Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

Book - 2013
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You've likely heard of the WestboroBaptistChurch. Perhaps you've seen their pickets on the news, the members holding signs with messages that are too offensive to copy here, protesting at events such as the funerals of soldiers, the 9-year old victim of the recentTucson shooting, and Elizabeth Edwards, all in front of their grieving families. The WBC is fervently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and anti- practically everything and everyone. And they aren't going anywhere: in March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the WBC's right to picket funerals.

Since no organized religion will claim affiliation with the WBC, it's perhaps more accurate to think of them as a cult. Lauren Drain was thrust into that cult at the age of 15, and then spat back out again seven years later. BANISHED is the first look inside the organization, as well as a fascinating story of adaptation and perseverance.

Lauren spent her early years enjoying a normal life with her family in Florida. But when her formerly liberal and secular father set out to produce a documentary about the WBC, his detached interest gradually evolved into fascination, and he moved the entire family toKansas to join the church and live on their compound. Over the next seven years, Lauren fully assimilated their extreme beliefs, and became a member of the church and an active and vocal picketer. But as she matured and began to challenge some of the church's tenets, she was unceremoniously cast out from the church and permanently cut off from her family and from everyone else she knew and loved. BANISHED is the story of Lauren's fight to find herself amidst dramatic changes in a world of extremists and a life in exile.
Publisher: New York : Grand Central Publishing, c2013.
ISBN: 9781455512423
Characteristics: 295 p. :,ill., ports. ;,24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Pulitzer, Lisa


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Feb 02, 2018

I gave this book three stars because, although It was interesting to read an account of the internal workings and philosophies of the WBC, I found the writing clunky, somewhat disorganized, and frequently repetitive.

Jul 28, 2015

After reading this book, one learns that the Westboro Baptist Church isn't Baptist at all (no surprise) but instead follows an extreme form of Calvinism, and a Puritanical one at that. One also learns that the Phelps family are actually civil litigators by trade, so good in fact that people who completely oppose their religious ideology still seek their legal services, and that one of its members successfully argued for throwing out a lawsuit against the church before the US Supreme Court. As for the protagonist, we learn about a family who started out doing an investigative documentary about the hate group and ended up joining it. It is truly heartbreaking that the author was kicked out of her immediate family simply for wanting to date someone without church permission. But like some other reviewers, I can't help but get the impression this was a quite dispassionate book, without much explanation as to where she made her turnaround. I was expecting a more substantive book. But it's still a fair primer as to how some people can get totally unhinged - or get sucked into such a mentality.

Feb 11, 2015

This book is very insightful and well written! Knowing about WBC my whole life I never understood what their thought process was. It was extremly interesting to see how they think and how they justify their thoughts and actions. Though I don't agree with them, it was still nice to see the inside workings of this religious cult. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Lauren. She went through so much in her life and was citicized for everything. How she made it to where she is today blows my mind. That type of brainwashing and constant picking at your self esteem would kill everything you had for yourself especially while growing up.

Oct 16, 2014

Lauren Drain is a great author giving us insight into the Westboro Baptist Church. I truly enjoyed reading this. It is definitely one of the best non-fiction books I've read. A fast and easy read.

Mar 26, 2014

A well-written book detailing the complex dynamics of the Westboro group's religious beliefs and emotional control of group members. A riveting account of the spiritual and emotional turmoil Lauren Drain was put through. The Westboro's convoluted theology was well explained. Excellent insight into the brainwashing techniques used by religious cults. The book was so compelling, I could not put it down until I had finished reading it.

Oct 14, 2013

A really interesting inside view of a prominent religious group. I was surprised by a lot of what Drain wrote (for example, the level of education among church leaders) and impressed by her honesty, forgiveness, and courage.

ChristchurchLib Jun 18, 2013

"In 2000, when author Lauren Drain was 15, her father joined the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and brought his wife and daughter to live in the community founded by Fred Phelps. Widely known for its anti-gay demonstrations - even picketing of U.S. military funerals - the congregation tried to make the teenaged Drain conform to their beliefs. After she struggled for years to fit in, the sect finally ostracized her and forbade her even to contact her own family. Drain's riveting, informative account of life with the Westboro group explores both the emotional effects of her experience and her search to recover her sense of identity." June 2013 Biography and Memoir newsletter

Instead of seeking professional psychological help after being indoctrinated by a cultish Christian sect in her formative years, the author wrote this book, likely encouraged to do so by her media co-author. I found it disturbing that she wrote so unemotionally about her hate-filled and terrible experiences, as if her cold, factual writing style were evidence of her way of coping and disassociating with her past.
Her epilogue also made me question her intelligence. I mean, does she really believe that free speech
(and free speech for the Wesboro Church equals hate speech) takes precedence over treating other human beings with decency and respect?

May 07, 2013

This book was really depressing. I usually don't feel that way after reading memoirs of personal adversity. The depictions of events surrounding her family and the arbitrary and capricious way that Lauren has ALWAYS been treated by them, then, later by the Phelps'- really hard to read.

As a cult survivor myself (not this cult) I noticed that she seemed to cut them a bit more slack than most people would. She obviously still has some mixed feelings. I actually got the impression that she might even flip flop and go back to it, even though she said she wouldn't. I hope she doesn't, but something about the way she writes...

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