America's Most Hated Family in Crisis

As predicted, the new Louis Theroux documentary which aired on BBC 2 all of about 12 hours ago has already been ripped from the iplayer and uploaded to YouTube, so I shall share the linky love with you all:

I’m off to watch it now. Wish me luck!

Edit: I also reposted the teaser videos on my last post on this topic as YouTube videos instead of the BBC links which didn’t work outside the UK.

Two Jokes, and Two Parodies
Being Agent Scully
Ghost Hunters: Threat or Menace?
Hallquist on Eich
  • Mysickbones

    When I saw the original programme four years ago I thought then that this family couldn’t get any worse ( Dawkins describes religious indoctrination as child abuse – this family is the poster boy for that statement and, as such, Fred Phelps deserves to burn in the very Hell he tells the rest of us we are destined to inhabit) but…the head daughter (she of the even more fixed smile than the rest of them) has gotten scarier. She always appeared to exist on an entirely different plane of non-reality to the rest of the World but it seems as if she’s migrated to an even higher plane. It’s also obvious that she revels in her celebrity so if God punishes Hubris she’s well buggered…in every sense of the word! On the upside, the Phelps family provide a golden opportunity to someone who wants to gain a Phd investigating the line behind parental autonomy and the duty of the state to interfere to protect the rights of the child.

  • Custador

    Well, I’m done watching it. It’s an interesting view of a family that pretty much defines “dyfunctional” to be sure, though I’m not sure that it adds to the original. What did surprise me was that some of the people in it actually came across as pretty likeable types under the veneer of their cult. Fred Junior was a good example – you see him and listen to him speak, and the first reaction (for me anyway) was “he seems like a pretty nice guy”.

    And that’s where it gets interesting to me: It seemed like I could file the Phelps family into three categories:

    1) Nice folks who are fighting not to be embarassed / ashamed by their own horrible behaviour and very obviously lying to themselves about it (usually the younger ones),

    2) Nice folks who seem to just accept that being in thrall to Fred and Margie’s insanity is how life is (generally the older ones),

    3) Evil fuckers who revel in the hatred and want to cause maximum offence (Fred Senior, Margie, Steve and some others).

    It’s encouraging to see that so many of the younger generation are leaving, and that the rest are so locked-in that they can’t meet new people and so are unlikely to ever marry or reproduce. I expect that in my lifetime the WBC will become extinct, an embarassing little corner of American history that makes people shake their heads and give a wry smile.

  • Brn

    What the hell was up with the Asian guy from San Fransico?

    • Custador

      My guess is he was there to “pray out the gay”, or was trying to infiltrate and gather intelligence. He was a little bit too camp to get away with the latter though, imho.

      • Mike

        Had my gaydar twitching.

        • Ike

          Definitely to gather intelligence. He’d seen the first one, heard a second was being shot, and knew they wouldn’t kill him in front of a film crew.

  • JT

    Just watching the first segment now.

    When he’s talking to the kids standing out in the yard . . . breaks my heart. Jesus Camp made me cry, too, to be honest.

    So sad.

  • tim

    I might be submitting myself to some level of prejudice by my next statement, but I am a Christian. Usually I try to distance myself from the term (as my own views vary widely from any established ‘doctrine’) but at the end of the day I do very much believe in God.

    That said, I find this whole site very interesting (and thought provoking, and informative), and I’d like to think I approach most matters with an open mind…?

    Waffle aside, this video was very interesting.

    I would like to see the first one, but haven’t as of yet and, @ custador, I very much agree with your summary of the characters. It’s a pity that group psychology can create results in people (like we see in groups such as this) where so many of the members are obviously confused but are either afraid or too… (what?)…to leave.

    I echo your sentiments of hope that the ‘movement’ will soon become extinct, because this kind of hatred and intolerance should be offensive to anyone of any background, religion (or absence-thereof) or, in fact, any member of the human race.

    • Mike

      Tim – I applaud your sentiment, but there is a problem here. You call yourself a Christian, and even while distancing yourself from the orthodoxy, you have attached a label that identifies you as part of a group – and everyone else as outside that group. The moment that step is taken, particularly in a situation where God is on ‘your’ side, the problems begin. And they end with people like Phelps and Jones and blood being spilt.

    • JohnMWhite

      Welcome, Tim. I found your comment interesting and I am curious about a couple of things. First, how did you find the site? I just generally wonder where Christians come across it and why they turn up at any particular post.

