Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

Rate this book
-Now a New York Times bestseller- 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 i s 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.

287 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Lauren Drain

1 book18 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
736 (18%)
4 stars
1,320 (33%)
3 stars
1,356 (34%)
2 stars
436 (11%)
1 star
91 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 615 reviews
November 17, 2015
What do they say, that actions speak louder than words. Lauren married a Jewish, Israeli web designer, David Kagan. Must have been like a rusty knife through her father's heart.

That's really putting two fingers up to the Westboro Church isn't it?

In the book, there is a lot about the Church picketing American servicemen's funerals and provoking trouble and riots with their homophobic rants, protests and pickets Lauren goes easy over how active the church was against Jews, just as much if not even more than against gays, although she doesn't deny their extreme anti-semitism.

When she married, her own family disowned her and she never saw them again. His family though,

"'They have accepted me as one of their own,' she said. 'At our wedding they presented me with a "Welcome to the Family certificate" signed by all 31 members of the family, including the two pets.'"

This is one of the most despicable authors I have ever read. Even reading the book is to be manipulated by this very nasty woman. I believe her change of expressed belief (somewhat) was due only because she was banished from the church and I do not believe that she has a change of heart. I've read the phrase "I felt dirty after reading this book" but I've never felt it before.

And now I'm cheering. You can see the world in a pure light even if previously everything was viewed through a filthy screen of hatred. I hope she's very happy.

3.5 stars (the hatred gets a bit repetitive).

Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
March 10, 2019

I should know better than to pick a book totally on impulse. It seldom works. Lord knows it didn’t work this time.

Banished is the memoir of Lauren Drain, a young woman who was expelled from the Westboro Baptist Church for talking to “boys.” You know the WBC, don’t you? They are the ones who show up at the funerals of homosexuals and military men carrying “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates Dead Soldiers” signs, and who, a decade and a half ago, shocked all of the U.S. with signs which proclaimed “Thank God for 9/11.”

I had never heard anything about this book, but I picked it up, eager to learn a few facts about America’s most despised church.

The most important thing I learned was a crucial point of theology that often gets lost in the shuffle. The Westboro Baptist Church, Lauren Drain tells us, is not picking on gay people. No, it is really telling us that “God Hates Everybody,” or at least 99.99% of the world. The Westboro, a congregation of fanatic hypercalvinists, believe that everybody is going to Hell except for a predestined remnant. And who, pray tell, is that remnant? The Westboro Baptist Church, of course.

Drain also does a good job telling us about the structure and daily operations of the church. It is primarily a family operation, of which Pastor Fred Phelps—at least at the time of writing—was the inspiration and figurehead. But the organization and operation of the church was in the hands of Fred’s daughters, of which Shirley was the eldest and most powerful. All the daughters are4 lawyers, and the church keeps excellent files, not only on every issue they might want to picket on behalf of, but also on the particular trespass laws of the states they were planning to picket in. If you were tempted to dismiss the Phelpses as a bunch of brainless hillbillies, you would be wrong.

Picketing, of course, is this church’s most important activity, and the Phelps sisters organize their picketers like an army, deciding where and when to employ various members, and rigidly dictating how their picketers must act. Yes, the Phelps family church is certainly a well-oiled hate machine.

Outside of this, there’s not a lot to say about the book. Lauren Drain—even with the help of Lisa Pulitzer, her ghost writer—is not deep enough or observant enough to tell us much about her own inner spiritual journey or the dynamics of her own family. Lauren obviously has her share of daddy issues (and her daddy, the Phelps church videographer, has way more issues than she does), but psychological complexes without insight don’t add up to a book.

The sad truth is that Lauren Drain comes off as shallow and superficial, more concerned with her status in the church, her clothes, and her make-up, than with a richer spiritual life. This isn’t her fault, for the Westboro church, with its relentless monitoring of its members, and its legalistic standards, inevitably fosters shallowness and superficiality.

Still, her voice is not compelling, her insights are not deep, and this is not a memorable book.
Profile Image for Amanda.
250 reviews56 followers
July 15, 2013
I read some of the negative reviews of this book, and I have to say I don't agree with them at all. Far from feeling "positive" about the WBC, Lauren relates her feelings at the time she was in the church, which are not the same as her feelings after being banished. Of course her feelings at the time she was in the church are going to be happy -- that is what happens when you're brainwashed. Some reviewers have also complained she was a "whiny teenage girl trying to fit in." If you don't know the basics of psychology or what it means to be in a cult, please read up on that before picking up this book so you can appreciate Lauren's message.

The WBC has gotten nationwide and perhaps even worldwide attention for its behavior, picketing anything and everything with signs that say "God hates fags," "God hates America," "Thank God for dead soldiers," etc. While most people are appalled by such behavior, Lauren's father was seduced by the cult, leading him to uproot the entire family to become one of the few non-Phelps families that are part of the cult. Lauren relates her story of the verbal and physical abuse, humiliation, and house arrest that attributed to her brainwashing and becoming a cult member. She explains the thinking behind why God "wants" the WBC to picket funerals, concerts, high school graduations and whatever else, and why she genuinely believed she was doing the right thing at the time. She follows the story through all the way to being banished for talking to a man not part of the church -- resulting in her losing her friends, family, and home for good.

Lauren's story is so important for "outsiders" to understand, especially since to date, 19 members of the WBC have escaped. She has started a foundation to encourage members to escape the cult and help them get back on their feet in the "real world." If we are to dissolve this cult, we need to accept ex-members for who they are and not what they used to be, and show them that kindness and compassion go much further than hate to solve our problems.
April 19, 2013
rating: 2 ~ 2.5 stars

I'm not certain if it makes a difference but I'm not a Christian. I was raised Christian, but I'm not an angry ex-Christian with an ax to grind.

This book didn't impress me over all. Actually, I think I came away with two main points:

The first: that she still really wants to be in the church. All of her accounts were glowing and any "negatives" were sort of thrown in as an afterthought.

That really bothered me. Throughout the book she showed no actual change of her viewpoint. If I had to name anything in the book that put me off it would be that. I think she was abused greatly and she wholly embraced the church but still! Maybe it was the afterthought complaints that got to me. Like, for example:

Shirly is so wonderful and warm and all inclusive! Then a couple paragraphs later will have a sentence or two on how Shirly is totally ignoring her mother.

Hell, she doesn't even say she thinks picketing funerals is "bad" until the epilogue. She held that "but we're preaching to the masses" and "it's not about the individual person" BS straight to the end.

She consistently contradicted herself (ie, she seriously said in various places that she had no idea why people were angry when they picketed funerals or she'd accuse them of being hurtful and judging them when they were just trying to bring people God's good word. Hello! You're picketing at a funeral! I'm baffled how anyone can complain about people judging them for picketing funerals of people they, themselves, did not know.)

The random and bizarre praises she heaped onto the church's leaders was so out of touch with reality. For example, one of the very first praises she gave the pastor Phelps was that he used "big" words. Seriously. She said this in various places. She was mightily impressed by those "big" words.

