Religious belief has the power to bring joy, purpose, and dimension to life. When its power is used to intimidate and control the lives of believers, however, it can be spiritually and emotionally destructive. Two recent books, co-written by Lisa Pulitzer, tell stories of people who escaped such environments and how they've reshaped their lives since breaking away from their respective religious groups. The courage displayed by the two following women in leaving behind everything and everyone they know and love is incredible.
Lauren Drain, author of Banished, was a normal teenage girl living in Florida when her father suddenly decided to move the family across the country to Topeka, Kansas. Why? He became enamored with the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, led by Pastor Fred Phelps. The church, famous for its pointedly offensive protests at major political and social events, dominates the lives of its followers in ways that go beyond normal church involvement. As Drain grew older, she began to see through the contradictions of the church, but knew that rejecting it would mean being ostracized by her family and having to live completely on her own. Her harrowing split from her family, friends and community is riveting, even shocking, reading.
Jenna Miscavige Hill is the niece of David Miscavige, current head of the Church of Scientology. Known mainly for its association with celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology promotes itself as a method for achieving spiritual growth and personal power. Jenna Hill grew up in the church and never knew life outside of it until her late teens. In Beyond Belief, she describes a childhood filled with hard labor and intensive study but little personal time, and a far different experience than espoused by the religion's more famous members. Her escape from Scientology's grip on her life is filled with intrigue and treachery, and her whole story is fascinating.
Brett @ Central