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Before watching this short documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church, I already had my own bias regarding their so-called “religious organization” – I thought what they were doing and preaching was despicable and truly saddening. Now that I’ve learned about their beliefs more intimately, I can better and more informatively piece together my personal opinion about them. What I understood about the Westboro Baptist Church from this film was that they are a completely narcissistic. They truly believe that they are the only ones destined for heaven, that everyone else who doesn’t agree with them are ultimately going to hell. There is no between – no middle ground. You are either with them or against them.
In the beginning minutes of the documentary, Louis Theroux, the BBC reporter, asks Shirley Phelps, the daughter of Westboro’s founder, asks if she considers herself to be in a cult (9:40). She defensively responds that she is doesn’t care about “all about that nonsense” regarding accusations of being a cult and that “we are the ones who are strictly adhering to the doctrines of faith of all the mainline religions”.
I do not believe that their behavior is purely religious as their main ideologies are based on sociopolitical stances. From extremely dehumanizing homophobic views to believing Barack Obama is the antichrist and that will lead the apocalypse. What I found was interesting was that their views aligned with those of white supremacists but laced throughout the film is their apparent hatred for United States and the flag. In certain parts of the film, you can see them hanging the US flag upside down and tying them to their feet to show that they are walking over it. Yet, there is no extreme public uproar over these “anti-patriotic” acts unlike when Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested against what the US flag represents by kneeling during the american pledge.
A question I would ask a member of the group to better understand their religious motivations is what are the paths they need to take to achieve salvation? The documentary focused more on the hate involved with the organization but didn’t touch much upon what makes their religion different from others. Is yelling these foul and disheartening slurs and statements a way that their God will save them from going to hell? What constitutes basic aspects of religion like soul, self or forgiveness for them? Overall, I believe that the attention that the Westboro Baptist Church receives is what fuels them to continue expanding their hatred and prophecies.
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