The second: that the church tries to truly conform to the outside world in all ways save the picketing and hate speech. This was an actual surprise for me. When someone criticized the member's weight, they made all their members go on diets to conform. It was almost as if this little preacher truly wanted to please people and since hatred is an actual part of Christianity, took that aspect on to please the world. Like a "see what I can do" type thing.

This book seemed more like an apologists tale than anything else and throughout I just couldn't shake the feeling that she wants back in.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews14 followers
April 28, 2015
Description: 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.

rosado mp3. Read Lauren Drain herself.

I love learning about different mindsets, even more so when the facts are set out objectively. Ms Drain lays out the beliefs of this cult, and the perceived need for hate speech and baiting 'heathens'.


Yet, she comes over as a dodgy narrator. Are these crocodile tears? Is there another agenda going on here, have us readers been played, it feels so insincere.
Profile Image for Kavita.
762 reviews370 followers
December 17, 2020
Lauren Drain became a member of the WBC when she was fifteen and was thrown out seven years later. This is a biography of her life, but it also showcases life in WBC minutely and depicts Drain’s perspective on the twisted message that the Church preaches.

The book starts off with Drain’s childhood. Father abusive, mother abuse enabler. It was a rather sad story but I kept wondering exactly how useful are the child protection services in USA when such blatant and obvious abuse gets overlooked. This part of the story is actually pretty slow and boring in parts, because it was consistently the same stuff again and again. Lauren trying to please parents, father calling her whore and taking away one more liberty, then Lauren trying to please, and the cycle is repeated endlessly. It made for very frustrating reading, especially as no one thought it necessary to help the teenage girl!

The story picks up when her father joins WBC. There were interesting insights about life in WBC, and the Phelps in particular. The inter-relationships between the member, the rules they all had to follow, the complete hegemony of the Phelps on the Church were all told in detail. The defectors from the Church and the people who were thrown out, all had procedures and rituals attached to their leaving. The Church did have some positive aspects like ensuring that the members were kept informed of current events, encouraged to eat healthy and exercise, and pushed to become high-achievers in school and university. This somehow makes me think that the WBC is not so much interested in retaining its members, because knowledge often leads to freedom.

Frankly, more than the WBC, it is the Drain parents who annoyed the hell out of me. The Phelps were not depicted as physically abusive and no one pays any attention to their anti-gay message anyway. So I don’t consider them dangerous. But I am a little surprised that Lauren has not initiated proceedings against her parents, especially her father, for child abuse. This is not even about brainwashing or manipulation but stuff like outright beating the shit out of her and unlawful imprisonment. I came away with a burning hatred of Steve Drain and hope he dies a painful death. Her mother was no better either. These people are examples of the worst parents I have come across! It also annoyed the hell out of me that they kept having babies because ‘church', but dumped all baby-care on Lauren. That is also ABUSE. They were also financially abusive by demanding that Lauren pay for a lot of extravagant stuff while her father still had an enormous student loan pending!

The book is interesting, but I did not like the tone of the author. She seems to remember the picketing with nostalgia, and keeps stressing on how much fun it all was. She talks proudly about how she and her mates riled up other students in school and college. She seems to take immense pride in having been “involved in politics” at a young age, while other students were not much into it. Mind you, the involvement in politics was all about gay-hate, so not really a redeeming factor in my eyes. She even consistently complained about how sometimes gay people would be mean to her during pickets. The message I got was that “we were mean, sure, but hey, they were mean too, so it’s all right!” She rejects Louis Theroux’s awesome documentary on this subject as a gonzo-style comic piece. Seriously?!

There are some missing parts in the book. For example, what happened during the one hour she spent at a guy’s house? Whatever happened to poor Scott who basically rescued her from the horrible place and stood by her for two years. Suddenly she realised what was happening between us and threw him out of her life. I just wished she had also given the readers the benefit of this comprehension. There is not much detail on her journey away from the WBC. It’s like one day she is enthusiastically picketing, the next day she is thrown out and claiming that the WBC preaches hate but doesn't really believe in gay rights either.

Though she apologises to all those she may have hurt over the years with her picketing, she does not seem to have moved forward in her views. I will never be a political activist for gay rights, but I like gay people and have lots of gay friends, too. I don't judge them, and I don't believe anyone else has the right to judge them, either. I also won't be a political activist for abortion, but I am perfectly okay with everyone living his or her own life and making his or her own choices. So basically, it is wrong for people to practice the sexual orientation they were born with, and for women to make choices on their bodies, but Lauren Drain will no longer yell hatefully at them. I feel sorry for her lost childhood, but it all seems terribly entitled to me. Hopefully, Drain will one day stand up for the rights of those she had trampled for all these years.
Profile Image for Kate.
533 reviews35 followers
May 1, 2013
I would have preferred if Drain had written this book several years from now - when she'd had a little more time to organize her thoughts, when she truly seemed to know what she believed, and when she was ready to be open and honest about her deprogramming. The last two chapters were much more compelling for me than the rest of the book, which more or less parroted interviews with members of the WBC - in a few cases, taking scenes directly from Louis Theroux's 2007 BBC documentary.

Drain is clearly still processing and working through her time as a member of WBC - she had mostly good things to say about her fellow church members, and her grief over being separated not only from her family, but from the close friends she made with the Phelpses around her own age was probably the most palpable emotion that came through for me. Given this (and given the rather lackluster apologies she makes in the epilogue for her behavior while a member of WBC), I'm inclined to believe that she still has some regrets about no longer being part of the church.
Profile Image for Jacob Simons.
2 reviews
March 13, 2013
I just finished a 4 hour reading binge of Lauren Drain's book BANISHED Surviving My Years in the WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH! Most of you have heard of this fanatical group through internet, headlines, articles, tv, etc. for picketing the funerals of dead soldiers and claiming we, as a society, are all going to hell. Well, here is the very descriptive, insightful, and well-written memoir that I was fully invested in for a whole week. She endured much mental abuse and manipulation from her former fellow members both from the Phelps and here immediate family. Brainwashing is real! And it is more effective than most would admit! God is Love! Something all current WBC members till this very day preach against!
What I admired about this book was the author's determination to discover for herself the power of the Bible's word through proper, rational and spiritual examination after being BANISHED from the church. Her apologies are sincere for her past and are genuinely presented in the book. The publication is dedicated to her 3 younger siblings who are still in the church and currently unaware of the positive message that exist outside the church. I find this humbling, considering how forgiving the author is of here controlling elders. A GREAT READ! Very happy for Lauren to take this initiative to expose the hypocrisy of the WBC from within and to make aware that there actions are not a reflection of true Christianity but the reflection of family who took there knowledge and distorted it in order to fit in with there own controlling and judgmental agenda. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Profile Image for Cathy Douglas.
329 reviews21 followers
May 7, 2013
The troubling thing about this book is that Lauren Drain didn't leave Westboro Baptist willingly. She got kicked out, under what she claims are trumped-up circumstances, and for months or years after that she was begging to come back. Others, even some of the Phelps family, have quit for philosophical, humanitarian, or religious reasons. Not Lauren Drain. Her descriptions of protests are nostalgic, and her defense of the church's ideology and methodology come off as sincere. Oh, in the Epilogue she comes out with a few "some of my best friends now are gay"-type statements. But the main part of the book is about how much fun it is to stand on a picket line yelling "God hates fags!" at people going to funerals, and how unfair it was that Lauren got kicked out for being a "whore" (by WBC standards, any normal, straight female qualifies) when others got to stay. She even complains that people who disagreed with their pickets were "mean" to them. Well, slap me with a codfish!

