I watch most of Louis Theroux’s documentaries. I thought I’d already seen this one. My tag-line was the Phelps’s family were no longer America’s most hated family, because that was the Trump’s. Wishful thinking. Theroux has got some good mileage out of the Phelps’s family, but paradoxically the Phelps’s family has also got something back from Theroux, new members, new recruits. The latest a man from Bradford, of all places, married one of the Phelp’s girls.
Another potential recruit described himself as pan-sexual. For a group premised on hate of the other and gays in particular that’s like a Jew joining the SS because he likes the cut of their cloth. For the Phelps’s family Jews killed Jesus and your Pastor is a whore, pansexualism isn’t really their thing.
That old line there is no such thing as bad publicity is amplified here. Pastor Fred Phelps, patriarch and leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas died in 2014. We already knew that from the last episode. The big news here was he recanted before he died (allegedly) and told gay members of the community across from them that they weren’t bad people after all. Phelps, of course, thought everybody would burn in hell, including fellow evangelist Billy Graham.’ Gramps’ was the exception to the rule and whoever followed his doctrine were exceptional people and on the right path. Do what I say, not do what I do.
Since ‘Gramp’ Phelps died there has been a change of management in the church. They still wave signs such as God Hates Fags at military funerals and other churches. But with the advent of that old pussy grabber in chief, thief and money launderer, Trump, who orchestrates hate campaigns that ‘Gramp’ Phelps would cream his pants over, they no longer seem so out there, or in your face. Seem a little boring. What lies can they tell us that can trump the Trump? What can they do next to entertain us? Get elected to Congress? Lead the American nation into a Third World War and the apocalypse at the Book of Revelations promised. Gramp Phelps couldn’t but the moron’s moron may, God help us. That worries me. Phelps, in comparison, are child’s play.
Even poker-face Louis got in on the act, mimicking Gramps Phelps and drawling, in the old man’s dialect, ‘Donald Trump you’re going straight to hell and going to split it in two’. Amen to that, the sooner the better.
What is also noticeable is the way the thin and photogenic Phelps’s women age so quickly. Look at the first documentary and Theroux has hardly changed, a little thinner in the face, but basically the same. Westboro Baptist Church breeds its own members. Even with family defections, that keeps the numbers up. If you go back to the first programme a six-year old girl is holding a placard with a hate message she can’t explain, but her mum told her to do it, so it’s good. Here that girl has grown up and is marrying a recent recruit. Man is master in the house. She’ll no longer have a voice. Nothing new here. A repackaging of same-old, same-old, but still strangely watchable.