In sports -- particularly those that involve running -- there's a phrase for when a competitor begins to lose energy and momentum. They call it hitting the wall.
In BBC documentary film maker Louis Theroux's Most Hated Family in America in Crisis, Theroux returns to Topeka, Kansas to catch up with the Westboro Baptist Church.
What emerges is a portrait of a social movement -- and a family -- in crisis.
Maybe it's charitable to describe the WBC as a social movement. Perhaps its more fitting to describe them as part of a hate-based religion movement that includes individuals such as Florida's Pastor Terry Jones and the Taliban. The hate-based religion movement is basically a multi-faith hate cult.
In the four years since Theroux was last with the WBC, it has slowly hemhorraged followers. As it does this, the Phelps family itself hemhorrages family members.
It's against this backdrop that it's startling to see Shirley Phelps-Roeper so enthusiastic about the state of her church when it's in fact more troubled than its ever been before.
It's almost as if Shirley Phelps-Roeper has always been emotionally thriving off the hatred she provokes. With the WBC attracting more and more hatred, Phelps-Roeper seems more and more pleased with herself.
In fact, Phelps-Roeper seems more disturbed than ever before. Presenting some pint-sized hate placards, she describes them as "cute".
She even describes President Barack Obama as "the anti-Christ".
Even more shocking than the kid-sized signs she shows off is hearing the Phelps' own very young children -- some seeming to be as young as seven years old -- spouting the same hate rhetoric. This is just a form of victimization by the elder members of the hate-cult. The children have no idea what they're saying; they don't actually understand the hate they're being taught.
Most striking is that the WBC's hate-based religion makes victims of the Phelps children. They are essentially not allowed to be children. While the elder Phelps have allowed themselves to make friends, find love (even if it's with despicable people) and have families. They do not allow their children the same opportunities to live.
It repeatedly becomes thematic throughout the film: the hypocrisy of the WBC is slowly driving its children away.
At the end of the day, however, Louis Theroux should accept that his quest to understand the Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church is futile. Try as they may, good people -- and Theroux seems like a genuinely good person -- will never truly understand evil.