      Also, I’m curious why you apply the term Christian to yourself. Christianity of course has so many variations these days with so many different beliefs, but all Christianity is at least informed from the bible. Without that book you would not have Christians, certainly not in the sense any of us would use the term today. Now you say that your views vary from any established doctrine, but your belief in and knowledge of Jesus had to come from somewhere. I have to presume it was the bible, but that is the same book that gives the Phelps all the ammunition they need to be the hatemongers they are. They’re not saying anything that isn’t in there. So if it’s good enough to tell you about Jesus, why discount the less palatable portions? What makes the concept of Jesus real but not the concept of god hating homosexuals and wanting them to fry forever?

      • tmorling

        @ mike and JohnMWhite: Thanks both for your replies and I’ll try my best to respond to your questions/objections as concisely as possible..!

        I really hope that what follows is not viewed as an attempt to ‘evangelize’ (in keeping with comment policy) but simply to provide a reasonable response to the questions posed to me…

        Firstly; I happened onto this site simply by following a link to a clip on YouTube and then arrived *here* by searching for further parts and/or information. Once here I watched the rest of the program and then started poking around at some of the other articles. I commented on this one because, well, that’s how I found the site!

        Now, by way of background, my belief is that the ‘connections’ between people, the intensity of human emotions; desire, hope, joy, affection (expressed best by selfless compassion) are, in a sense, “God”, in that they are paramount and driving forces of ‘good’, as opposed to, say, I don’t know, “evil”? anyway, stuff that hurts or injures or suppresses.
        I *would* say that I think ‘God is love’, but I reckon my viewpoint is clearer when it’s expressed such that ‘love is God’.

        I understand “Christ” to be something of a concept, or a “truth of the world”… which can be experienced not only by “Christians” but as well by men and women of almost any faith or, indeed, absence thereof! Far beyond the act of simply ‘inviting Jesus into your life’ (which I think is akin to a simple Christian fairytale) I feel it is, rather, a human acknowledgement of, and response to, the ‘love’ we see and feel in the world. Personally, I see my “purpose” as seeking for self improvement and ever trying to display a loving and accepting attitude to all…

        Re: my view of the bible, I believe that the New Testament was written by humans who were seeking to understand this connection between God (love) and the human existence… and the Old Testament was composed in a period when human understanding of the world was not so developed, and thus the notion of a divine, and a ‘good’ and ‘evil’ existence, was put into concepts and stories which were relevant to the time, concepts which inevitably mirrored the culture and society of the day: violent and raw. I think that the fundamental objective was, nevertheless, an examination of how humans could attain ‘goodness’.

        Accordingly the bible is a book written by people seeking knowledge and/or understanding and attempting to package it. I believe that it is only responsible for us today to measure what we read in its pages against what we believe to be *right* – a sense which I believe all of mankind has the /ability/ to determine.

        However, I also believe that great wisdom comes from many other walks and works beyond the scope of ‘Christianity’, or even any religion at all.

        In fact one of the greatest verses by which I live my life comes not from the bible but attributed to George Isles (who, regrettably, I know nothing about) which, paraphrased, says that ‘doubt is the beginning of wisdom’.

        My own ‘doubts’ began when I noted the apparent hypocrisy of the ‘church’, and were further informed when I realized that even the Jesus in the bible was angry, not with ‘sinners’ (he is frequently referred to as the ‘friend of sinners’) but with the ‘church’ of the day. I also saw genuine goodness and love in some people outside the ‘church’ and the total opposite from some people ‘within’.

        So, I call myself a ‘Christian’ because I believe in, and apply myself to, both the historical figure of ‘Jesus’ (although I don’t even like using that name) and the concept of ‘reconciliation’ between God (perhaps, more simply, a ‘spiritual existence’) and man – a concept which I find displayed in the “character” of Christ, albeit in manner probably neither preached, nor endorsed, by the church.

        Now, I was trying to compose a response that was short yet appropriate, but I’m not really satisfied with the results… I hope I haven’t too fully exceeded the brief!!

        • Malvond


          I think you give a really great explanation; it’s clearly something you’ve thought about quite a lot. I knew a guy in college who called himself Christian for similar reasons—essentially, because “Christian” implies respect and love of Christ, and he believed that Jesus was an admirable figure to use as a moral guide—and I thought that was one of the better reasons I’d heard.

          You might be interested to know, though, that I have a friend who is a devout Muslim, and whose perceptions of the divine I respect probably more than those of anyone else I know; yours are very similar to his.

