She is a former congregant of Fred Phelps, the founder of the now infamous Westboro Baptist Church. She grew up with the picketing and bizarre takeoffs on popular songs. She was raised to revel in the destruction of those deemed sinful. But in her 20′s, Lauren Drain started asking questions about the teachings of her church. Her questions were perceived as subversive. Fred Phelps, her pastor rebuked her for her attitude. Eventually, she was excommunicated. What does this mean? Lauren Drain’s story is related as follows by ABC News.
Eventually, she said, when she was 21 the members voted her out of the church and out of her home, including her own parents
“My dad didn’t cry, my sister didn’t cry, my mom cried, she said. “I’m bawling and like out of my mind, you know, and they’re laughing. I’m telling them I’m sorry. I’m telling them I’ll do anything, what is it going to take, when can I come back.”
What was chilling was the speed with which her family adjusted psychologically to her banishment. ABC News continues as follows
A week later, Lauren Drain returned home to pick up her belongings and said she found that her youngest sister Faith already had been taught to hate her.
Fred Phelps, who has excommunicated other members of his church who strayed has an odd psychological twin. Madalyn Murray O’ Hair was a militant atheist who was active in getting prayer banned from public schools. When her son became a born again Christian, she cut off all contact with him, much as Fred Phelps did with some of his grandchildren.
The provocations, anger and hatred of the Phelps family church creates an “us against the world” camaraderie. The down side of it is the hunger for love, empathy and acceptance it creates among some church members. The best challenge to Phelps family members is not the reciprocation of anger but a belief system that is not dependent upon the existence of an enemy for a sense of self. The strongest opponents of the Phelps family are probably fundamentalist Christians who believe that the antics of Westboro Baptist Church members make it too easy to dismiss Christianity.
Three of Fred Phelps children have left the church and the family. One of them, Nate Phelps has been outspoken. He has given interviews and lectures on life in his famous family.
It is interesting to look at the Phelps from a psychological perspective. Why do some people withdraw from the world? Why do some favour angry theology? These are questions which transcend religious boundaries, as illustrated most dramatically by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
It is noteworthy that the Phelps are considered to be the hate filled extreme of American religion. Contrast that with Pakistan, in which 2 Ahmadiyya mosques were attacked on May 28, leading to the deaths of almost 100 worshippers. We as a nation are horrified when people are taunted by the Phelps family. But we are still far ahead of countries like Pakistan where “heretics” are killed.
The Phelps family is indeed offensive. The best we can do is to study them for a glimpse into ourselves and into the nature of religious faith. To aid us in this, we have defectors, like Lauren Drain and Nate Phelps. And for this we should be thankful.