What happened to Lauren in the end was, of course, very cruel; her parents disowned her and instructed her siblings to have nothing to do with her. She was denied access to the church that now claimed God hated her, and she believed it--apparently semi-believes it still. According to church doctrine, she'll be burning in a fiery lake in hell for eternity, rather than…well, getting to hang out with members of the Phelps family in Heaven, where they'll enjoy the company of a God who hates everybody and kills them and laughs about it afterward. I don't know, I'd have to think hard about that one.

I'm not downgrading this book for its message, but for the strong feeling I get Lauren Drain is lying about or sidestepping certain details. I find it hard to believe she kissed this boy one time, went to his house where they were alone for an hour and (muffle, muffle, muffle--not mentioned what they did during that hour. Kissed some more?), and her car just happened to have a flat when she was leaving (after he'd gone already). And after she got kicked out of the church for talking to a guy on the internet, she paid for his plane ticket so he could come stay in her apartment for a couple weeks, then brought him to her parents' house when she went back to get some stuff. She doesn't happen to mention what they did during those two weeks, such as whether they had sex, or how she ever thought he'd get a good reception with her parents.

Lauren Drain isn't stupid. There's something missing in the narrative, and her story doesn't make sense without it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Laura.
351 reviews4 followers
February 8, 2016
I feel like this could have been so much better. She is from the Westboro Baptist Church for "God's" sake. It didn't so much confirm my feelings towards them and it certainly didn't change my views, it simply existed. The writing seemed so simplistic and like it was coming straight out of the mouth of a whiny sixteen year old. I'm sure Lauren Drain is a pleasant woman but it felt like she was lamenting how poorly she was treated, without really backing it up except to say things akin to "she yelled at me". Ugh, it just stinks because I was so excited to read it and it let me down. Throughout most of the book it sounds like she's even saying how great the WBC is, not how great she THOUGHT it was.

However, I will say that it helped me understand the WBC a little better, I never really knew much about them except that they protest at funerals so now at least I have some background to speak intelligently about why I think they're terrible people. Good news: One of the things she said is that it's getting to be a smaller community and if they don't let anymore outsiders in then they might just solve the problem for us!

In the end, Lauren Drain still won't "be an activist for gay rights" but she won't shout things at them anymore!

In a nutshell: the book was just so-so.

Profile Image for Mallory Kellogg.
Author 2 books25 followers
September 12, 2013

First off, here's some background on me. I am a Christian. I believe in God. But am I a self-righteous nut? No. I believe in gay rights, my right to own guns and my right to freedom of speech. I am bi-sexual and in no way think that means I'm going to Hell. I believe in a loving God that wants us to rest in him and ease our worries. So, now you know from what viewpoint I'm coming from.

A Quick Rundown of the Westboro Baptist Church:
Before I begin this review, I would like to start by giving you a little background on the WBC. The Westboro Baptist Church is not, in fact, a church at all. It is actually a conglomeration of lawyers. That's right, LAWYERS. Sue-happy, ambulance-chasing lawyers. (Now, I have a few lawyer friends, so I mean no disrespect. There are many good attorneys out there. These people at WBC are NOT some of those.) They do not go out and do what they do to preach the word of God. They do it to anger the public and make you violate their civil rights. So they CAN SUE YOU. That's how they function. They piss you off, you react, they sue and make shit-tons of money.

The People Behind The WBC:
Pastor Fred Phelps, Sr: Was a stellar academic decades ago, wanted to go to Westpoint. He wanted to be in the military until he spent a weekend there before enrollment. He came home with a huge hatred of homosexuals and the military. He quickly changed his career to theology, became a "pastor", and founded the WBC in the 1950s. Now, here is my personal opinion: his vitriolic hatred of gays and soldiers leads me to think maybe he messed around while at Westpoint and suffers from a serious case of "buyers remorse". Again, just my opinion. But generally, the most outspoken anti-gay people tend to be in the closet about their own feelings. Or they are so confused by their feelings that they lash out. Phelps, Sr. is my shining beacon to that testament.

Shirley Phelps-Roper: The cult leader extraordinaire. Shirley seems to be a typical cult guru. She controls every aspect of the church, from the picket schedules to reprimands for what she deems “unbecoming behavior”. She even has “intuitions” about a person's transgressions. She will say that she has a bad feeling about a certain person, that a specific person is evil and doesn't belong, and then the whole compound turns on the person. With NO evidence of wrong-doing other than Shirley's “feeling”. The whole church will begin reporting sins they witnessed, again, with no evidence. This gives her a massive, Godly amount of power. Lauren even admits she felt Shirley was Godly and felt blessed to be in the same room with her. She comes across and sweet and innocent, loving and kind. When she reprimands you, generally you feel she is doing it out of love. Little do you know it's just another tactic of mind-control. Stockholm Syndrome, people.

She is also the pinnacle of a hypocrite, having had a child out of wedlock when she was younger. Her excuse: she was under a lot of stress, and in a moment of weakness, became pregnant. But she asked forgiveness and has been forgiven. But if anyone else even looks at a member of the opposite sex without already being married to that person, they're "whores" and "going to Hell", as Lauren found out first hand more than once.

There are dozens of other Phelps, but none of them hold the power those 2 hold. Now that we have a basis for referral, let's get on with the review.

The Review of Banished:
I have always been fascinated by the general hatred this one "church" has. But I am an intelligent, well-educated woman, and I know their true motives. So I pay them no mind. Their views are horribly twisted to fit whatever agenda they have at the time, as documented by Lauren. Their rules change on a whim to best serve them. I ignore them because, by ignoring them, I deprive them of what they want most: attention. No attention = no WBC.

Now, Lauren Drain is a sad case of what happens when a set of parents become blinded by hero worship. Her father is a violent, cold man that only loves his oldest daughter (Lauren) when she is doing something pleasing. That goes against every parental fiber of my being. Her mother is a passive, sad excuse for a woman that let her husband beat and belittle her daughter, allow her to be called a "whore" for simply talking to a boy at school. What her father calls corporal punishment I call abuse. There's a difference in spanking and beating the shit out of your daughter, kicking her in the gut and spitting on her.

Her father is the kind of man that spends his whole life looking for a greater meaning to things. He's easily blinded by false prophets, as Lauren talks about early on, so it's no wonder he got suckered by the Phelps. He is a selfish bastard that sells his daughter's signed Babe Ruth card to fund his own desire to move to Kansas and join the WBC. His wife, being the spineless woman she is, allows it all to happen. He often calls Lauren "the evil daughter", although I never could figure out why. Every teen is rebellious, but she kept a perfect GPA and was athletic. I never saw her as anything near evil.

