America”. Reporter Louis Theroux spent three weeks with the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, and in that time he seems to have formed an authentic rapport with several members of that bizzare clan of funeral-protestors. The film is of course interesting on a simple “look at how weird these people’s lifestyle is” freak show level, but Theroux stumbled onto an important truth while doing the film. He came to realize that most of the members of the church are disturbingly normal on a personal level. The Rev. Fred Phelps himself comes across as a bitter, deranged individual who has managed to keep almost all of the members of his immediate family convinced that remaining in his congregation is the only way they can avoid eternal hellfire. The Rev.’s daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper (who runs the church’s day-to-day operations) also comes off as a bit strange, with those staring, unblinking eyes that remind one of the Manson girls. But the rank-and-file members seem like, well, normal people. They where t-shirts and shorts, attend public schools, have cheery dispositions, and generally come across like model white-bread American citizens. It’s only when they open their mouths and start to spew the church’s doctrines that you realize how out of touch these people are. Since they seem at first to be fairly reasonable individuals, Theroux tries to point out the obvious practical and theological problems with their beliefs. Their responses to his criticisms embody the phrase “impervious to logic”. This all proves an important point about religious fanatics and political extremists in general. The people in leadership positions of these organizations, like the Rev. Phelps and his daughter Shirley often are in fact evil, manipulative persons. However, most of the regular members are in fact fairly normal, nice people who just happen to have some very strange beliefs.

By the way, for a quick twisted laugh, check out this South Park-inspired carton created by the Westboro Baptist Church a couple of years back.

P.S. Youtube has pulled most of the clips of Theroux’s documentary from their site (although the first segment is still available at the link posted above) due to “legal action by a third party”. I would assume that party would be the Westboro Baptist Church. Hey guys, if you don’t want him to make a negative documentary, don’t let him hang out with you for three weeks.


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