Now making the rounds on the Net is the BBC2’s docu on the Westboro Baptist
Before I comment on the docu, I must praise Theroux. He’s intelligent, insightful and curious, without any shade of mockery or pretension. Theroux uses his sincere, almost ingenuous, questions to get fascinating answers [or lack of answers] out of cult members about what they believe and why they believe it. He has a talent for pushing people to answer hard questions, as well as a talent for letting people dig themselves further into holes. Yet he doesn’t make fun of his subjects [although his dry delivery does let some ironic humor slip in]. Mostly he seems to be having fun at his job, and this sense of warmth conjures up similar friendliness in his subjects [yes, even the cult members], which makes them seem more understandable.
It is heartbreaking to watch intelligent, energetic adults waste all of their lives and mental faculties in glorification of a hatred-obsessed man. Moreover, it’s especially disturbing to watch how the third generation of cult members, from babies to college studies, suffers the power of the hate. Watch the 7-year-old boy who has no idea what the “fag troops” on his picket sign are…and yet who gets a soft drink launched at him from a passing enraged motorist. Watch the 21-year-old lawyer wanna-be that Theroux interviews in depth as she uses nervous laughter to cover her growing realization that her beliefs may be just empty platitudes. Upon viewing this documentary, you get a different angle on the repulsiveness that is the Westboro Baptist Church. You see not only how they do violence to the targets of their pickets, but to their own members.
Find the docu on Youtube here. While you’re at it, check out Theroux’s earlier interview with born-again Christians. It’s an interesting complement to the Westboro Cult docu because you can see the same messages of absolutism [only the believers will be saved, and we are the only believers], but with a completely different delivery.