While many of us have seen the members of the Westboro Baptist Church on the news picketing and protesting at the funerals of fallen soldiers, victims of crime, and public and political figures, few of us truly know or understand the inner workings of these types of churches that base their mind-numbing rhetoric on their bitter hatred of others, particularly homosexuals, people of other religions and members of the military. Convinced that they are the only ones whom God will choose to save, members of the WBC take delight in spewing their vitriol in public and informing others how their souls are destined to spend eternity in the fiery pits of hell where they will suffer forever.
Although most dismiss the members of the church as whack jobs who have crossed the line in their religious fanaticism, a handful of people fall for the line that the church offers. Unfortunately for Lauren Drain, her father became enamored of the church's message when she was a teenager, and her life changed forever.
"BANISHED is a fascinating story of a lifestyle that most of us, thankfully, never experience.... In spite of the long journey that occurred before Lauren found a better way of life, the happy ending she has experienced made the read well worth the time."
Before his involvement with the WBC, Steven Drain was an intellectual and atheist who spent more time pursuing higher education degrees than he did working to support his family, forcing his wife to carry the burden of earning a living. When Steven began making a film documentary called Hatemongers, about a small religious group located in Topeka, Kansas, he opened the door to a form of mind-control that swayed him from his previous beliefs and lured him into a completely unbalanced way of life.
At 14, Lauren had been enjoying a seemingly normal existence in Florida where she lived near her mother's family, a large group of Catholics who didn't particularly care for her father. Once becoming immersed in the teachings of the WBC, however, he deliberately moved his wife and children to Topeka, where they nestled in the bosom of the very vipers who make up the church.
Lauren went from dressing and acting like a normal teen to being prohibited from coloring or cutting her hair, wearing makeup or expressing any views contrary to those of the church. Instead of spending her time online or talking to boys, she was forced to participate in nationwide protests where church members spewed hatred of anyone they considered unworthy.
For years, Lauren did her best to curb her tongue and accept the teachings of the church. To do otherwise would result in unpleasant repercussions that involved criticism, punishment and shunning by the group. As time wore on, though, Lauren began to question the teachings of the church as she learned and grew in her understanding of the Bible.
Even after Lauren graduated high school and earned her nursing degree, her family and the church still exerted an unreasonable amount of control over her. Finally, a nefarious plot to expel her from the community and from her family was hatched. Lauren was cast out into the world without support of any kind, finally free from the WBC physically if not mentally.
BANISHED is a fascinating story of a lifestyle that most of us, thankfully, never experience. As I read Lauren's account of her life in the church, I was filled with anger that any group of people would choose to treat their loved ones in such a manner, particularly a young girl who only wanted to do what comes naturally. In spite of the long journey that occurred before Lauren found a better way of life, the happy ending she has experienced made the read well worth the time.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on March 22, 2013
Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church