Taken into the fold of the Westboro Baptist Church, and leaving her family behind when she departed years later, Lauren Drain, is sharing her story.
Drain is the author of “Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church.” She told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross when she was a teenager her father found something compelling inside the church he had planned on exposing.
“My father has always been looking for a doctrine – that he could say is the truth, and that he could get up on a pedestal and be vocal.”
Drain’s father was there to make a documentary, exposing the Westboro Baptist Church. Instead, he and his family became a part of one of the most notorious hate groups still in existence in the United States.
“At the time, I was a teenager. I was going out with friends. I had started talking to guys. I think a lot of that scared him.” She said he wanted more control, and he pulled her out of school. Now her friends were off limits.
The church supported the ideology: no outside influence. “To be a good Christian means you just associated with the church members.”
When Drain’s family first joined the church, she said they were demonstrating – but they hadn’t yet reached the level of picketing the funerals of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. There were fewer funeral pickets in general. But once there, Drain said she was brainwashed.
Drain was inundated with the theology of hate: sermons, daily emails, and lots of Bible studies. Church members will say it’s focused on the Bible, but Drain said they skip over verses about God’s love, forgiveness and hope.
“They teach kids to be to be just as arrogant and just as sanctimonious as the [adults] are,” said Drain.
The children buy into it with their money too. Every member of the family pays their way to picketing events. While some funds come from the church’s attorney office, she said, inside Westboro there are no hobbies or family vacations to save up for. You don’t spend your paycheck on anything.
As a teenager, she got job. “All of my paycheck went to paying for picket trips.”
Once at the picketing sites, Drain was brainwashed to believe she was helping those people see the error of their ways.
She once felt that’s how she demonstrated being a good Christian. “That’s not the only way to be a good Christian,” she learned. “In fact, it’s the wrong way.
It took finally having a chance to be away from the church to snap out of it. Drain said they controlled everything she thought.
Finally on her own, she had a chance to realize what they’re saying wasn’t right. “I was being hypocritical, judgmental, and it’s not my place to say those things,” she said.
She eventually left the church – which also meant leaving behind her mom and dad, two young siblings, and a teenage sister.
There is nothing to justify that kind of behavior, but she still hopes that her parents will come to realize that.
Talking to her mom on the phone recently, she said it felt like her mom had just shut down. She worried that Drain was going to ask her to leave her father. Instead, Drain told her mom, only that she loved her and missed her – and would be there for her if she ever wanted to talk.
Drain’s family has said on national television that they’ve disowned her. She’s getting married soon. Her parents won’t be attending.
To convince people from leaving the church, Drain said they are often told they will fail at life on the outside. Maybe die of a terrible disease. They won’t have any friends, either.
“They wanted to believe that everything in my life would fail – because I’m not there,” said Drain. “I wanted to show them, and my siblings, I can succeed.”