I will express my ignorance of something right here. I have never seen nor known to exist advertisements enticing people to attend certain churches. I am not saying they do not exist still today, nor do I know if they were or are commonplace. What I do know is that much of Phelps ad for the opening of his church scares me. His attributes are listed in bullet points: Independent, Fundamental, Premillennial. In addition to (?) his sermons, revival services will be held. All of that is perfectly coded to get the right kind of people to attend his church and fall in line with his brand of viciousness (Phelps is also not the only Premillennialist, though that is hardly shocking). I do not know when the ad showed in the film ran; it should be 1957 or thereabouts. The ad appears very early in the film and quite properly sets the tone for what to expect from the Phelps family. It is unclear as to whether it ever attracted any worshipers to his services.
There is little more disturbing than the interviews with the children -- intercut with Jonathan Phelps calling all children outside his family "ratty-ass" or "nimrod[s]" and noting that their Christianity doesn't have Halloween (understandable), Christmas (somewhat understandable), or Easter (seems to be an important holiday in regular Christianity) -- talking about their favorite signs (such as "God Hates Fags") and the fun of protesting being serving the Lord out in the street. These children have no chance to escape this hate. Hearing a child under ten say that "God hates America because they are evil beasts" should be a cause for alarm.
|Phelps sure has a long list of who God Hates|
Pastor Jeff Gannon describes Phelps' version of Christianity best when he calls it "religiosity". Phelps is only filled with hate for everything and is waiting for God to attack his perceived enemies). The family believes that soldiers being killed by IEDs are suffering Holy retribution for a pipe bomb being set off at their church a decade before that. The Phelps family wants to let you know that you are as worthless as their father has made them feel to be before the eyes of God. One of the most telling clips in the movie is Julie Banderas of FOX News just absolutely losing it when trying to talk to Shirley Phelps-Roper (full FOX News segment attached below).
This is not a fun movie to watch. Its subjects are not nice, likable, nor do they seem redeemable. It is telling of how much hate one can carry in one's heart, how that hate can be inflicted upon a family and caused to spread. I would recommend it to anyone who can tolerate the hate of the Phelps family just to witness the calm reason (not in Ms. Banderas' case) that many who have had to suffer them for years can still bring to bear regarding turning the other cheek to such hatred.