On the February 15th edition of CBC Radio’s excellent “Day 6” program with Brent Bambury, there was an interview with one Lauren Dain, an ex member of the Westboro Baptist Church hate group. Day 6 is known for interviewing all kinds of people from interesting societal, religious, cultural, and activism backgrounds. So I, as a listener, was not surprised that this interview had been secured by Mr. Bambury. In-fact, when I heard the teaser at the beginning of the show I was looking forward to it.
You see, Ms. Dain is a recent descendant of the aforementioned church. Admonished by her own family on broadcast television no less, she was forcibly removed from the people she loved for her new realizations. She has been making the rounds in the news lately because she has put her experiences from years past into a package, ready for
reading consumption by the mass populous. A unique inside look into how a hate group mixed with the poison of religiosity can work hand in hand to bring even further hardship to the life of fallen U.S. soldiers’ families, families of fallen nine-eleven victims, and homosexuals.
I finished listening to the interview with a feeling of disgust in my throat, and a great sadness for the world I live in. Here is why.
Ms. Dain starts off by explaining through Mr. Bambury’s introduction on how she came to join the church through her father when she was 15 years old, and how she and others subsequently started picketing various venues as has been largely documented by the media and the internet. Where it gets interesting, is where Mr. Bambury asks Ms. Dain if she was aware of the cruelty she was part of at the time:
At the time, I would say no, I was not fully aware that I was hurting people. I thought that we were misunderstood; our message – we were trying to deliver a message that sin will cause a nation to fall, sin will cause a nation to be destroyed, that kind of a thing. And if we could just get through to people, they would understand.
Ms. Dain goes on to explain how the Church would arm its members with bible verses, and general talking points to people who voice their opposition to the church out loud, and to others who chose to threaten the Church with violence and other none-civil behaviour. The members were ready for the push-back they would receive from the population in whatever form. And that in-fact whatever opposition was received would “validate” their Christianity; it would:
“validate [them] being right.”
Ms. Dain explains that the negative feedback was taken to a new level after the Church picketed on Sept. 12th, 2001; inferring that the horrific attack on innocent civilians was not an act of mad men, but the result of God’s hatred for America’s current way of life. Some might remember that this wasn’t the only religious institution bent on blaming how people have sex, is directly a result of idiots with illusions of martyrdom and self-grandeur killing innocent civilians alongside their own undeserving lives:
Mr. Banbury quite rightly points out that this particular Church believes that those “souls” which are heaven-bound are determined before they ever set foot on Earth. That they are already chosen, and everyone else is going to hell through no choice of their actions whilst they were alive. And, as a result, the Church wasn’t trying to “save” anyone from their fiery end, something that is not unique to the monotheistic religions and has an extensive background in all of human history, but just sort of acting as a human PSA machine for the dead. When asked, Ms. Dain (to her credit readily) admits that she saw this discontinuity in her church at questioned it at least twice, but kept on going anyway.
Ms. Dain’s doubts ultimately led her to want to decide to leave, and was as a result excommunicated from the Church and from her family. When asked how she makes peace with how she hurt people at her time in the Church, Ms. Dain says:
I’m doing the best that I can. I’ve made open apologies. I wrote this story hoping to reach and touch people and apologize for my past. […] I forgive people that have clearly harmed me in my life, so I think that it is possible to be forgiven.
Which brings me back to the sickening feeling I still have. You see the problem is not that Ms. Dain is out in the open speaking about her experience, one in which I’m sure is hard to talk about. The problem is the commercialization of it all; and the impunity with which it goes on with. To practice one’s “freedom of speech” by calling a whole set of people the abomination of the Earth, simply for the way they love one-another for years and years and then repent, put it all in a book and SELL it. To profit off of the hate one has caused: that is an abomination. Especially in a society that freely allows for freedom of thought and contemplation; Ms. Dain by her own admission grew up in a liberal home, and before her father became part of the church, he was a documentary film-maker. She was not institutionalized until she was 15. This is entirely different than say a story of a child soldier, outlined in “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah who didn’t have a chance to develop the cognitive abilities to distinguish right from wrong.
The problem is the selling, and this is by far not the first time this kind of thing has happened. I’m sure it’ll keep on going on. But I do wish one of these days, a journalists asks one of these personalities that if they really want to share, and educate people on their experiences, experiences that they readily admit were harmful to society, why would they choose to sell it to them?