          Only you can decide what name—if any—feels most comfortable for you. I will say, though, that personally I see no reason for you to call yourself a Christian. And I mean that in a good way. On the one hand, if you truly believe that you are a Christian then it would be a disservice to your beliefs not to call yourself one just because you didn’t like what certain people or certain groups did to the name. On the other hand, you might consider the fact that there are a lot of people who feel exactly the way you do and would never call themselves Christian. I think that Jesus is a respectable figure to use as a guide. So did my grandfather, who wrote manuscripts about Jesus and used the Bible in his sermons. But he was a Unitarian minister, a naturalist and an athiest.

          Again, only you know what feels right for you, but I wanted to throw that out there.

  • a different Dan

    Why haven’t these people been shunned into financial obscurity? Traveling around the country takes cash, these guys have to make money somehow. I’d be very reluctant to do business with someone who likes controversy as much as these people.

    • Custador

      Can you imagine the impossibility of actually firing a Phelps? Considering how many of them are lawyers and how litigious they are? These are people who would sue you for Air Miles, their reaction to a sacking would be epic.

      • JohnMWhite

        Some of them were/are nurses, which makes me wonder how they deal with patients they come into contact with. Over here we recently had all that hullabaloo about a nurse trying to show people leaflets about how evil abortion is and she managed to cling on to her job, but I wonder how the medical environment in the US would react to nurses telling patients with STDs they are going to burn in hell. Or do they perhaps just switch off that part of themselves when at work? Some of them do seem to be pretty capable of being that selective.

        • Mogg

          I spent years in a church that had beliefs that were similar enough to WBC that I was having flashbacks while watching some of that footage. You definitely do have to switch off that part of yourself in order to maintain an outside job, and try not to allow the evidence that all these people that you work with are no more evil or “sinful” than the people in church get to you and start you asking questions.

          Fortunately I failed :-)

    • Mike

      I believe suing local authorities and police departments for failing to protect their first amendment rights accounts for a fair bit of income. There are a number of qualified lawyers in the family and they sue at every opportunity.

      Notice how carefully worded their signs are. They never make them personal enough to be sued themselves, but offensive enough that the unwary might retaliate. Immediate lawsuit…

    • McBloggenstein

      That question popped into my mind as well a few times (usually each time Louis stepped into their homes). I find myself wondering how people so entrenched in hate and cult-like activities can be functional members of any society enough so that they have jobs that provide enough income to live comfortably. I imagine they must keep their thoughts to themselves when they are not surrounded by their comfort zone. On one hand – because of that – I think that as humans they are dealing with inner struggles on a level I can’t comprehend. But on the other hand, I also can’t comprehend the amount of delusion and indoctrination required to maintain such steadfast belief and behavior.

      • Ike

        With a smug sense of sick satisfaction knowing that everyone you see will be burning in hell for all eternity.

        Thinking: “Laugh at me now, sinner! I’m so happy you’re going where you’re going! You won’t be laughing then! Go on! Shout at me! You’ll get a special spot there!”

        This attitude is not limited to these nuts. Every year there’s a Mormon pilgrimage to the Mormon Mecca in upstate New York. And every year, there’s people on the side of the road with signs telling passing motorists they’re going to hell.

        • Avicenna

          I have been to New York, knowing it’s denizens their response would be “already there” followed by various choice curse words.

  • messiestobjects

    Just finished watching all 4 clips and I have to say, rather than making me despise these people even more, (which probably wasn’t possible anyway) it made me feel bad for them. They’re so wrapped up in fear of being cast out of their group and into hell that they become more and more incapable of seeing the trap they’re in. I’d love to see the head guy, Fred Phelps Sr. get interviewed; he must be one charismatic sonombitch the way he put the wammy on these people.

  • McBloggenstein

    Now I’ve got that Lady Gaga beat stuck in my head.

  • Ed Selby

    Damn – some of those girls are REALLY good looking! I’ll bet Shirley was quite the looker before the Crazy overtook her!

    • AnonyMouse

      What’s really sad is how good-looking some of those men would be if only they weren’t all brainwashed. I would totally date a couple of them.

  • Malvond

    I agree with Custador about Fred, Jr. Not only did he seem like an otherwise nice guy, he also seemed like perhaps the most lucid of the older bunch, at least of the ones that appeared in the film.

