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.
©2013 Lauren Drain (P)2013 Hachette Audio
This book brought me to tears at the end to know of all the brutality in the world wrought by people who are supposed to be known to be full of love and care. I can only think of two words for Steve Drain (I'm sorry Lauren, I am sure you still love him) but they are fool and idiot. What I see is perhaps Steve loved the fact that he could finally feel purpose and importance in his life, even if it was all negative, that he could be in front of cameras and feel he had some purpose now, instead of his aimless wondering when Lauren was child. I thought at the end of the book he would have left with her. But to now understand that he totally cut her out of his life and his family is simply sad. This girl is still your daughter, yet she is treated as if she murdered someone or worse.
These WBC members truly are just a blimp. There would never have been any news about them if they did not cultivate it with ridiculous protests. Their form of religion appeals to just a handful of people and yet we are making such a big deal out of it. At times I wanted to stop reading the book since the story seemed so small and inconsequential, like making a mountain out of a mole hill. But I stuck with it, and now I see the book more a work for everyone who faces a deep and horrible sadness because of people they love, tearing themselves away because of a misunderstanding of faith. But even more than a misunderstanding, WBC members just use others: when Lauren's mom called to tell her they were claiming her as a dependent on their taxes, wow, what a joke, this family has grown used to using people, even in their own home.
Last night I went online and found Louis Theroux's documentary The Most Hated Family in America and watched Part II, a great documentary. This Steve Drain was a total disgusting individual in the film. I hope he reads Lauren's book and this review and begins to feel his ridiculous red hot lunacy, it can be the first step to true repentance and change to a pure love of God. Also in that documentary I was very moved by Grace Phelps. I thought her photography was wonderful and loved her explanation for shooting the beautiful young Muslim during a protest against Muslims. When I saw her I just knew in my heart she would one day leave that church. So I started googling and sure enough, she left last month with her sister Megan. I know she and Megan are young, but I only hope that they can be strong. I saw the pictures of Grace, Lauren and Megan united recently, and felt much happiness to know they have each other, as it must be horrible to lose one's parents.
I enjoyed the Epilogue when Lauren apologized to homosexuals, AIDs patients, the families of fallen soldiers and others for the pain she has caused at taunting them. And it was fascinating to hear of her reaction at the Vatican. I loved her book and am happy she took the time to write it. I related most especially to the part where 6 months in her apartment in Topeka she finally realized she had nothing, all her friends hated her and her family too, and she just had to move on. Something similar happened to me and it brings me much joy to know I am not alone.
On a personal note, I am a devout catholic (but also a very flawed one). I came to the faith on my own at 21 years old after doing drugs, hitchhiking all over the US and Europe and being in jail. I did not know WBC hated us so much but I totally understand it now. Yes, satan and individual evil has entered the catholic church and is trying to destroy it with abusive priests preying on little children. WBC had it right! It is awful and disgusting. But for me, faith is so much more pure then the evil of the day, it is first and foremost an authentic love of God in spite of all contemporary evil. I desire to do the right thing in life. It stems, for me, from understanding that there is a first mover, a first creator of all things. Knowing this, I know this first creator has a plan for me, as he does for every living thing in creation. So I try to determine, the best I can (as this first creator does not speak to me), what that role is. So I seek to find the best understanding I can of his way. For me it was the catholic church, with the 2000 years of history and unbroken petrine tradition, as well as the authority on the canon of scripture that even WBC hold today to be the only word of God. I fully accept and understand that others do not see it. But to me the final authority of all is conscience. You have to obey your conscience, no matter what. Once you turn away from it, your eyes go red and you begin to enter yourself into hell. But if we obey those little voices that tell us what is truth, we will be fine when we die, whatever our faith. But we have to obey it no matter what: the loss of family, the loss of what we thought was our faith, the loss of friends, the loss of home, the loss of all. But we all have the duty to inform our conscience with reading and thinking.
I think it was wonderful that Lauren kept asking questions as she read the bible in spite of being shut down by other members of the WBC. Her inquisitive mind was that small voice of conscience telling her to dig a little deeper until she finally began to see the light of truth. I wish her strength and success!
I might read it again, but her narration was pretty bad. I liked the story though!
I was appalled by the obvious favoritism the elders gave to their own grandchildren and treated "outsiders" like dirt and called them terrible names.
A professional narrator. Lauren was a horrible narrator, reading it like she was bored and in a tone like students in school where the teacher is making them read aloud and they hate it. There was no emotion or inflection in her voice.
My extreme reaction was anger at these awful people and the way they use the bible to condone their hatred and haughtiness. Her highly gullible father is a disgrace as a human, and her mother has no spine. I truly believe it is child abuse! I know the reality of cults and how they controlling they are, and it is just so sad. The emotional and psychological abuse they dish out is deplorable! So I guess I also felt fear, because it just demonstrates how easily some people are persuaded to demean and abuse their own children because some "elders" twist the bible and tell them to!
