• Banished

  • Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church
  • By: Lauren Drain
  • Narrated by: Lauren Drain
  • Length: 8 hrs and 5 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (465 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Banished is an eye-opening, deeply personal account of life inside the cult known as the Westboro Baptist Church, as well as a fascinating story of adaptation and perseverance.

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 US 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.

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.

©2013 Lauren Drain (P)2013 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Banished

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Hopefully the first of many more to come!

What made the experience of listening to Banished the most enjoyable?

The fact that Lauren Drain herself reads the material gives it a poignancy that 3rd party narrators can't provide. Less expressive, perhaps, but more authentic.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The Phelps girls (particularly Jael and Megan) are always interesting, because they've never known a life outside of the cult-like family environment. Their sense of superiority is consistently undercut by having to keep themselves in check. I feel legitimate sympathy for them, as for any abuse victim, because they have no conventional "normal" to gauge their own conduct by.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Salvation from salvation.

Any additional comments?

The story is fascinating, particularly for its insights regarding Steve Drain, a clearly sick individual - in the sense that his behavior seems to be in real need of psychiatric intervention. After seeing Louis Theroux's two excellent documentaries on the WBC (the second of which interviewed Lauren post-departure), Steve comes off as quite the self-righteous narcissist, while his wife exists as the doormat of the family. Shame on her, in particular, for not advocating more for a normal life for her children - especially since she clearly knew life before the WBC and had insight to Steve Drain's behavioral inconsistencies for quite some time.

The first reviewer of this audiobook is clearly either a current church member or a sympathizer, but that's the price of truly free speech - hatred and ignorance continue to be well protected. Jack, your review was worth everything I paid to read it.

At this point, I'll wait patiently in the hope that Megan and Grace Phelps will also break silence on their experience inside this horrible organization. As far as Libby Phelps goes (another departee interviewed by Theroux), she seems paralyzed by the fear of a fiery hellish damnation - a mindset that I think sadly probably afflicts most of the clan. Call me crazy, but I can't visualize a God who creates humankind to deny its enjoyment and revels in its suffering and torture. And if that's the case, I'd want even less to do with him.

In the meantime, I will proceed with a beautiful quotation: "Live your life in such a way that the Westboro Baptist Church would want to picket your funeral". I certainly plan to.

Fantastic book, Lauren. Thank you for sharing a painful journey with us.

27 people found this helpful

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Wondered what that church was about! Now I know..

If you ever wondered about the Westboro church and why they spew so much hate, this is a good book to read. Laren Drain was banished, basically for talking to a boy out of their faith that she had been warned about.. The church members are mostly from one family, with a few others who have joined.. I'm not sure how, or why, people allow themselves to be pulled in to a cult like this one, but wowsers.. They are really out there.
Lauren has a very good way of describing the good and the bad, and how it all made her feel, and why she was so afraid to step away from this community. But good for her that she was forced out, and now has a much better life..
This church seems to have parts of Scientology and the FDLS mixed in, with some crazy ideas of their own...

9 people found this helpful

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Informative read

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Very informative read. Being from Kansas, I had grown up with the Westboro Church always causing commotion. As a Christian, you feel sorry for what the members are taught to believe. Well worth the read (or listen).

Any additional comments?

If you ever wondered why Westboro believes what it does, this book will make it clear.

9 people found this helpful

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Judging from Wacko The Troll...

What did you love best about Banished?

...if this book is half as lurid as that paranoid freak-out wall of text review says it is...looks like I'm in for a treat! Hi-dee-ho!

9 people found this helpful

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Lauren Drain is a dangerous woman.

What did you like best about Banished? What did you like least?

I liked how Lauren was very detailed describing her years in the church and before the church. The ending of the book was lacking though and it seems something is missing. The title of the book doesn't really agree with the content of the book. It seems she enjoyed her time at the church until she was forced out because of her mistakes.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

This is Lauren's story. Some people have accused her of putting many lies into this story and if it's true that she's lied then Lauren should make those corrections. Otherwise, it's her story and I wouldn't change it.

What does Lauren Drain bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Lauren noticeably changes her tone when she discusses parts of her life that really impacted her. It's almost as if she were sitting right next to me telling her story!

Could you see Banished being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Yes, but it's kind of a living story already because everyone in the book is still alive. I think pretty much anyone could attempt to play the roles.

Any additional comments?

I listened to the 8 hour long audio version of this book which was spoken by Lauren Drain. She is a very emotional person but clearly she has been ensnared by the devil.

In the book, she describes herself wanting approval and acceptance from her father and Westboro Baptist Church members. However, she is tempted to break the rules and then she does break the rules.

