“The Hottest Part of Hell: Growing Up, Leaving, and Staying in Westboro Baptist Church”

Weber State University’s Sociology & Anthropology Brown Bag Series presents 

Dr. Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Arkansas State University

“The Hottest Part of Hell: Growing Up, Leaving, and Staying in Westboro Baptist Church”

Please Join Us on Thursday, January 26, 1:30 PM, SS103

What is life like inside a congregation that thinks the rest of the world is so evil that God is destroying it? That sees itself as Noah’s ark, carrying the faithful to safety as everyone outside its doors drowns? That lets you know that if you step outside the boundaries of the church’s dictates, you’ll be sentenced to an eternity of torture?

This is the message that the children of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, hear Sunday after Sunday–and the message that they, along with the adults in the 70-person congregation–preach as they picket at funerals and disaster scenes, from the funerals of fallen soldiers and LGBT people to the sites of mass shootings, mine explosions, bridge collapses, and other places of national mourning.

This presentation examines how children and adolescents learn the rhetoric and theology of Westboro Baptist church, how they are socialized into the church’s anti-gay activism, and how they decide, upon adulthood, to stay in a place where, very often, they have felt loved and cared for, or exit into the world they have been condemning. It draws from the words and experiences of current and former members of the congregation as well as observations of church life, from church potlucks to funeral pickets.

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Above, boys affiliated with Westboro Baptist Church picket outside of the White House. 

Rebecca Barrett-Fox’s scholarship focuses on the intersections of religion, right-wing politics, hate and extremism, and sexuality, gender, and families. She is the author of God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, the Religious Right, and American Nationalism (University of Kansas Press 2016), an ethnography of America’s most famous anti-gay congregation, as well as articles that have appeared in The Journal of Hate Studies, The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Radical Teacher, Thought & Action, and Proteus: A Journal of Ideas. She is also a contributor to Religion Dispatches. Dr. Barrett-Fox is a professor of sociology at Arkansas State University, where she is affiliated with Women and Gender Studies. You can follow her blog at AnyGoodThing.com.

 

 

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