She spends her whole life at the WBC being indoctrinated by their cult behavior. She is not allowed to socialize with anyone outside of the church, she is not allowed to date, wear makeup or dress too "provocatively". No hair cutting, no questioning of the WBC's rules. Just do as you're told, picket like crazy and shut the fuck up. She spends 7 years there, suffering from a serious, but undiagnosed, case of anxiety. She has it drilled in to her head that only the members of the WBC are going to Heaven and everyone is doomed to Hell. So they go out and picket to "spread the word".

Therein lies my biggest issue. If we're all going to Hell, why even bother preaching to us? Why? Because they don't even believe their own shit. They just like getting attention, even in a negative way. They will even admit they love the spotlight. It makes me sick. If you're truly Godly, you're humble and loving. Not spewing your fake religion to the masses. Cult, people. Cult.

Now, I truly believe the younger members are true in their beliefs, having grown up in that lifestyle. But the adults, nope. I am firm when I say they are all full of bullshit. They just want you to violate their rights so they can make themselves into martyrs while loading up on cash. So it is the younger generations I truly feel the worst for. They are being led down a terribly judgmental, anti-God path by the very people that should be protecting them: their parents.

Lauren bought it wholeheartedly in an attempt to earn her father's love and finally fit in. But even with her brainwashing, she still felt uneasy about a lot of things. She just allowed herself to become detached from those she was hurting with her vicious words. She was fed the belief there was no saving anyone but those in her "church".

Things The WBC Preaches:
-9/11 was God punishing America for being a nation of "fag enablers"
-the Amish kids that were killed in their one-room schoolhouse deserved to die because the Amish is self-righteous
-AIDS is God punishing homosexuals for their horrible sins
-going to Heaven is predestined and nothing will change it. Only a chosen few are going there, and the Phelps are that chosen few. *gag*
-the U.S. military is full of sodomites and fags

I could go on, but my blood pressure can't handle it.

Like a typical cult leader, Shirley must find someone to bully to allow herself to assert her authority. So she picks Lauren, after running down a list of others. Since Lauren is an outsider, it makes it easier to push her around and turn the others on her. The hypocrisy is evident from the beginning, where Shirley's own daughter insights risque clothing and Lauren is blamed as a bad influence. Because, *laugh snort* Shirley's Godly little girls can do no wrong. Therefore it must be someone else behind it. By the end, Lauren is once again "the evil child", her father (of all people) has her banished and the church dumps her like she didn't just dedicate her life to them.

She is left with no way to function in the real world. She'd never had to pay her own bills, or get her own cell phone or make her own schedule. Being thrown out of her rigid cult routine almost crippled her. She begged to be taken back for weeks. It's sad. I felt bad for her because I understand a child's urge to earn their parents' love. But eventually you have to conclude sometimes it just won't happen. Lauren finally got it, too. I was happy to read that she is actually deprogrammed now and learning how flawed her 7 years in Kansas were. I just wish her parents could have seen how remarkable she was. She even apologized to all the families of fallen soldiers that she ever picketed funerals for.

All in all, this was a frustrating but fascinating read. You can't read it and not get angry. But at the same time, you are pulling for this poor girl to escape. I think her being banished was the best thing that could have ever happened to her. I've read about a couple of other people leaving the WBC, but this was the most in-depth and heartfelt apology. I read about Libby Phelps crying and begging forgiveness to all those she'd hurt, but she sure wasn't nice to Lauren. So I hope that girl learned her lesson.

I hope they all do someday. "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Phelps family, you really need to learn that line.

You go, boy!
Profile Image for Allison.
712 reviews411 followers
April 30, 2013
You guys, I’m not gonna lie. I have been excited about reading Banished : Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain for months! I pretty much freaked out when I first saw that there was going to be a memoir from a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately, I think I put a little too much emphasis on the word “former.” Because, after all, being banished means that Lauren Drain left the church unwillingly. I ended up having so many issues with this book that I’m not sure where to begin…and I’m also pretty sure I won’t be very nice about a lot of it.

(For the record, I’m pretty sure this is the meanest review I’ve ever written – but my censor button doesn’t stand a chance against the crap ton of loathsome behavior.)

Some of the problems I have with the book are my fault, I had pretty specific expectations. I wanted a former member of the church to be like “LOOK AT ALL THIS CRAZY SHIT THEY MADE ME DO!” and get a behind-the-scenes look into the minds of stupid, crazy people. What I got was a completely bizarre account of a girl, surrounded by the certifiably insane, and desperately wanting to be one of them. After reading the book, I got the clear impression that she would have never left the church on her own, and then there was a random epilogue tacked on to the end in which she bemoans the errors of her ways. Sense and sanity have left the building.

First of all – I read Banished by listening to the audiobook. Lauren Drain did the narration and I thought her voice was pleasant and easy to understand. But, HOLY CRAP, was the writing terrible. I’m not kidding. The timeline was all over the place. Things were choppy and extremely hard to follow. It was almost like she was telling someone the story and just said things as they came to mind, regardless of when they occurred. I think a lot more thought should have been put into ordering things more clearly (or hey, how about any thought at all?). I’m not sure if reading the actual book would have been more helpful or not as far as keeping things straight – but I kinda doubt it. (What I do know is that I want that 8 hours back.)

Another issue I had with the writing was the lack of emotion. I mean, Lauren Drain… this poor woman. Not only was she brainwashed by some of the most reprehensible lunatics on the planet, but even her own family pre-Westboro was awful. But, as her story progressed, it all felt like a dry recitation of facts by someone who’d researched the story – not lived it. It was actually a little weird. I was half afraid I’d have nightmares about the scary emotionless cult monsters coming to get me after reading about all the crap they’ve pulled.

Another big problem I had with the mechanics of the story kinda blends together with problems I have with the people themselves…all the contradictions! I was getting so frustrated by the time I was midway through the book that I’m not even sure how I managed to finish (it was a CHORE, believe me). One minute, Lauren Drain would be praising one of the members of the church to the Heavens, then a few paragraphs later she’d be talking about all their faults. An example of this is Shirley, one of the most important church members. One second she’d be a shining example of everything that is right in the world, the next minute she’d be a condescending harpy that refused to acknowledge faults within her own family (mainly her kids).

These ridiculous contradictions (which were often silly and passive aggressive) were only one of the ways Lauren Drain’s entire book felt like it was being written by an immature little kid. I fought between rolling my eyes at some of her moronic behavior and just feeling incredibly sorry for her. I mean, she lived her life for years wanting nothing more than to fit in with the rest of the WBC, but she insulted them in the same sentences as she expressed her fervent desire to be just like them. I know her emotional growth was incredibly stunted because of the people she surrounded herself with, but still. It was all just too much…

…especially once you get to the epilogue. All of a sudden she understands that being raised to hate and condemn was wrong and her views have changed and she is working on getting her life together. It sounded like it was being written by a completely different person. Throughout the entire book, it felt like she was disillusioned with the WBC but not able to give up on wanting to be one of them…and the short epilogue was too little too late.