Lauren opens every chapter of her book with a Bible verse and compares that verse with a section of her life described in
that chapter. This is done for literary effect but it did not impress me too much.

There are some Bible verses Lauren needs to read again, including the ones she used in her book.

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

She unashamedly tells all her readers and listeners that she fooled around with some guy she met at school. And then she wonders why her church friends Shirley and Jael are disappointed with her when they've warned her not to do such things.

Ms. Drain describes her father Steve as a controller as if it were a negative thing to protect her from the influence of bad boys and evil men. She could have used more sensible terms like guardian, defender, or protector to describe her father but instead she views him as an obstruction to her independence and decision making.

One topic Ms. Drain discusses in detail is marriage and how she desired it. It is a topic of contention between her and other church members and she also seems to disdain arranged marriages. She questions how she would be able to obtain a marriage when there are so many restrictions placed upon her or she supposes that marriage is altogether banned. Instead of waiting upon the Lord for a godly spouse or abiding by the rules, she falls to the flatteries of strangers that tell her that "she's hot".

She does not seem to recover from her fall and goes out to seek company with worldly men and women. She claims she's still a Christian but it seems that she has created her own fake religion as a substitute for the godly principles and doctrines she was taught at Westboro Baptist Church. She recognized that some people at the church were pious, godly, and loving. She acknowledges that they were watching out for her but then she betrays them. She also noted some hypocrisies and inconsistencies in church practices and amongst the membership. But some of the members she had issues with have left the church just like she did.

The church can be commended for having no company with this seemingly wicked woman Lauren Drain. She didn't behave herself wisely inside the church and it seems that she isn't behaving herself wisely outside of the church either.

She announces at the end of her book that she is currently engaged to be married. On the surface, this is joyous occasion for her to be married. But what kind of person has she chosen to marry? Will her marriage succeed and give her any lasting happiness or will it fail and give her misery? Time will tell and then maybe Ms. Drain can write another book.

Overall Ms. Drain's book won't win any accolades from me. It's not a "must buy" book but it was interesting to hear her out in the audio version. So maybe buy it if it's really cheap, or heavily discounted.

Ms. Drain is a very dangerous woman that encourages men and women to sin and to disobey God. She is a rebellious woman that tries to win over her audience with an emotional sob story but she doesn't seem to realize the seriousness or her mistakes or the awful condition that she's still in. Instead of repenting of her misdeeds, she is now a proud sinner that has done a complete about-face from the good Christian lady she once tried to be. She has joined the wicked in their fight against God and his commandments. It's a shame.

7 people found this helpful

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True to herself

Where does Banished rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This story was so true to how we think and end up in certain situations. Her ability to understand herself, her father, and the people around her is amazing. You can tell that she is still in pain but looks forward to a lifetime of healing.

6 people found this helpful

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Amazing Personal Account - a real eye opener!

This book gave a truly human perspective of the Westboro Baptist Church. It showed them from firsthand accounts to be a selfish, cruel, unbiblical, hateful, mean group of religious zealots. The religion of the WBC contains all of the pitfalls of Christianity when proper biblical interpretation is replaced by opinion and base human emotions. I was angry as I listened to this. I was cheering for Lauren Drain to be banished, because it was so terrible inside of the WBC. Give this book a try if you are at all interested in the pulse of American Religious life. A real eye opener.

6 people found this helpful

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Great expose on a church as crazy as the KKK

What made the experience of listening to Banished the most enjoyable?

I actually found it painful to read. To hear religion used as a weapon of hate not only at the church level, but at the individual, family and community levels was horrible, yet so important for the country and the world to hear. I did enjoy the contradictions, some of which I'm not even sure Lauren recognized. The church hates America, yet the church realizes that this is the only country in the world where one is safe to express hatred without retribution.

What other book might you compare Banished to and why?

It reminded me of Orwell's 1984, Love is hate, war is peace and some are more equal than others.

Which scene was your favorite?

The epilogue was relieving to hear that Lauren is able to move on with her life. I hope others will be encouraged, especially Lauren's mother and siblings, to break free of this slavery of hate.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes. The abuse was sickening and realistic. I have always found it amazing in my work as a social worker that children in foster care would rather return to the family that severely abused them than to continue in foster care. This book helps address the reasons that children stay attached even when severely abused by their parents and in this case their friends and community.

Any additional comments?

Best wishes Lauren. You are absolutely amazing! I also want to thank Jack from Topeka whose review helped me decide to purchase this book. I'm betting that Jack is part of the WBC.

6 people found this helpful

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Very powerful and moving!

What made the experience of listening to Banished the most enjoyable?

