samedi, juillet 14, 2007

From pornographer to priest

More often than I like (which is never) I read about some character with apparently unrepented sleaze in his past (like a former Governor of New Jersey) who has chosen to become an Episcopalian...or, even more frightening, to study to become a priest!

It's bad enough half the world's Anglicans have consigned us to hell....but why do we need more hypocrites?

Ronald Boyer is someone I'm thrilled to have in the church. He's going to need our prayers. Pornography and sex can be very addictive--like too much alcohol or sugar. But can't you sense Jesus reaching out to him in a San Fernando movie set and saying-"Brother, it's time. Walk away and sin no more?"

His comments on the pornography industry are fascinating. I don't oppose pornography per se. But it offers temptations that may be dangerous for some who already struggle with their vulnerability.

Boyer's not quite out of his addictive world yet-but I so admire him for admitting he's broken, and for trying to find healing in the arms of the One who loves the people who confess they are broken-and didn't have a lot of time for those of us who feel we are whole already.

July 15, 2007-New York Times
Man of the Flesh to Man of the Cloth
OAK PARK, Calif.
SOME people have their midlife crisis in reverse, like Ronald Boyer, who for most of his professional life has been better known as a star of pornographic films, Rod Fontana.
After 30 years of sowing the wildest of oats, Mr. Boyer, 54, has searched his soul and chosen, to the surprise of family and colleagues, to seek a priesthood in the Episcopal Church.
From his work in the rented villas of the San Fernando Valley, where hard-core sex films are shot, he has moved just a short distance west, to the Church of the Epiphany, which is guiding his transformation from pornography star to preacher.
The psychic distance, however, has been vast. In January, the lumbering 6-foot-3 performer was greeting fans on the red carpet of the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, along with the superstars of pornography like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy.
In June, he was carrying the Holy Bible and a text titled “Gospel Light” to a live Internet show where he preached on the relative evils of pornography. “Is pornography a sin?” he asked on the show, which is aimed at people in the sex industry. “Probably. Definitely,” he answered, a response that reflected his own ambivalence as much as a desire not to alienate his audience. “So is eating carrot cake until you’re sick to your stomach,” he continued. “And so is punching somebody in the face. That’s a sin.”
Mr. Boyer’s embryonic ministry, devoted to bringing spiritual comfort to those marginalized by the sex industry, is driven by his deep faith and by a medical crisis that threatened the life of his child. But it is a work in progress, fraught with the contradictions and internal struggles of a man leaving behind a livelihood that was central to his identity.
He has tired of performing in sex movies, but even now doesn’t condemn it. “Not one time did Jesus refer to pornography, or homosexuality,” he observed on the Internet show, which he began as a co-host in May. “Jesus could have commented. He didn’t.”
Still, to pursue a new path as a religious leader, he had to make a clear choice. At the end of January, Mr. Boyer, who is married to a recently retired adult-film star, Liza Harper, announced his own retirement and gave up directing and performing in hard-core movies, he said, for good. “I don’t enjoy it anymore,” he said at the time.
Mr. Boyer’s embrace of Christianity was not a result of a bolt-from-the-blue conversion. It was a gradual awakening to spirituality, in part stirred by unsettling changes in the multibillion-dollar pornography industry, which has veered into extreme territory in search of new ways of selling sex.
His journey from one private corner of American society to another has, by chance, traced the contours of America’s experiment with sexual liberation to a return to more traditional values.
For Mr. Boyer, his path completes a circle. He grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist community in South Carolina, where he was baptized and pursued a penchant for preaching as a teenager. He studied history and religion at Southern Wesleyan University, but dropped out to join the Army and serve in Vietnam, where he was wounded.
Back home, he became a police officer and was offered a job in New York City in 1975, he said. But before he could start, the city went to the verge of bankruptcy and Mr. Boyer found himself unemployed. At that crucial moment an actor friend confided that he was making a living by appearing in pornographic films, and offered to get him involved.
“I did my first job,” Mr. Boyer recalled of that summer, 1976. The set was at 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, and there were tall ships on the Hudson River for the Bicentennial. “After that, I was hooked,” he said.
He liked the easy money, the sex, the camaraderie. He would not get rich performing in pornography, but he made a steady living.
Then, in the 1980s, he re-enlisted in the Army, he said, and served about a decade on active duty in what he called military intelligence.
A spokeswoman for the Army said Mr. Boyer was listed as having a rank of E-4 specialist, but she could not confirm any dates.
After the Army, Mr. Boyer returned to pornography, where he became known as “the colonel” for his military bearing. He had a reputation for sexual adventurousness. “Rod was one of the kinkiest guys I ever met,” said Urbano Martin, a director who has made many films with him. “I find it hard to believe he’s going to give this up. Rod is very addicted to the sex part of it.”
Asked about this, Mr. Boyer acknowledged, “When it comes to sexual acts, I’ll do anything.” But in recent years, he said, “my view of morality in this business has changed.”
