Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

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by Lauren Drain, Lisa Pulitzer
     
 

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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…  See more details below

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

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:
9781455512430
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
03/05/2013
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
122,374
File size:
2 MB

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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Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a phenomenal book written by a courageous young woman. It is heart breaking and intense but also riveting. I can't say enough good things about this book! It is a true expose into a hate cult, but also a survivors tale. I couldnt put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly captivating story of a young women's courage in the face of adversity. It goes to show how a person's true spirit will always prevail over evil. Well written and captivating! I couldn't put the book down!
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite I first heard of the Westboro Baptist Church when they picketed Matthew Shepard’s funeral in Laramie, Wyoming. Mr. Shepard was beaten to death by two men because of his homosexuality. As I listened to “Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church” by Lauren Drain, I was horrified by the way the church treated her and especially by the way her parents treated her. Lauren’s father showed signs of instability before he became tied up with the WBC. Like most young girls she sought her father’s approval and attention. While filming a documentary on the WBC, Lauren’s father became caught up in their beliefs. He began to turn to them for guidance in parenting Lauren. No matter how hard Lauren tried she was labeled a trouble maker. Often she asked questions of the conflicting doctrine, angering the leaders of the church. After eight years of methodical emotional and psychological abuse, as well as some physical abuse, she was banished from the congregation. Lauren has turned her life around; she no longer serves a god of hatred; she now serves the God of love. Lauren Drain shares the details of her life with the WBC. I should state that the WBC is not affiliated with any known Baptist Church. Without apology I label the Westboro Baptist Church a cult. “Banished” is written from Lauren’s perspective. My review is on the audio format which was narrated by the author. I was mesmerized by the content of this tale; however, there was much repetition. At times the content sounded childlike but this did not disturb me or detract from the text; as she has undergone great suffering, it is understandable that she would tell her story as she remembers it … through the eyes of her earlier years. Lauren is lucky that they banished her when they did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lauren Drain's biography about her growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church is s real eye opener! Long and very depressing in places, it ends up on avery high note. I heard her on talk radio and became fascinated at the fact that she has a loving spirit despite what she went through. We need to pray for that church and avoid similar ones scattered throughout this country. "Banished" sure opened my eyes. Her message is very much needed today in America. I hope we haven't heard the last from her!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting and well written memoir. It is riviting to read about the control and evil some use in the name of religion. The author's sociopathic father is truly frightening. Another book to read that has a controlling sociopath as a character is the novel "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. This novel also has strong male and female characters with great moral features to overcome horrible situations. This novel is only 99 cents right now on the Nook. It has great reviews. Both books deserve A++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My heart goes out to this woman and all the hell she went through. Makes me very appreciative of my upbringing and my sanity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an excellent quick read- Lauren's life before and in the church are covered extensively. Her depictions of the other members of the church are riveting and greatly humanize all of the negative actions associated with the organization. My only wish is that Lauren had given us a longer description of how she built her life back up after being banned from the church, because she's a very strong woman with a great story to tell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting inside information about WBC. Her parents' stupidity really pissed me off. The book can't escape the 'co-authored by Lisa Pulitzer' tone. Deborah Feldman's Unorthidox was much better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing read, made my cry a few times. Also make sure to read the epilog and the acknowledgments 
Scooterdiva More than 1 year ago
I just finished Lauren Drain's book BANISHED Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church. Most people know Westboro as the most hated family in America and that title is well deserved. This book is written by an remember of the church, but who isn't a member of the Phelps family. Its fascinating reading about the family dynamics, hierarchy and other goings on behind the walls. This book won't have you cheering for the church, but rather glad that Lauren is free from them and happily living in Connecticut. In addition, since this book was written. Libby Phelps, daughter of Fred Phelps Jr, Grace and Megan, daughters of Shirley Phelps-Roper have left the church. As with the Shakers, It appears that the members of Westboro Baptist Church will either be kicked out, leave on their own, or die off, ending the Churches reign of hatred forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Banished was a great read. I came away with a new understanding of the doctrines of the WBC. Lauren Drain' s average childhood devolved into family membership in a cultic group. Out of the neccessity to survive, she adopted the group's beliefs and culture as her own. Questioning and thinking for oneself was frowned upon. She endured her clearly abusive father for years. When the congregation decided to dump Lauren Drain, they actually freed her. This book is a testament to the survival of the human spirit. sapphoq reviews
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just WOW! A great read and insight into the WBC world. I felt as though Lauren was sitting right next to me and telling me the story in person. I cant wait to get the official copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was very interesting, covering about every detail you could think of ! It almost felt like an autobiography. You get an inside view of Lauren's life before, during and a little bit after her life in that church. Being in a fundamentalist group looks to be extremely harsh and controlling.I felt her story was very compelling and I really feel for her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was very well written. I actually had trouble putting it down bc I had to know what was going to happen next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So many emotions all rolled up into one! After reading this book I came to the conclusion that the Westboro Baptist Church should be synomous with the American Taliban if there was such a group. They are obviously an extremist Baptist organization. The courage to leave your family and expose this group should be praised! Buy your copy now and band together against this hate group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great honest read! Makes you feel sorry for the children of this cult and feel sorry for Lauren.
55T-Bird More than 1 year ago
Interesting to hear from the perspective of someone who was inside the church.  But she didn't need 200+ pages to tell this story.  There is so much repetition that I finally jumped ahead to reading the first paragraphs of the chapters just to assure myself that the story was really going to move along at some point.  I did plow through the whole thing and give her credit for telling her story.  Her naivety in some instances however made me question her credibility-- could she have really not known that what she was doing was going to have serious repercussions?? I did feel her heartbreak at the severed relationship with her siblings but happy she has managed to move past her experience at WBC.
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Incredible story. Very well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little slow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I feel so sorry for this girl i know what the phelps are like they picketed my grandpas funeral
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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