Surviving Westboro

David Sessions reviews Banisheda new book by former Westboro Baptist Church member Lauren Drain:

Unlike in many other cults, young Westboro members aren’t isolated from the world. They all attend public schools and have nearly uncensored access to television. They’re all on Twitter. Westboro adults use every profanity in the book in everyday conversation. Somehow, even amid the rush of hormones and social pressures of high school, most of their teens don’t break away.

But Drain’s book hints at a sociological crisis that could be breaking the church apart: the lack of church-approved partners for Westboro’s upcoming young adults, most of whom are too closely related to marry one another. (Drain’s family is one of very few in the church not related to the Phelpses.) Sensing the younger generation’s alarm, Westboro leaders have spun out increasingly bizarre edicts on relationships, including, Drain writes, a blanket condemnation of marriage. It may be sex, as well as growing doubts about the harsh regime inside Westboro, that’s motivating young members closer and closer to the center to defect.