“Banished” ex-Westboro Baptist Church member speaks out in new memoir

51ZyqTNyHIL._SL500_AA300_“God hates fags,” “God hates you,” “Solders die for fag marriage,” “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Those are among the hundreds of slogans wielded on signs by members of Westboro Baptist Church at their frequent pickets around the nation.

For seven years, Lauren Drain was one of those picketers.

The 27-year old’s memoir, Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, co-authored with bestselling author Lisa Pulitzer, chronicles Drain’s life before, during, and since her membership in Westboro. She was a member for seven years before being exiled five years ago in a secret meeting of the church’s membership–one that included her own parents.

The church’s theology is pretty simple: God hates everyone, save for His “elect,” (made up solely of members of Westboro Baptist Church.) At the centre of His hatred is homosexuality. Those who practice it and those who enable it are “fags” and “fag enablers,” respectively. The church is led by its Pastor and founder, Fred Phelps.

“He was always very graphic,” Drain writes of Phelps’ sermons, “Telling us that homosexuals were the type of people who would eat each other’s feces, have sex with each other’s feces, take ‘golden showers,’ and drink each other’s semen.”

The membership is made up almost entirely of relatives of Fred Phelps. The only other family presently in the church is the Drain family, made up of Lauren’s parents, Steve and Luci, and her three younger siblings, whom she is now forbidden from communicating with.

Banished is an insightful and candid testimony by a brave young woman who even now refuses to speak ill of the family who has disowned her. Beyond shining a light on the bizarre and organized inner-workings of America’s most hated church, Drain also paints a detailed and telling picture of how her father not only did a complete 180 degree turn on his own views before joining Westboro, but how he convinced his wife to do the same, even when it meant severing ties with both of their families.

Drain’s courage in moving on from the unfortunate chapter in her life towards a happy ending may hopefully serve as inspiration to others still in the church that there can, in fact, be life outside Westboro that doesn’t end solely in damnation.

Lauren is far from being the only member to ever leave the church. Four of Phelps’ children have disowned him over his religious beliefs. Several other members, including many of his grandchildren have left the church–some by choice, others by exile. In November, high profile members of the church Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper escaped under the pretense of leaving for a beach trip.

Most inspiring is what Drain has done with her life since leaving the church five years ago. Not only has she written this book, but she has maintained a relationship with God, still identifying as a Christian. She also refuses–in the book and on her active Facebook page–to disparage her parents. In fact, certain current members of Westboro are portrayed somewhat warmly by Drain, most shockingly Shirley Phelps-Roper, given Phelps-Roper’s harsh public persona.

Banished exposes the theology and psychology of Westboro Baptist Church in a way that only someone who has come through the darkness to the light can.

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain and Lisa Pulitzer (Grand Central Publishing) hits bookstores on March 5, 2013.

Andrew Lawton is Landmark Report's founder and a North American radio and television personality. In addition to hosting The Andrew Lawton Show on AM980 in London, Ontario, he appears on a variety of programs and in a wide array of publications tackling politics, lifestyle and even tourism. Andrew tweets as @AndrewLawton.

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