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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-12-24
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)