Ultimately, I couldn’t find much of anything positive about this book. The hateful, ridiculous and ignorant behavior of the WBC is front and center, but I never got the impression that Lauren Drain found it objectionable until the bizarre epilogue at the end written by her well-adjusted clone.

To Sum it Up:
-This book was not at all what I expected, and I was incredibly disappointed by the writing style, the attitude of the narrator and the story itself.

-Everything was contradictory and felt extremely bizarre and disjointed. Kinda like a fake WBC expose written by a devotee on a crack pipe.

-(To try and end on a positive note…) An insider’s look is what I was hoping for – and even though I didn’t like the POV of the events – many of the WBC beliefs were interesting to read about.

…okay okay, I’m not done yet.

I mostly tried to avoid talking about the WBC itself, because obviously we all hate them. No need to go there…except that I can’t quite help it. THEY PICKETED THEIR OWN HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, YOU GUYS. She actually struggled to decide whether to attend the ceremony or just stand with the protesters (don’t worry, I won’t leave you with a cliffhanger. She did both.) If they’re so against the “homosexual-enabling” den of iniquity that was Topeka High School, may I ask why in the holy hell they attended in the first place? I actually laughed during that section, imagining someone yelling in protest of the graduation while walking across the stage to accept their diploma. It was good to find some of their stupidity amusing since mostly it just made me want to throw up…
Profile Image for ♥ Marlene♥ .
1,687 reviews133 followers
March 27, 2014
Last week I discovered that Louis Therouz had made another documentary about the Most Hated family in America. The Phelps family. I loved the first documentary and I have always been curious why and how people can become so involved in a cult/church or whatever.
That is why I also have many books about fundamentalists mormons (and No spell checker I am not going to change it into Mormons) and other "religions."

It just fascinates me. Especially the young Phelps girls who speak exactly like their leader Shirley. To me it felt like they had become little clones of her. One girl I think it was Jael kept on smiling while saying the meanest things to Louis Theroux.

I watched the other doc and discovered that one girl portrayed in this documentary called Megan, had left the church. She was one of the strongest leaders of the younger generation and when she spoke (as did the others) it felt like they were really obsessed.

So after watching this second documentary it was very interesting to see how they talked about 2 young girls of the church.Both were kicked out of the church which meant they would not see their family anymore.One was lauren.She is the daughter of Steve and the author of this book, I had to read it.. Her father like Louis wanted to make a documentary about the church but then he joined them and his family had to change their ways and move to live with the Phelpses.

Steve told Louis he was the first to say we must remove Lauren from the church cause he had enough. Thinking about that and reading her book I realize what a selfish man he is. He always comes first. Not the church, no Steve. It was all about how he was portrayed in the eyes of the church so if Lauren made a mistake he felt embarrassed. He also loved the control he had over his family that's for sure.

Her mum is a coward who is a woman hat so desperately wants to keep her man, she will do anything. Man before her kids.

Anyway I have not yet finished but I do very much enjoy this read.

Update March 27: I did not finish this review after I was done reading but I said a lot so I do not mind so much.

Well I very much enjoyed it. I see other reviewers saying that they thought that some parts were a bit boring, but I did not feel that, perhaps because I was so interested in all of it.

OMG I see that after wrote here last time the man who invented this "religion: died 2 days later.

WTH! He was kicked out of his own church? How convenient. just before he died he was kicked out. This smells.

So this means in their vision that even the one who started this church is a fag lover and will go to hell cause in their view everybody who dies are sinners and they rejoice in all the deaths cause they are going to heaven.

One thing that is quite confusing is why are they picketing as they call it funerals. Is it to save the sinners as Lauren sometimes states?

"Dad told us that the church members wanted people to change for the good"

"We wanted to get the people riled up and angry as they came in, all the while remaining calm and controlled ourselves."

"We were telling them they needed to obey God if they wanted to save their souls, even though we did not really believe their souls were salvageable. We were the chosen ones and we were going to heaven go live in the presence of God. We would be able to mock the sinners burning in the lake of fire below us"

But then later.... "To me the biggest misapprehension about Westboro was that we picketed to try to convince people to come to our side before it was too late, telling them repent while you can. This couldn't have been further from the truth, we were just spreading the word that sinners were going to hell,because God wanted it that way"

If you weren't a chosen one,you weren't destined for God's kingdom, there was no salvation for you no matter how you repented.

So they knew everybody else were sinners and could not be saved which to me feels like they were just being plain nasty with their signs and songs. But now they were also not allowed to marry outside of the church so there are less and less of "God's angels" left.

Ah here you go... Our primary motivation was to let people know God hated them.

By the way if I lived in American I think I also would start a church. Something like the crazy lunies because apparently if you are/have a religious institution your expenses are fully tax deductible.

kay I think I will stop now. I have many more notes but this review has become too long as it is.
Read this book. (I could have said it with those 3 words. lol )

ETA: here is an interesting article about the apparent disownment of the late Phelps sr.

Profile Image for Ruth Turner.
408 reviews113 followers
October 25, 2014

It's really hard to know how to rate this book. Before I started reading, I knew very little about the WBC, apart from a post some time ago on Facebook about them picketing funerals. Boy, did I ever learn a lot!

The story is well written and interesting, but it made me so angry that I had to have occasional breaks. These people have no decency, calling Princess Diana a whore, wanting to picket the funerals of the Amish children killed in their school house. I'm so glad that one didn't happen!

I'm afraid I didn't like the narrator, author Lauren Drain. I found it really hard to separate her from the Church, because although she has moved on with her life, and denounced the teachings of the WBC, her story has a nostalgic feel to it. I found myself wondering if she'd still be with them if they hadn't banished her. I also can't help wondering whether she'd go back if the ban was lifted.

I also wondered about the truth of her banishment. It seemed to me to be a drastic punishment for emailing and speaking on the phone to a boy. Yes, it was against the rules, and yes she'd been warned, but to be banished with no hope of return seems a bit over the top. Other members were permitted to return.

I spent a considerable amount of time googling the WBC and visiting their various websites and found we (Australia) got a mention.

It says in part:

“When you throw the standard that the Lord your God set since the foundation of the world right out the window, what you get is a country that has NO morals! Every year that evil country known as Australia holds numerous Fag Pride Parades. Here are just a few examples of how these arrogant beasts roll: Pride March Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; Pride March Adelaide, SA, Australia: Gay Mardi Gras Parade, Sydney, Australia.”


Yes, we do have these parades and yes, this Australian is proud that we do!