He was speaking on the floor of the sex industry convention in Las Vegas last January, where he was interviewing people for a documentary about spirituality, and where, in a sign of the contradictions in his life, his wife had been nominated for best supporting actress in a sex film for 2006.
“When I got into porn,” Mr. Boyer said, “everyone in the business was kind to each other, loved each other, came together in crisis. It wasn’t some 1970s kumbaya, but people generally cared. Now you see devil signs, Satanism and horns everywhere.” He gestured at a passer-by with “Hail Satan” on his T-shirt. “That’s disturbing me a lot,” he said. “I see more of an evil influence in the business.”
He told anecdotes of being asked by directors to defile the flag or the Koran in sex scenes; he has resisted what he sees as a trend to choke or hit women during intercourse, or use what he considers degrading language.
Neil Malamuth, a psychology and communications professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies the effects of pornography, said a niche of the sex industry has become more extreme and even violent, though that was not true for the entire business.
“There are younger people who represent these extreme videos, who are trying to break in, find a niche, and they can’t make their money by just following what the older guys have done,” he said.
With no pension forthcoming after his career as a performer, Mr. Boyer is feeling economic pressure above all. He has renewed a private investigator’s license to make money while he pursues his religious avocation. And as recently as January, on the same day that he was making his documentary about spirituality, he still performed in a sex film.
At a shoot in a luxury suite at the hotel where the adult video convention was held, he watched a football game while a first-time performer, Gianna Ferrari, had sex with him. “My mind’s not there,” he said afterward.
The contradiction between giving up pornography and feeling its attraction was still apparent in June, four months after retiring. “I love sex,” he said. “I love performing. I love the combination of the two. I could go back and do it again, but I don’t think I would. I had a passion for that. I put it there. Now I’ve channeled my passion to a different place.”
Giving up pornography is only one step on a long, difficult road to becoming a priest. In February and March, Mr. Boyer studied at a religious retreat in Big Sur, then prayed at a cathedral in San Francisco. He returned to meet with his priest and with the second-ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton, to gain approval to establish a ministry among sex workers.
The process to priesthood will take several years. Mr. Boyer began by being confirmed in the Episcopal Church this year. He is undergoing training to become a deacon, which will allow him to conduct most aspects of ministering short of the sacraments. To become a priest, he must study in a seminary for approximately two years and his candidacy must be approved by the diocesan bishop.
J. Jon Bruno, bishop for the Los Angeles Diocese, said Mr. Boyer’s path to the priesthood would not be precluded by who he was. “I wouldn’t put up an immediate impediment because of someone’s past life,” he said. “There’s no exclusion in the gospel for anybody.”
The diocese is integrating Mr. Boyer at a time when the national leadership of the Episcopal Church has come to near schism with the global Anglican Communion over the decision to accept homosexuals in the clergy and to consecrate same-sex unions. In Los Angeles three congregations have left the diocese over the issue.
Now the diocese faces the challenge of welcoming an ex-performer with more than 300 hard-core movies to his credit, most of them with unprintable titles. (“Foot Hustle” is one exception, a tribute to Mr. Boyer’s foot fetish.) His embrace of Jesus is hardly the stuff of a tidy Sunday homily. Fellow parishioners at the Church of the Epiphany in Oak Park do not know about Mr. Boyer’s life in pornography, and the church leaders who do seem uncomfortable discussing it in depth.
“I am hoping he can bring hopefulness and a love of Christ to people who desperately need it,” said the Rev. Hank Mitchel, vicar of the church, on a recent Sunday after services.
There is one other element of Mr. Boyer’s story. He and his wife have a daughter, Diana, who at 11 months old came down with a deadly staph infection from an insect bite on her bicep. Doctors prepared to amputate the baby’s arm when she did not respond to several antibiotics. But at the last moment they found a new drug to which the baby responded.
The experience convinced both Mr. Boyer and Ms. Harper, who was raised Roman Catholic, that they wanted to be part of a church. It was a personal crisis that cemented Mr. Boyer’s decision to pursue a spiritual path.
He was rejected by several congregations before coming to Oak Park, he said. When Mr. Mitchel heard the story of their daughter, now a delicate 4-year-old, the vicar recalled, “I broke down in tears and said, ‘You are welcome here.’ ”
Get a sneak peak of the all-new

jeudi, juillet 12, 2007

Virtual Politics in the Real World

I bet a lot of you don't know that Japanese rules bar politicians from using the Internet and other electronic media during an election. I heard this intriguing piece of political multiculturalism on NPR today (lest you think I only get my news from NPR, I also hear the news on kid's pop stations now and again-in case I want to keep tabs on Justin, Britney and Rhianna).

From what I gather, these laws are old, much older than the Internet. Apparently the resistance to changing them has something to do with not wanting the other guy to be able to use those media. Apparently the Japanese also have great respect for the politicans-even many students seemed to feel that the laws should stay the way they are. Thus one saw the odd situation of a politician with a virtual office for his constituents on the website Second Life (remember cybersex on Second Life? See February 2007) who could not use it to campaign.

