Upon watching the Louis Theroux BBC, The Most Hated Family in America and reading the article on, God Hates Your Feelings, something I make of the Westboro Baptist Church and their protest/picketing activities is that it is basically a family-based cult of personality built around its patriarch, Fred Phelps. It is renowned for its harsh anti-gay, and the crude signs its members carry at their frequent protests. The members of Westboro are known to picket at least six events a day, for instance, celebrity funerals, soldier’s funerals, and homosexual functions (Powell & Melissa, 1439). This group always includes hateful expressions. “Thank god for dead soldiers” and “God hates fags” are some of the expressions that individuals have observed at picketing events. The members of the Westboro even use several scriptures from the bible that talk about homosexuality as a sin to justify their stance and practices. Through shameful postings and statements on their several websites, the Westboro group lashes out at members of various Christian denominations, Jews, Muslims, and people of other religions (Powell & Mellissa, 1440). Their disrepute is accredited to their intentional, insistent, and unapologetic disrespect for cultural feeling rules, including the vilification of “sacred” symbols and groups, incongruous demonstrative responses to events, and fusion of ethnically oppositional sentiments. Their members participate in common neutralization techniques, including denial of victimization, appealing to higher loyalties, denial of responsibility for the pain and discomfort they cause.
After reading the article, some specific aspects of their deviant activities make more sense. For instance, in line with their belief in predestination, pickets are not intended at gaining followers but merely a warning of the coming damnation. The aspect that God chooses some individuals to be saved, and those lucky few cannot resist God’s call, somehow makes sense in their deviant activities. It somehow makes sense that God chooses not to save most, and those unfortunate souls will burn in hell forever. Westboro congregation does not aim to break any law but is considered to be out-of-line. Though most of their behaviors are deviant in nature, some of them make sense in one way or another and reflect in the bible teachings. The Louis Theroux BBC, The Most Hated Family in America video, shows that members of the Westboro protest and blame the immorality of the United States for the tragedies that happen in daily life. It makes sense that their teachings preach strictly ideologies surrounding Calvinism and predestination, which views God as omnipotent in all ways.
It is generally important for sociologists to understand how individuals respond to attempts at labeling them as deviant, crazy, or evil. Self-identity and the behavior of individuals might be determined or influenced by the terms used to classify or describe them. Sociologists need to understand how people respond to labeling since it is one of the most significant approaches to understanding deviant and criminal behavior. By applying labeling to people and creating categories of deviance, the officials reinforce society’s power structure. Understanding how human beings are influenced significantly by how other members of society label them is vital for sociologists. Through our lives, individuals get labeled by others, and those labels reflect and affect how others think of their identities and how they think of themselves.
From my perspective, the Denial of Victimization technique of neutralization used by the Westboro Baptist is the most interesting. Interestingly, the affiliates of Westboro deny that their behaviors are accountable for any actual victimization since those they are targeting are damned and deserve condemnation. They assert that those who are upset by their signs and demonstrations are eventually responsible for their fate. It is interesting that, according to Westboro, individuals who are offended by their demonstrations at funerals and memorials ought to comprehend that they and the dead themselves are damned and are complicit in their victimization, including the loss of life.
Powell-Williams, Todd, and Melissa Powell-Williams. ““God Hates Your Feelings”: Neutralizing Emotional Deviance within the Westboro Baptist Church.” Deviant Behavior 38.12 (2017): 1439-1455.