Profile Image for Lindsay Deutsch.
12 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2013
Most everyone has heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, a tiny cult-like congregation in Topeka that's attracted more than its share of attention. Its goal is to be seen — even to be hated — by as many people as possible, and it does this by picketing highly publicized events like the funerals of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, ceremonies for fallen soldiers and AIDS marches.
With the help of former New York Times correspondent Lisa Pulitzer, ex-church member Lauren Drain shares the story of her life within the religious sect that banished her, providing a disturbing look into the fringe group.
The WBC believes that its 40 or so members are "elected" to heaven and the rest of the world is damned – mostly because of its acceptance of homosexuality. They believe that because everyone else is going to hell, horrific events, from mass shootings to natural disasters, are God's punishment.
Banished begins when Drain's father, already prone to religious fanaticism, first comes into contact with the church. He intends to film an indie festival-bound documentary about the group, tentatively titled Hatemongers. But soon the morbid fascination transforms into belief, and he upends his family, including a high-school-aged Lauren, from Florida to move into the church's Topeka compound.
As told by Drain, now 27, what happens within those walls is grotesquely fascinating. The WBC, centered around founder Fred Phelps and his family, fosters a culture of isolation and shame to keep its followers in line. Drain intersperses the history of the group with descriptions of a destructive society where gossip is encouraged and public humiliation is normal. With chilling objectivity, she describes children as young as five picketing events with signs reading "God hates fags." Drain recalls looking forward to taking part in the hate speech and feeling special to be a chosen one.
Although she is dedicated to the group, Drain is labeled a "whore" because of an online relationship she develops with a man who is curious about the church. That eventually leads to her being kicked out after she graduates college.
But being kicked out does not just mean she's no longer a member. As she tells it, she's completely ostracized, banished. Her own family will not speak to her. She's left to pick up the pieces, alone.
The message behind Drain's story is confusing. She did not leave the church by choice, and she admits that the WBC's rhetoric is "vitriolic, provocative, and shamefully insensitive" and says she is relieved not to be a part of it anymore, but the book leaves the reader wondering if her beliefs would have changed on her own. One wishes she would more adamantly condemn the WBC's mission and the hateful actions in which she was an active participant.
While emotional moments may come off as one-note, it's the acknowledgments that pack a punch. She writes directly to her young siblings, all of whom are still members of the WBC and she has not seen since her banishment: "I love and miss each of you."
(Posted on usatoday.com)
December 23, 2014
I'm going to review this tomorrow.


This was an interesting book. The writing itself was not that good, but that did not detract from the experience of reading this. I think Drain needed to write this, for herself: to vent, to rationalize, and it was a form of therapy for her. I respect that narrative.

I will say one thing about the WBC, it does not deserve our attention, our outrage, because they feed off it. They almost get off on it, to be crude. They, in my armchair psychologist analyst, have a collective martyr complex. They are emotionally-stunted as a collective. This is a dying cult, it will be dismantled or die out in the next few decades. We should ignore them, that will be the ultimate form of suffering for them, and it will rob them of their collective identity if no one reacted to them at all.

I hope that Drain will seek out a therapist to deal with all the crap she had to put up from not only the church, but her father and mother.

Being part of the ONTD community, there was a time while reading this that I enjoyed the spilling of the truth tea. The shading of members and the pastor, and sometimes not so subtle dragging. It was like reading a WBC tell-all.

I think Drain, and the Phelps girls who have also left the church after Drain, have a long way to make up for the damage, hurt, and pain they caused. I feel sympathetic towards them, but many won't and I can understand why. I never had to deal with this cult first hand, so it's easier for me to forgive them. (For those that don't know, I am a lesbian).

I look forward to reading more memoirs from the ex-members of the WBC cult.

Also huge trigger warning for physical and emotional abuse.
Profile Image for Nothing.
42 reviews2 followers
March 10, 2013
I've been fascinated by the WBC for 10 years, upon discovering them as a psychology & religion major in college. They seem to be contradictory; highly educated yet ignorant & sheltered, I wanted to understand them, their hatred & why they were so cruel. Over the years I've received answers for all my questions, often in one-on-one discussions (especially with now ex member Megan). But this book is, by far, the best source of information I have on them. I was surprised that Westboro still had the ability TO surprise me, but the often disturbing inner secrets/turmoil, hierarchical conspiracies & disturbing levels of Phelps family worship within the church that Lauren revealed left me stunned. Certain things (like the hypocrisy & Phelps worship) I knew some of, but not the severity of it.

However, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the years of psychological abuse at the hands of the church & a lifetime of manipulation & varied levels of emotional abuse from her always controlling brute of a father, she never seems bitter or angry. She is honest & does not shy from saying that her father was controlling, self centered & arrogant or that she had difficulty trusting even her best (only) friends, & dealt with insecurities beyond normal teenage insecurities. But she also maintained an ability to see the good aspects of these people. Shirley Phelps-Roper had become the mother that hers stopped being. Jael & Megan were her best friends. As deeply as these people have hurt her, she doesn't hate them & she still holds hope for them (& especially for her beloved siblings, whom she had not one unkind word for throughout the whole story). That especially touched me, because it's a level of forgiveness that's foreign to me.

I do wish she had delved deeper in to her deprogramming & her post WBC life, how she broke away from Scott (Who I never liked. He came off skeevy, creepy & like he was using Lauren & Libby to stroke his ego... so to speak. Calling her at work, wheedling at her for contact after she said she was in huge trouble, near banishment, for their communications. He didn't care, he went full creep & found out where she work & starts calling. I felt like he wanted her kicked out or to leave over him, because then she's vulnerable & alone. I'm glad she got free of him, though his mum seemed an asset to her).
I'd love to read another book by her, about her life post WBC, or a book by Megan or Grace about their experiences, how their lives as golden Phelps girls differed. But I don't know if they're interested in writing something like that, at least not now.

I'd recommend this to anyone. It's important to see the consequences of faith over family, fanaticism & inequality in marriage. These are not only dangerous for WBCers! (Ask any disowned gay kid). Faith & spirituality (regardless of which god you trust- if any) can be beautiful things that lift you up. But they can easily be perverted by fanaticism or self righteousness. This book shows just how far it can go if allowed to. All of us, religious, spiritual or not, must remember that. This book is a suckerpunch of a reminder!
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,945 reviews90 followers
May 6, 2013
Drain recounts her experience with her abusive, mentally ill father who forced his family to move into the compound of an abusive, mentally ill cult known as the Westboro Baptist Church. The church is well known for picketing funerals and all manner of disasters with hateful and incendiary banners.

Initiated into the group as a young teenager, Drain attempted to gain approval by fitting in with the other teenage girls at the church. In mainstream American society, fitting in with a clique might involve excluding less popular students and wearing only designer label clothing. In the case of Drain's clique, fitting in meant travelling to Ground Zero and mocking the victims of 9/11. Pathetically desperate for approval of her new friends, her father, and WBC leader Fred Phelps, Drain reveled in spewing hate speech at passers-by.

I felt most sorry for Drain's mother. A meek woman, she was bullied and controlled by both her husband and the WBC, and forcefully cut off from her family. In addition to preaching the subservience of women, the WBC opposes birth control (of course). Mrs. Drain fought with her husband because she was done having children, and the family was in terrible debt. Of course, she lost out, and ended up having two more babies in middle age. Drain coos over the new arrivals, and I don't think she saw or considered how difficult this was on her mother.

Not long after the first infant was brought home, the Drains had their pug destroyed (also of course). Never mind that the dog was there first, the family pet too often goes out the window when His Majesty the Bayyybee arrives. All the family members with the exception of the author refused to be in the room while Buddy was sacrificed to the Bayyybee Gods. At least he had a dignified death. Another pet, the family cat, was "given away" before the family moved to the WBC.

