Sunday, March 10, 2013

Banished by Lauren Drain

Banished: A Memoir, Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, Lauren Drain with Lisa Pulitzer.  New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2013.  e-book, 267 pps.

Lauren was a regular teen in Florida who was doing regular teen stuff.  She had a little sister, a mom, and a dad.  Her mom was a Roman Catholic and her dad was an atheist.  Lauren's parents had an early bout with a fundamentalist religion when she was young and her sister had just finished a successful treatment for a rare childhood cancer.  That lasted for a short time.  Dad had a falling out with his Christian Bible Study buddy over the idea that Christians will live forever.  Lauren's dad then became a sort of hippie and continued being a professional student.  Her mom was upset over financial debts incurred from this and also over his friends, especially the younger women.  Lauren's dad finally completed a Master's degree.  

In high school, Lauren made the dance team but her dad refused to allow her to do this.  He used the word "slutty" in his description.  That was rather upsetting but she continued to excel academically and on a softball team.

Dad decided to do a docu film on the Westboro Baptist Church.  He objected to their intolerance of homosexuality.  He figured that he could get exposure through such a film.  So he went off to D.C. and came back in the throes of some sort of religious fervor.  He was then invited to Topeka to interview some members of the church and he went.  When he came back, he got each member of the family a King James Bible.  There was now family Bible time on Sundays.  Lauren wanted to date and her dad said no dating.  He wanted Lauren to report straight home after school and dump her friends.  Her dad became verbally abusive.  Then he pulled her out of school and enrolled her in a home school sort of thing on the Internet.  He cut off Lauren's internet privileges and began slapping her around in addition to calling her names.  Lauren became isolated.  Her little sister Taylor was still allowed to attend public school and to have friends.  Through her dad's intercession, Lauren became pen-pals with some of the W.B.C. girl teens.  Then her dad decided to move the family to Topeka to a small house on church property.  So off they went.

In order to survive, Lauren had to buy into the ideology of the people around her in Kansas.  Most of the folks at the Westboro Baptist Church were related to Fred Phelps, the pastor.  Under his tutelage and the guidance of various others, Lauren began to go on pickets.  She hung out only with the other girl teens from the Church enrolled in the high school-- who all happened to be Phelps'.  But she got in trouble anyway because she like any regular teen wanted to date.  After high school, Lauren was told that she could study to be a dental hygienist or a nurse.  She picked nursing and went off to college.  Two more kids were born in the family and she took on much of the day to day care of them.  After college, Lauren got a job in the hospital and a long distance boyfriend.  The Church decided to dis-fellowship her and Lauren was forced to live on her own.  Similar to dis-fellowshipping in the Jehovah's Witnesses faith, Lauren was cut off from her mother, father, sisters, and brother.  She was not allowed to talk with anyone still in the church.  She had a difficult time adjusting to not being told what to do or think, or where to go and how to get there.

In spite of everything, Lauren managed to move away and get a new job in the new state.  She met some regular Christian folks.  She studied the Bible with one woman in particular.  She remained a Christian but successfully broke away from the beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church.

sapphoq reviews says: Banished was an easy but interesting read.  Although Lauren didn't go much into the cultish aspects of the W.B.C., the signs were clearly in evidence throughout the book.  Her dad also fit the profile of an abuser, something which his conversion to fundamentalism did not help at all.  Not all fundamentalist Christian faiths are cultish and not all fundamentalists are abusive.  But Lauren's dad was.  And so was the W.B.C.  The culture of abuse surrounding the Westboro Baptist Church was most evident by the treatment Lauren got at the hands of folks that had been family and friends to her after she got dumped.  Recommended.  


No comments: