So Louis Theroux goes to visit the Phelps family – you know, the ‘God hates fags’ crowd, the people who go to funerals to shout about ‘fags’. Hell’s angels have started policing military funerals to help keep them at a distance – just in case people who have lost someone they love to a violent death in a war don’t much feel like hearing from Fred Phelps and his descendants at the funeral.
What we did, I think, was try to understand how a group like this operates; its group psychology, the way the beliefs are passed down the family…We’re exploring what is cruelty, trying to explain how something that really does very often just amount to cruelty could be perpetuated and passed down in a family. Why would nice people do such horrible things?…I think that the pastor is not a very nice person. I think he’s an angry person who’s twisted the Bible and picked and chosen verses that support his anger, that sort of justify his anger, and he’s instilled that in his children and they’ve passed it on to their children…I think another part of the answer is that parts of the Christian Bible are pretty weird. There’s a lot of weird stuff in there and when you take that and you add this angry, domineering kind of a father figure, which is Gramps, and you add that he has sort of separated them off from other people, other families and driven them to achieve a lot…
So that’s all it takes. One not nice, angry, cruel man, who has the power or influence to domineer and isolate his children. Somebody much like the pope, in fact, but with children added.