Banished was more capably written than most in the tell-all memoir genre. However, I do get the feeling that if Drain hadn't been banished from the church and disowned by her family for "disobedience," she would still be out there, holding a "God hates You" sign on a street corner.
Profile Image for Sally.
408 reviews
May 30, 2013
I saw what a lot of other reviewers complained about in this book - her writing voice and sometimes over all maturity level seemed more like a young teen than an adult and what seemed like inconsistencies towards her actions in the"church" (yes, in this instance it deserves quotations.) were hard to miss.

However, here is what I took away:

Ms. Drain was raised in a verbally abusive, overly controlling household where they ricocheted from one extreme belief to another, before finally settling into the hate filled cult of Westboro.
Those things alone explain her young writing and immaturity - I say that with no malice or disrespect. I completely understand the subterfuge of cults and the way they can chisel away at you until there isn't much "you" left. I believe this was a coupling of her being under some one's thumb the majority of her life and in some ways (even though they were exposed to the outside world through news and text and such, they weren't really living in it) being very naive.

As for the inconsistencies complained about in other reviews - ie saying she didn't know why people were mad at them during their hate riddled pickets and then later saying how everything was done to anger people - I think this was just poorly executed writing. I took it as she was writing how she felt at the time of the pickets and then what she realized was the truth later...but with poor distinction.

I found the workings of the Westboro church fascinating and even more fascinating was how her formerly atheist father got so sucked into it.

Speaking of her father, the underlying current of resentment, but neediness towards him throughout the entire book makes me think of one word: counseling.

I wish the best to, Ms. Drain, she deserves it and needs it.
Profile Image for Michelle.
134 reviews29 followers
April 8, 2013
I don't condone the Westboro Baptist Church or their messages, but I have had some morbid curiosity about its inner workings. This book satisfied that curiosity. Lauren Drain had no choice but to join the Westboro Baptist Church (if you can call it a "church", cult seems more accurate) when she was a teen. Her parents' desire for acceptance in the church community was more important to them than their own daughter. They were overly critical of her, because any tiny mistake she made reflected poorly on their parenting. Ultimately, they had no problem banning her from the church and disowning her, especially her father. It's very heartbreaking.

Lauren's main issue with the church was the hypocrisy and double standards -- members of the Phelps family could get away with things that those who weren't Phelps couldn't. Lauren encountered this in high school, when she, like many girls her age, was attracted to boys. Of course that was considered Evil with a capital "E", and Lauren was punished harshly (often to the point of house-arrest) if she so much talked to a boy at school. The Phelps grandchildren, however, dressed provocatively and flirted with boys at school all the time, and they got away with it. Whenever Lauren tried to call them out on their behavior, everyone said it was her fault, it was she who was a bad influence on them.

Lauren also took issue with the fact that even though quite a few of the Phelps children had left the church, some of them were allowed to return for a second chance. Banned members who were not Phelps family members didn't get second chances.

The hardest part for Lauren Drain once she was banned was changing her beliefs. She described the process as being like "a person with a doctorate in Mathematics trying to believe that numbers can be divided by zero." She had been taught to believe that everyone outside of the Westboro Baptist Church faced eternal damnation. Once she was outside the church, she initially believed that she was now going to face eternal damnation and the special place in hell the church said was reserved for ex-members. In the end, she does manage to start a new life and to move away from the teachings of the Westboro church. I sense though that she still wants to reconcile with her family someday. I have to wonder -- had she not been banished, would she still be part of the church today? Part of me thinks that yes, she would, despite all the hypocrisy and her misgivings about their teaching.

I had some issues with this book. The writing is not that great. She repeats thoughts multiple times, so it gets repetitive (annoyingly so). Also there were instances where she switches back and forth between first- and second-person. The grammar really fell apart at the end, as though she was rushing to finish it. Tighter editing could have fixed all of that.

Another issue I had was with her "apology" section in the end. She apologizes for all the hurtful things she said during the protests and for the pain she caused. That's great. But she formats two of her apologies like this: "I'll never be a political activist for gay rights, but I like gay people and have many gay friends" and "I'll never be a political activist for abortion, but I believe in people's right to choose". I understand that she has her personal beliefs, but is it really necessary to preface an apology with "I'll never be a political activist"? I say no, it's not necessary, especially when you're apologizing for spreading messages that are hateful, hurtful and offensive to many people.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,519 reviews102 followers
August 15, 2021
I cried a lot reading the first several chapters of this book. Lauren Drain had two abusive parents. One beat her, called her a whore, withdrew her from school, and tried to control every minute of her life. The other one stood by and did nothing. Well, occasionally she told the dad not to yell so loud, that the neighbors would hear. I really can't decide which parent I despise more.

Imagine being accepted into a homophobic, anti-Semitic, widely despised religious group in your early teens. At first you actually like it because the people there treat you better than your own parents do. Then you become terrified that you will make some tiny error and burn in Hell forever. You spend seven years working frantically, trying to be as good a person as you can and to bring credit to your never-satisfied parents. And then your parents and the other elders throw you out anyway, with your "transition" being two nights in a motel. Your younger sister helps your mother dump your meager belongings in the family driveway, in two inches of slush. I am amazed Lauren Drain is alive and functional and a productive member of society.

This book differs greatly from the memoir of Lauren's frenemy, WBC youth spokeswoman Megan Phelps-Roper, even though both books cover the same time period and many of the same events. Megan was born into the WBC and was there at some of the first pickets (when she was five). She had an exalted position in the group and eventually left of her own accord. Lauren arrived in her early teens, when the group was internationally notorious, and was always branded an outsider by some. She was banished suddenly and for many months desperately longed to be accepted back into the WBC. So Lauren doesn't get into her reasoning process or philosophy as much as Megan does in her book, and Lauren is much more aware of the hypocrisy within the group and the special treatment and second (and third) chances that people named Phelps got.

Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,101 reviews130 followers
March 31, 2013
This is such a strange book to talk about. It's probably the most revealing insight into the Westboro Baptist Church but at the same time, I think it could've been better. In particular, I wish Lauren Drain had been more open about certain things. For example, she could've explained exactly why she agreed so readily with their doctrine. Instead, she said, "It made sense to me" or similar things.

It's also very obvious that a lot of the church's appeal is the fact that her dad was so into the members. She loved her dad and wanted their close relationship back, and the fastest way to do that is to really throw herself into their belief system.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me is in the fact that it shows the WBC members as people. Yes, I am horrified by their behavior (and as a Christian, lesbian and human being, I think I am within my rights to feel that way) but there are other aspects to their personalities that aren't readily available. Shirley Phelps-Roper, for example, is also portrayed as one of the best mothers possible. And I think that---while we obviously will never be friends---it's important to remember that we're all better than the worst things we've done.