This is an eye-opening account of the exact type of thing we as human beings need to watch out for! Every human deserves the right to keep their identity, their dignity and their self-respect. No one should ever have to endure this abuse from people who claim they love them, or from any religion. I feel so bad for the innocent children who are born or dragged into the madness of these degenerate people.
The author narrates the book which is a nice touch and made it enjoyable. The book is informative about the WBC but also personal and the author tells her story with respect and honesty.
Excellent book that is captivating, insightful and well-written. This young lady's brave journey is inspirational and harrowing. Highly recommended.
The story was good but there were parts where I felt like she still held some of those old beliefs. It seemed that at parts she was spending from the mindset of her old self but she was telling it clearly as something that happened in the past. The story was good and the ending was very positive. There is a lot of offensive material when she talks about her time in the wb, but that is to be expected.
Overall great read!
Avid audiobook listener. Mostly into memoirs / autobiographies and other non-fiction.
If you're interested in the story behind the Westboro headlines, this is one of the few sources of insider information. "Banished" was comprehensive and reasonably well written, and was an enjoyable (if shocking) read. This book is a good companion to Louis Theroux's documentary "The Most Hated Family in America" and its follow up "America's Most Hated Family in Crisis".
Leaving Westboro. Her expulsion from the church was swift and harsh. I'm sure this was ultimately a double edged sword for Drain - on the one hand, she is out of the cult and free to live her life as she pleases, but on the other she lost almost everything she had known, including siblings to whom she was close.
Yes. Drain is certainly not a professional narrator, but her narration wasn't too distracting either.
"Puts your parents' faults into perspective!"
Lauren Drain's story of living in the Westboro cult was, without question, an important one to tell. She is an imperfect but sympathetic character, and she does a good job of explaining the psychology behind her family joining the church (in particular Steve Drain's narcissism).
One aspect of the book let it down slightly. It is an autobiography of a young person, therefore contained more than its fair share of minutiae about being a teenager (e.g. complaining about punishments and the unfair nature of the group's restrictions).
All in all, though, I have a lot of sympathy for Lauren and the losses she's suffered at the hands of an intolerant belief system.
Yes, I thought the story was haunting and the creepiest part is that the people in the Westboro Baptist Church are educated and somewhat contributing to society but still blinded by hate.
I have often read of things like this happening in other countries, but it's just appalling that this type of hate is being taught in the suburban MidWest. The WBC uses fear to control it's members. Anyone who has experienced emotional abuse, will sympathize with this young woman.
It seemed very similar to the books written from escapees from the FLDS, people who have fled North Korea and the Princess Sultana books.
I found it striking how alike extremist groups are, regardless of their message or creed, they are all based on feeling superior to others, cutting contact with the outside world and constantly claiming that they are being discriminated against.
Youthful, Soothing, Resilient
Cast Out of Hell: My Expulsion from the Westboro Baptist Church.
Once I started listening, it was hard to turn off this audiobook. I was fascinated and this story just sucked me right in.
I am a miracle worker. Doing what I can to choose love over fear.
Yes: The book proves individuals are very different. The begining shows how her father abused her BEFORe she came to the WBC. I felt the first part almost promoted what WBC stands for. I had to remind myself in these chapters how Drain was no longer a member. Her comments about others who has left made me think less of this story. I think it would be a more balanced book if Libby,Josh, Becca and Meghan alongside the other Youth leaving had written a book together. After all: They grew up in this and of course their opinions differ.
The. part where you get to listen to where her opinions lay today.
To me it seems like she never belonged in the WBC. She played her part over and over to get praise from her father. I think even when she got sothe phase where her acting became truth. Members might have seen her for what she was. An outsider movedcby forrce by her dad. He is the one I have the hardest time even trying to understand. I know her motto is peace, however, if she ever get hard facts about him and other females I hope she will take her mother asside asking her:" Do you let dad run the show without knowing what you actually stands for?"
Harmon Meldrim, PhD, LCSW
I actually found it painful to read. To hear religion used as a weapon of hate not only at the church level, but at the individual, family and community levels was horrible, yet so important for the country and the world to hear. I did enjoy the contradictions, some of which I'm not even sure Lauren recognized. The church hates America, yet the church realizes that this is the only country in the world where one is safe to express hatred without retribution.
It reminded me of Orwell's 1984, Love is hate, war is peace and some are more equal than others.
The epilogue was relieving to hear that Lauren is able to move on with her life. I hope others will be encouraged, especially Lauren's mother and siblings, to break free of this slavery of hate.
Yes. The abuse was sickening and realistic. I have always found it amazing in my work as a social worker that children in foster care would rather return to the family that severely abused them than to continue in foster care. This book helps address the reasons that children stay attached even when severely abused by their parents and in this case their friends and community.
Best wishes Lauren. You are absolutely amazing! I also want to thank Jack from Topeka whose review helped me decide to purchase this book. I'm betting that Jack is part of the WBC.
I have lived a very church lead life, sometimes feeling brainwashed. I live in Wichita, KS and grew up knowing and living around Topeka, KS. Lauren, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. We could have been best friends. This book was very inspiring. I hate that you had to feel such heart ache.
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