They say every dog has his day and then, at some point after that day, the dog is done. I’m not actually sure they say that last part, but in this case it applies. That is, if you extrapolate that the Westboro Baptist Church is the dog – and that’s not hard to do. By some measures, it has had its big old day – when they were out there on the streets getting all kinds of attention for their hate-mongering, bigotry-spewing, God-forsaking funeral noise, and now that day is done. Thank God – it’s time that dog was put down.
Of course, it’s not done for everyone; not for those who maintain that its philosophy preaches the message of Jesus, as two WBC henchmen tried to explain to Russell Brand not too long ago (see: Russell ‘Fag Pimp’ Brand Takes On Westboro Thugs (VIDEO). But for some of the flock, it was time to flee the fold and, reflecting another cliché, “the children shall lead the way.”
OK, maybe not children, per se, but at least a couple of 20-something granddaughters of church founder, Fred Phelps, started the recent exile (covered at Addicting Info in Libby Phelps Alvarez’ story: Granddaughter Of Westboro Baptist Church Founder Defects From Hate-Cult To Speak Out, and Megan Phelps-Roper’s story: Second Westboro Granddaughter Loses Faith In Bigotry…give them both a read; very compelling). Now it seems another young woman from the church has left but, unlike the other two women, she was excommunicated. A harder road than leaving of your own free will, but in her enforced flight, Lauren Drain found her voice to speak out, taking her leave with a splash: she’s got a book coming out and recently she participated in the “NOH8” campaign to overturn California’s dreaded Proposition 8, set to be heard soon by the Supreme Court.
As reported by the Advocate.com, Ms. Drain, an active member of the Westboro Baptist Church from 2001 to 2008, became one of those “inconvenient” cult members who started asking too many questions, challenging the group’s belief systems and methodology to the point that the powers-that-be finally showed her the door with a formal excommunication. But despite that trauma of that denunciation, she not only escaped with her heart and soul intact, she’s gone on to write a book about her experience, Banished, a Memoir (coming out in March; see her current Facebook page), and also decided to lend her unique pedigree as an “apostate” of the notorious gay-hating WBC to further the cause of tolerance with a role in the NOH8 poster campaign:
Lauren Drain, a former member of the antigay, antisemitic Westboro Baptist Church, posed for photographer Adam Bouska’s NOH8 campaign, calling the church a “cult,” and confirming that she still identifies as a Christian, but now stands against “any and all forms of violence, discrimination, bullying, or bigotry directed at someone else due to their personal lifestyle.”
“The main reason I posed for the NOH8 Campaign was in direct response to the judgments of the WBC,” said Drain in a statement on NOH8’s website. “I wanted to show people that despite having grown up within the cult and having spent a good portion of my life on the picket line, condemning our deceased soldiers, reveling in any and all forms of tragedy and simply striving to be hurtful in the name of God; that the WBC is wrong and what I did at the time was wrong!”
It’s likely no coincidence that her words of remorse and regret echo those of both Libby Phelps Alvarez and Megan Phelps-Roper. Perhaps it was the extreme nature of the Westboro mission statement of hate that drove all three to reclaim their thinking and tap into the inherent good that clearly pushed them away from its aggressive intolerance. I’d even suggest their defections support the notion that man is inherently good…which means there’s hope for mankind: when given the choice, they rejected hate for love; judgment for tolerance; publicly protesting soldiers’ funerals to, in Lauren’s case, publicly standing up for marriage equality.
I contacted Lauren to get some personal perspective on the journey she’s been on and in our correspondence, I referred her to a piece I’d written a while back called, Can The NOT Crazy Christians Please Speak Up?!, and asked her the following question:
“What’s the one thing you’d like to say, as a Christian who’s contributed to the NOH8 campaign, to other Christians who, instead, see their faith through the filter of intolerance and judgment? Given your experience in WBC, is there, in fact, anything that can be said to dissuade a Christian of that ilk from such hateful thinking?”
“To best answer your question, I would tell other Christians that homosexuality is not the unforgivable sin, blasphemy is. Christ also asks us to be meek and humble without pious attitudes, as we are all sinners. And if we judge others, and in fact are at fault ourselves, we are in danger of the same judgment. Remember, God forgave the prodigal son and welcomed him home.”
A NOT crazy Christian… wonderful.
On her Facebook FAQ page she answered a few other salient queries others have posted; her answers are very moving, these two in particular:
Have I contacted other ex-members & if so did they have similar experiences?
Most of the people that left the church on their own did not experience the same type of cruelty that those who were kicked out did. Some that chose to leave were begged to stay or “chased” after. I saw members get kicked out of membership, forced out of their families and homes, and told to never return or contact any members again. I, was one of those forced out. I did not want to stay because of the church or beliefs. I had already challenged the beliefs. I was not ready to leave my 3,5 and 16-year-old siblings behind forever. I knew If I consciously walked away from the church, that’s what I would be doing. So to answer the question, yes I contacted both those that left and got kicked out, with hopes of sharing our experiences, unfortunately that was with only a certain degree of success.
Do you hate the WBC and/or your parents?
To those that are set on coming here and calling my parents names or being derogatory, you have to understand that even though I do not agree with anything they stand for now; there was a period of time in my life that they were my parents, and good ones at that. As I’ve said in interviews before, it’s sad that I lost them to a hatful cult, even if by their own choice. It’s even sadder that I lost my younger siblings because of the actions of my parents. For the most part I consider myself a very strong individual, but I too at times, like everyone else, get emotional about my biological family life or lack thereof. I hope that those that need to vent regarding the WBC can do so via a more appropriate channel in a manner that is constructive more than just self-serving. ;)
If you go to her Facebook page and click “like,” you’ll have access to a number of other interesting responses she offered, as well as photos and additional information.
Beyond her personal story, as well as that of the Phelps’ granddaughters, I’m intrigued by the fact that women seem to be at the forefront of this movement away from religious hate and oppression. I’ve written several stories of late reflecting that trend, from these three courageous Westboro women; the story of brave Malala surviving the Taliban to continue fighting for the freedom of girls to get educated; even my exposé on the Catholic Church reflects pushback against a system rife with repression of woman (though their sexual abuse seems gender-neutral). And, of course, the great and always controversial Scientology, which, frankly, also seems to be an equal opportunity oppressor… though a compelling new book, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, has just hit the stands, written by Jenna Miscavige Hill, the niece of notorious “ecclesiastical leader,” David Miscavige; another view from a woman’s perspective.
Bottom line, the thread through all these stories of women standing up against oppression is courage; it takes courage to stand up against cults and religious fundamentalism, which, much like terrorism, finds power in denying and attempting to control free thought and expression.
In this piece, however, I specifically want to applaud this latest freedom fighter, Lauren Drain; thank her for her contribution to the cause of equality and spiritual compassion; celebrate the opportunities she’ll now have as a free thinker, and wish her well in her forward motion.