The overall story of which I had no idea of...

What did you like best about this story?

The ending...made me cry and happy that Lauren came through it all with her faith and belief in God and
people in tact!

Have you listened to any of Lauren Drain’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No this was the first I had heard of her...will look up other now!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Almost!! finished it in less than 4 days...which is great for me...I usually take a month to finish a book!

Any additional comments?

I love reading about real life success stories...very inspirational so glad Lauren wrote and read this book!!

5 people found this helpful

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An inquisitive conscience prevails!

Any additional comments?

This book brought me to tears at the end to know of all the brutality in the world wrought by people who are supposed to be known to be full of love and care. I can only think of two words for Steve Drain (I'm sorry Lauren, I am sure you still love him) but they are fool and idiot. What I see is perhaps Steve loved the fact that he could finally feel purpose and importance in his life, even if it was all negative, that he could be in front of cameras and feel he had some purpose now, instead of his aimless wondering when Lauren was child. I thought at the end of the book he would have left with her. But to now understand that he totally cut her out of his life and his family is simply sad. This girl is still your daughter, yet she is treated as if she murdered someone or worse.

These WBC members truly are just a blimp. There would never have been any news about them if they did not cultivate it with ridiculous protests. Their form of religion appeals to just a handful of people and yet we are making such a big deal out of it. At times I wanted to stop reading the book since the story seemed so small and inconsequential, like making a mountain out of a mole hill. But I stuck with it, and now I see the book more a work for everyone who faces a deep and horrible sadness because of people they love, tearing themselves away because of a misunderstanding of faith. But even more than a misunderstanding, WBC members just use others: when Lauren's mom called to tell her they were claiming her as a dependent on their taxes, wow, what a joke, this family has grown used to using people, even in their own home.

Last night I went online and found Louis Theroux's documentary The Most Hated Family in America and watched Part II, a great documentary. This Steve Drain was a total disgusting individual in the film. I hope he reads Lauren's book and this review and begins to feel his ridiculous red hot lunacy, it can be the first step to true repentance and change to a pure love of God. Also in that documentary I was very moved by Grace Phelps. I thought her photography was wonderful and loved her explanation for shooting the beautiful young Muslim during a protest against Muslims. When I saw her I just knew in my heart she would one day leave that church. So I started googling and sure enough, she left last month with her sister Megan. I know she and Megan are young, but I only hope that they can be strong. I saw the pictures of Grace, Lauren and Megan united recently, and felt much happiness to know they have each other, as it must be horrible to lose one's parents.

I enjoyed the Epilogue when Lauren apologized to homosexuals, AIDs patients, the families of fallen soldiers and others for the pain she has caused at taunting them. And it was fascinating to hear of her reaction at the Vatican. I loved her book and am happy she took the time to write it. I related most especially to the part where 6 months in her apartment in Topeka she finally realized she had nothing, all her friends hated her and her family too, and she just had to move on. Something similar happened to me and it brings me much joy to know I am not alone.

On a personal note, I am a devout catholic (but also a very flawed one). I came to the faith on my own at 21 years old after doing drugs, hitchhiking all over the US and Europe and being in jail. I did not know WBC hated us so much but I totally understand it now. Yes, satan and individual evil has entered the catholic church and is trying to destroy it with abusive priests preying on little children. WBC had it right! It is awful and disgusting. But for me, faith is so much more pure then the evil of the day, it is first and foremost an authentic love of God in spite of all contemporary evil. I desire to do the right thing in life. It stems, for me, from understanding that there is a first mover, a first creator of all things. Knowing this, I know this first creator has a plan for me, as he does for every living thing in creation. So I try to determine, the best I can (as this first creator does not speak to me), what that role is. So I seek to find the best understanding I can of his way. For me it was the catholic church, with the 2000 years of history and unbroken petrine tradition, as well as the authority on the canon of scripture that even WBC hold today to be the only word of God. I fully accept and understand that others do not see it. But to me the final authority of all is conscience. You have to obey your conscience, no matter what. Once you turn away from it, your eyes go red and you begin to enter yourself into hell. But if we obey those little voices that tell us what is truth, we will be fine when we die, whatever our faith. But we have to obey it no matter what: the loss of family, the loss of what we thought was our faith, the loss of friends, the loss of home, the loss of all. But we all have the duty to inform our conscience with reading and thinking.

I think it was wonderful that Lauren kept asking questions as she read the bible in spite of being shut down by other members of the WBC. Her inquisitive mind was that small voice of conscience telling her to dig a little deeper until she finally began to see the light of truth. I wish her strength and success!

5 people found this helpful