Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

Overview

NOW A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. 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 recent Tucson 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 ...

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Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

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Overview

NOW A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. 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 recent Tucson 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 to Kansas 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church has a small congregation, but though unaffiliated, it receives more media coverage than any other religious group in the country. There is no mystery why: Led by a fiery pastor, the church has picketed hundreds of events, including funerals of combat victims, to protest their association with gays, Jews, Roman Catholics, and a host of other "sinning" enemies. On the very day that the World Trade Center was attacked, Westboro mounted "Thank God for 9/11" and, according to their damning pronouncements, the Unholy Trinity consists of Satan, Pope Benedict XIV, and Barack Obama. In this heart-rending memoir, the daughter of Westboro members recounts her family's immersion in the belief system of this hate-filled group and her own difficult self-extraction.

Publishers Weekly
A move with her family to Topeka, Kans., in 2001 precipitated years of immersion in a virulently antigay, hate-fueled church, which Drain, now in her late 20s, depicts in this somewhat incongruously matter-of-fact, emotionally one-note memoir. The Drain family moved from Florida at the instigation of her father, a documentary filmmaker whose critical work about the notorious gay rights–picketing Westboro Baptist Church evolved into a highly admiring portrait of this small Calvinistic sect that believed in the imminent end of the world, the frightening wrath of God before the innate sin of mankind, with a slim few chosen for “election.” A small, insular sect started in 1955 by the loud curbside preacher Fred Phelps, the WBC was mostly run by his dozen children and grandchildren, who all lived in a compound around the Topeka church, maintained tight control over communal behavior, and regularly picketed events such as gay pride and AIDS marches with incendiary language and signs designed to provoke outrage (e.g., “God hates fags”). Obedience and conformity were pillars of the church, and increasingly hard to swallow for the then-teenage author whose few forays into adolescent flirting got her branded a “whore.” Her narrative of these horrifying pickets are detailed (“we became almost possessed”) and particularly chilling in her recitation of being absolutely cast out by her own family without any compunction. Agent, Lisa Grubka, Fletcher & Co. (Mar.)
People Magazine
"In gripping detail, [Drain] reflects on her fall from grace, how it opened her eyes and how she's built a new life filled with love, not hate. Three out of four stars."
People
"In gripping detail, [Drain] reflects on her fall from grace, how it opened her eyes and how she's built a new life filled with love, not hate. Three out of four stars."
From the Publisher
"In gripping detail, [Drain] reflects on her fall from grace, how it opened her eyes and how she's built a new life filled with love, not hate. Three out of four stars."
People
Library Journal
Drain brings a unique perspective to the study of the Westboro Baptist Church, providing an insider's look into this virulent quasi-religious group. Having spent seven years in the cult, Drain chronicles her assimilation into the church, her maturation and subsequent challenge to the church's tenets, and her ultimate banishment. (LJ 3/1/13)
Kirkus Reviews
The inside story of a small hate group that captured big headlines. The Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for having carried picket signs reading "Thank God for 9/11" on the day it happened. They brought the message "God Hates America" to the funerals of servicemen killed in action and picketed George W. Bush's second inauguration with signs that read, "God Hates Fag Enablers." Considering themselves the messengers of a wrathful, vengeful God, they warn of an upcoming apocalypse in which all but the elect members of their church will be plummeted to hell. With the assistance of former New York Times correspondent Pulitzer (co-author: Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, 2010, etc.), Drain describes the life of this pernicious cult and the seven years that she spent in its clutches. Located in Topeka, Kan., the Church's congregation brought together 70 people at most, many of them family members of pastor Fred Phelps, whose belief system was based on a fundamentalism that targeted homosexuals. The author's father converted while filming a documentary about the group. In 2000, he coerced his wife and the author (then 15) to join and accompany him in a move from their Florida home to Topeka. She describes how she struggled to adhere to the group's doctrine, a struggle caused by extreme social pressure (including her father's physical abuse and threats to disown her.)Even so, she was ultimately banished from the group (and any contact with her immediate family) in 2007. Drain describes how her own identity eroded during the time she was a member of the cult, as she sought to quell her doubts in order to gain acceptance, and how the dynamic of an extended family intensified their paranoid delusions. A chilling but illuminating account of the inner workings of a hate group and Drain's ultimately successful struggle to free herself.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455512416
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/1/2016
  • Pages: 304

Meet the Author

LAUREN DRAIN works as a registered nurse. She lives with her fiancé in Connecticut, where she enjoys outdoor activities including endurance races, hiking, dirt biking, and camping. This is her first book. LISA PULITZER is a former correspondent for The New York Times. She is the author and co-author of more than a dozen non-fiction books, including the bestselling Stolen Innocence.
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