I wish we had more respect for our politicians. Maybe then they would have some respect for us.

lundi, juillet 09, 2007

Let's hear it for old-fashioned

I'm old fashioned
But I don't mind it
That's how I want to be
As long as you agree
To stay old fashioned with me

Kudos to the person who can tell readers who wrote this song!

Horrors in Iraq. Drought in our Southeast. Fire in the West. Hubris in Washington. A sycophantic Supreme Court.

Clergy who don't know when to shut up.

It's easy to get discouraged.

But wait, don't reach for the Xanax yet.

Stay old fashioned with me for a moment, gentle readers.

Like a lot of parents, I find that some of the best conversations with the kids happen in the car. It is a truism that kids will tell you their worries, dreams and felonies when they don't have to look you in the face. I dunno if that's true or not-my offspring don't seem to withhold at the dinner table or even in church on Sundays.

So it may have been an accident when Colin told me that he was only dating one girl now on Club Penguin-and had canceled the other ten girlfriends. I wasn't shocked by the ten girlfriends-he had told me about them previously. But who was the new girl who had stolen his affections?

Her name is Fluffy, said Colin. She said she was all alone, and no one would be her friend. So I told her I would be her friend. (Apparently dating on Club Penguin means going from house to beach, feeding Puffles and just hanging out).

So why did you decide to break up with all the other girls, I asked Colin. He's not even ten yet-what would he be like when he's fourteen?

Because, cackled his sister, she's the only one who would accept him.

Worried that Colin would be hurt, I quickly (and probably dangerously) turned back to Sian. Don't say things like that, it's mean. "But that's my job as an older sister," she said.

Brothers and sisters-some things never change.

And you know what's really outrageous? When he hears her say such things, Colin just grins. Somehow along the way, the kid bought his sister's spin-and I fear that there are times, when, amused by her audacity, I do, too.

dimanche, juillet 08, 2007

My Intell Article from Saturday

Create a teachable moment
By Elizabeth Intelligencer Journal
Published: Jul 07, 2007 12:01 AM EST
If you are a parent trying to raise your kids with spiritual values in a culture that doesn't support them, you know that teachable moments are often grabbed on the fly.
Summertime offers parents a chance to slow down and deliberately create those moments with their children.
A break from peer pressure (yours and theirs), these months offer you and your kids time to enjoy one another's company in ways that can open all of you up to intimacy with each other and with God.
Here's a recent example from my own family life:
I have an almost 10-year-old son, a freckle-faced boy who loves adventure stories, studies karate and still has a stuffed animal collection. When he is good, he is close to seraphic. When he is tired, hungry or mad at his sister he also acts like an angel — a fallen one.
Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to see both sides of his personality. Sitting by himself in the front of the church where I was preaching, he stood up at the right times, sat quietly through the sermon, came up to receive the Eucharist and was generally the model of a well-behaved child.
Driving out of the parking lot that morning, I complimented him on his church etiquette.
That afternoon was quite a different tale. Some of our older neighbors — well beloved and respected in our community — had invited us over for an afternoon of hiking in their woods.
Splashing in the creek was followed by afternoon tea on their porch — the perfect scene for polite conversation.
My son and his sister fought over the cookies, a guerrilla war that eventually resulted in his stalking out with the (unfortunately) spoken hope that he would never be asked to return.
"Your children must be a trial to you," said the husband sympathetically as I muttered my thanks and slunk toward my car, where said children were sitting in the back gobbling up Goldfish left over from some previous trip.
Ordinarily, I might have scribbled a quick e-mail apologizing for the children's appalling lack of comportment and left it at that.
This time I recognized the teachable moment — and seized it.
As soon as the children stepped through the door, out came the thank-you notes. As I recall, Colin's note read something like this: "Thank you for the nice time. I'm sorry I was rude. Please tell me what I can do to make it up to you."
Mulling over his note, I saw that, without naming them as such, Colin already knew some important things about life and about love.
He was repentant: He knew he'd screwed up.
He asked for forgiveness, which can only come out of a relationship in which repentance has occurred.
And he offered to make restitution.
We are a family that tries, sometimes with more success than others, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and His teachings. One child attends a parochial school, where prayer is integrated into the curriculum. I've spent evening prayer time with the other since he was small. My children have been part of their parents' church communities since they were infants.
But if kids don't have opportunities to integrate their values into the fabric of their lives, then all the sermons and youth group socials in the world will be like empty garments they can cast off when they leave our care.
There are lots of voices that offer alternatives to our faith communities.
Don't think that your child isn't hearing them.
With God's grace, you can be a resource for your children as they are seeking answers to life's big questions.
Take a values break this summer. Volunteer as a family.
Walk in the woods and talk about what you see.
Read a religious-themed book together.
Grasp that teachable moment and you will be laying the foundations in this world of competing voices and values, not only for a faith that goes the distance, but also for memories both you and your children will treasure.

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