    I had a prolonged cringe listening to the obviously gay guy from San Francisco. It’s so painful to watch someone so ashamed of himself when he needn’t be.

    Megan’s lacy top with the black camisole underneath seemed a lot skankier than I would have thought they would allow. I’m glad that Louis told her that she seemed like she was having her cake and eating it too, because I looked through her Facebook page—I posted about this a while ago—and from her pictures, featuring her having so much fun parodying (which means listening to) Lady Gaga and posting the same generically narcissistic profile pictures as anyone else, I got the exact same impression. And it was interesting that Libby said Megan had worn bikinis, too.

    What I do think is genuine is their absolutely overwhelming, anxiety-producing fear of Hell, and this is what stirs up the pity in me.

    One of the most irritating things to me is that, for all their talk about the sin of pride, the tone they take with everyone outside their church is so incredibly hostile and condescending. And it’s even more frustrating that most of the people who become angry enough to confront them are either too emotional to have a coherent debate, or just not capable of presenting a worthy counterargument (that girl could have been either one of those). Of course, this is aside from the fact that the Phelps family is not interested in having any sort of conversation, which is why, despite the fact that watching these films is cathartic from be and despite the fact that I fully understand the need to organize counterprotests and try to argue with them, I really think they just need to be ignored. As much as possible.

    • Malvond

      *cathartic for me

  • Morpheus91

    What’s really scary is how similar many of the Westboro views are to what’s preached throughout the Pentecostal churches I used to visit. The Westboro folks are more extreme I guess, and certainly more actively offensive with their protests, but the core ideas of end times, sin, salvation, truth, and so on, jive perfectly with various “holiness” movements.

  • Ruthie Kelly

    This film makes me feel so sad and sympathetic to the kids. I hope they all wake up one day.

    • Ike

      They’ll need years of therapy when they do.

  • CNR

    As a former Christian, its interesting to listen to their all-encompassing use of Christian jargon and lingo. Every bit of dialog they have includes some form of inculcated phrase embedded in it. When talking about the future they always include, “If God tarries….” indicating that there will be a future unless God returns. That’s just one small example.

    But the funny thing is the less extreme Christian circles do the same thing. And I think that inability to communicate without the jargon shows that the thought patterns are not thought out or original, but clearly simply indoctrinated. And that is the tragedy. That 11 year old boy was speaking the lingo because he was not allowed to have an original thought.


  • TrickQuestion

    I sure as hell wouldn’t want any of them being my nurse.

  • Boster

    I have followed the WBC for many years and have seen all interviews and videos, read the websites, etc, etc..
    Just some comments:

    Truly unbelievable that one old man and a moldy book could and will continue to produce such pain.

    What came across to me as exceptional in this new video is the sense that something is expected to happen, and happen soon. In Grace’s room you can see that the girls are excited with their fantasies and conjectures about the “expulsion” from the USA and the rapture to come in Jerusalem with the repentant Jews. The young boy (obiously very intelligent and full of promise) speaks about sheltering in caves in the Mohave. I didn’t get the sense that the elders share in this apocalyptic stuff.

    I take it that old psycho cult-leader Fred is starting to sense his own mortality and see himself as a new Abraham, unable to enter into this final chapter (the promised land), but having served as the great prophet. The young women talk about how they are desperately trying to find “other churches” like theirs and I’m sure this desperation revolves around finding prospects to marry. Jael and Megan are mid 20s and if they want to drop about 8-10 kids each they will need to get married real soon. I don’t think any of them will get the hots for the sad young guy from San Fran trying to needlessly ungay himself. Reproduction obviously factors a big way into the cults like this. If you can’t deal with the real world, make some new people and boss around and share your insecurities.

    Steve Drain is a megalomaniac who would rather feel he has absolute authority in his life, rather than anything else, like love his children like humans. A smart man, but he’s found his niche in his own little kingdom called Imright. He came to the cult too late to be actually indoctrinated, so I think he’s just on his own little angry head-trip against the world.

    Libby is a sweetheart and you can see she gets it from her parents. It would be wonderful if they could leave too. They don’t want to be there, it’s obvious.

    Lauren is tough and cool. Her dad should learn something from her.

    For the sake of the kids I hope all this nonsense comes crashing down for the WBC, in a peaceful way.

    The young kids growing up this way bring me to tears.

  • john e

    Im realy surprised that no seriously pissed off soldiers have not just machine gunned the whole crowd yet, still, theres always time yet.America sure has the guns to push the odds up.