Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain with Lisa Pulitzer (CBR-V #23)

Cannonball Read V: Book #23/52
Published: 2013
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir

The Westboro Baptist Church has made headlines for the past several years doing really sick things in the name of their religion. They're based out of Kansas and fly all over the United States to picket funerals (they specialize in soldier's funerals and the funerals of those who have died due to hate crimes) and spew their disgusting ideas in the name of "free speech". 

Lauren Drain led a fairly normal life in Florida until her dad decided to make a documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church, who had come into the spotlight after picketing Matthew Shepard's funeral with vulgar signs such as "God Hates Fags" and "Matthew Shepard is in Hell". Lauren's father was an atheist until the church somehow pulled him over to their side and he moved his entire family to Kansas when Lauren was a teenager. I'm still not sure how they persuaded an atheist to join their cult, but Lauren seems to describe the appeal of the church being that they "make sense" with their interpretation of the Bible and they give rational answers to any questions an outsider may have. 

What I found kind of interesting about the WBC is that they believe that God preordains who is going to heaven (which happens to be only the members of their church). They aren't trying to gain followers because in their minds everyone else is going to hell no matter what. They simply believe that God wants them to INFORM the masses of being doomed to hell. I'm not sure why it matters if they're informed or not considering they believe there is no chance to change that fact. 

As for the church itself, it's very small and consists of mostly Pastor Phelp's family members. According to Lauren, there were only about 60 members in the entire church and her family were considered outsiders because they were one of the few that weren't direct family members of the pastor. Because of that, the Drain's constantly had to try and prove themselves to the church. With Lauren being the oldest child in her family (she has three younger siblings - two are much younger due to the WBC ban on birth control) she is supposed to be a reflection of her family's morals and ethics. As most teenagers do, Lauren rebelled - although that term is used loosely here - by being "preoccupied with boys". However, for someone who didn't grow up in the cult, Lauren is an eager picketer who seemingly thrives off the church's messages of hate.

While the book was a very interesting view into the Westboro Baptist Church, it was a little disappointing. Lauren didn't leave the church of her own free will (she was banished after it was discovered that she had talked to a boy online) and you can tell she very much would still be a part of the church if she hasn't been forcefully removed. She did apologize in the epilogue for some of the things she did, but the rest of the book really didn't show any remorse. For someone who didn't enter the church until their mid-teens, it was really frightening how easily she slid right into the horrors of the Westboro Baptist Church.

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