Unlike her friend Megan Phelps-Roper, Lauren Drain didn't leave the church. Instead, she got thrown out. But even so, I think her story is still one of bravery and strength. Her choice wasn't in whether or not to leave the church; it was how to learn to survive completely on her own, as well as how to essentially build her faith from the ground up.
Profile Image for Mary.
121 reviews38 followers
April 21, 2013
I was thrilled to read this because it is the first memoir from a former insider's perspective on the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately, I found it uptight and unconvincing, as if the "banished" Lauren Drain was unable or unwilling to express her feelings. Perhaps she is still (understandably) sorting out her memories and experiences, but her personality comes across as flat and restrained.

Though bored at several points, I did finish the book because I was hoping for some sort of breakthrough or reversal (which I never found); however, I did appreciate the Epilogue in which the author apologized to some of the groups she so insensitively picketed against as a confused teenager indoctrinated into the hate group that is the WBC.

While memoirs are not usually written with literary excellence as their ultimate goal, they should not be painful to read. Despite the presence of a co-author, Lisa Pulitzer, this one is unpolished and choppy. Alternating between college level speech and casual slang, the author repeatedly uses invented compound words with "super" added to the beginning, such as "superexcited"--I found this superannoying.

All in all, I did learn some details about the horrendous WBC, but I didn't feel a connection with the author as a person, perhaps due in part to the poor writing. I would not recommend this book, even for someone who loves to read memoirs by ex-cult members.
Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews131 followers
July 2, 2013
At fifteen Lauren Drain moved from Florida to Kansas with her family to join the Westboro Baptist Church, famous for picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in battle with huge signs and shouted slogans denouncing homosexuality. The church and its teachings were her world for eight years, and then she was banished. While a member of the church she embraced its belief in a wrathful God bent on punishing just about everyone. She didn’t see the church’s protest messages as hateful--she saw passion, bravery, and superior reasoning ability, and was proud, at the time, to be a member of the group.

As someone interested trying to understand people’s motivations, beliefs, and behavior I found Lauren’s story fascinating and moving. She wanted to be a full and faithful member of the Westboro Baptist Church, but not being part of the Phelps family she always felt some insecurity, and her need to seek clarification on several Biblical issues got her branded as a trouble maker. When even her family turned their backs on her, she was forced to find a new way to live and think. Lauren writes about the evolution of her beliefs and actions with openness and honesty. It’s a mesmerizing and often heartbreaking book, which she ends with an apology for the hurt she has caused.
Profile Image for Jean-Paul Adriaansen.
267 reviews23 followers
December 7, 2012
I've never read a biography that seems to be so honest. The Westboro Baptist Church is very well known for their hatred towards gay people and for picketing on military funerals. Lauren Drain, who joined the Church as a young teenager, describes how she got completely convinced of the Church's mission and how hard she worked to become a full member in the eyes of the Church members and her parents. She also explains the inner working of this family driven religion. The combination of her asking too many challenging Bible questions and her (rather innocent) interest in boys, caused her to be banished from the Church and from her family.
The story of her stay in the world of the zealots and the righteous will stick with me for a long time.
Fascinating, honest, and moving.
Profile Image for RD Morgan.
111 reviews8 followers
December 30, 2012
I feel this book would have been more successful had it been shaped into a history of the WBC and not this particular woman's memoir. I'm unsure about this book's tone, and I'm unsure about the way the book was edited. I do think, however, that the book gives a ton of insight into the WBC and its members. I think it's important because it is a nearly perfect example of how one's community -- in this case, one's religious community -- has the ability to shape nearly all aspects of one's life, including personal beliefs. We are not as individual as we'd like to think. In the end, what's the difference between learned behavior and brainwashing? A very thought-provoking book, one that's much bigger than its subject.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Tracy.
141 reviews3 followers
April 30, 2013
I had a lot of conflict with this book. Most of it seemed to circle around how "cool" the Phelps granddaughters were and how "cool" it was to protest. I honestly don't know why Lauren Drain continued to talk to the guy Scott after her church told her not to - to the point of getting kicked out.

My googling told me that a lot of other young people, including the smart and beautiful Megan Phelps, have recently left the church. That's interesting.

But Lauren never seemed to think that anything the WBC was doing was awful or bad or mean or anything. Her epilogue is an apology of sorts but it really comes off as something she HAD to do in order to appease the publisher.
Profile Image for Jim Jenkins.
5 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2013
Sometimes I think there should be a waiting period between when a person leaves an organization and when they write an account of it. Banished's only major failing is that Ms. Drain is still very much in the process of disentangling her identify from WBC and determining for herself who she wants to be. It's encouraging to see her begin that process, but I can't help but think the book would be even better if we heard from her in five years after she's further along that journey.
Profile Image for Lord Beardsley.
377 reviews
June 5, 2013
Far from being a well-written or gripping book, the subject matter is utterly fascinating. As someone who grew up in Kansas and since I was 14 seeing the WBC picketing various places, this answers a lot of questions and confirms many theories I'd had about the members and their weird, perverse "church".

Drain and Pulitzer paint a disturbing, sad, pathetic, and ultimately humanizing depiction of what has been described as "The Most Hated Family In America." The biggest mistake in the way we look at bigots is in thinking that they aren't human beings. Drain does a very good job in describing the human beings behind the disgusting signs: EXTREMELY. DAMAGED. Human. Beings.

WBC is an institution created by a paranoid rageaholic, extreme in his beliefs, utterly devoid of human compassion, and extremely dangerous and abusive. Phelps raised a child army of damaged, abused, and emotionally retarded adults who - if they haven't escaped the insidious trappings of this terrible institution - are raising new generations under these toxic circumstances. Above all, the generational institutionalism of extreme emotional violence that these people exist in is the ultimate tragedy. Each picket is a desperate plea for attention from generations of people who have existed within the sick trappings of a highly insular cult with the power to damage generations to come. I feel deeply sorry for these sad, pathetic people.

The most remarkable thing about Drain's family background is that her own father, who is a thoroughly disgusting pigman, sought out the WBC and moved his entire family to Kansas in order to raise them within this system. Theirs is one of the few outside families who managed to gain entry into this sick facade, and his behavior and attitude are thoroughly reprehensible. He comes off as someone who is pathetic and lost, desperate to gain acceptance and validation for his own failings at the cost of everyone he is supposed to hold dear.

Fascinating, and deeply upsetting. This read is essential if you've ever been curious about cults, the ramifications of violent emotional manipulation, and the lengths people go to in order to deny that which dare not speak its name.
Profile Image for Lana Merry.
12 reviews
March 23, 2013
An autobiographical account of Lauren Drain's excommunication from the Westboro Baptist Church. We all know about the crazy "Baptist" picketers, who have demonstrated their disgust for all things other than themselves.

Drains' stream of conciousness account of survival is at times interesting, but also very repetitive. She clearly needs further counseling, and book editing, as the cult did a fine job of brainwashing her, and she is still deeply hurt.

Throughout her account she speaks from the perspective of a twelve year old, although she is now in her twenties, as she retells the horrors of survivng spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse. She is clearly writting this from a viewpoint of exploration and uncertainty, and is still processing through the ordeal. The conclusion of the book has a hopeful dedication to her siblings, who she hopes to one day be reunitted with. As well as an appology to those she hurt through her actions.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 615 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.