Thursday, November 27, 2014

More of My Life in Show Business

This is Part Two of My Life is Show Business.  

My first actress, Shannon, who never got to perform the show before an audience, and me as Groucho (Dr. Hackenbush), one of the characters in Murder at Bunny & Clyde's, 1989.


***

In trying to piece together a living by working at what I loved and what God had called me to do, I had done singing telegrams, stand up comedy, and children's theater classes - but a regular and consistent annual income had alluded me.

Then I heard that a mansion in North St. Louis was offering comedy murder mystery dinner theater shows, shows that were performed by only two actors, with members of the audience playing bit parts.  The word on the street was that this team of two actors were making $75,000 a year between them doing this (which was impressive money in 1988, especially to a starving actor living hand to mouth like I was).

So I called this mansion and spoke with their manager, who told me that he was shopping around for a replacement for the current duo who were putting on these shows.  He comped me a pair of tickets to come see a performance, with the idea that perhaps I could take over.

The show was lame.  Not horrible, but lame.  Unfunny, stupid, confusing.  But the audience loved it and didn't seem to notice how much better it could have been.

"I could certainly do better than this," I told the manager.  So I went home and began to write what I called Foul Play at the World's Fair, a show that I eventually titled Murder at Bunny & Clyde's, our first murder mystery.

I based it on a script I had written for one of the children's theater shows I had directed a few months prior.  That script was a murder mystery parody that featured a bumbling detective who would hand people his business card every time he entered a room.  One of the scenes went like this ...

DETECTIVE:  You may formally announce me.  (hands a business card to the Butler)
BUTLER:  (reading card)  "Mr. Public Library".
DETECTIVE:  No, that's not it!  (reaches in his pocket for another card, hands it to the Butler)
BUTLER:  (reading card)  "This Garment Inspected by Number Six".
DETECTIVE:  No, no, that's not it!  (searches for another card in his pocket)

Anyway, that's the one bit that made it to Murder at Bunny & Clyde's, and it's a bit that we're still doing today, when we perform the show all these years later.

So I wrote this script in the spring of 1988 and sent a copy to the manager at this mansion / dinner theater.  He asked me to take out some of the more risque parts (which he thought his audience would find offensive), but he told me he liked the script a lot and he wanted me to find an actress and start producing shows for them.

I was thrilled, found an actress, started looking for costumes, began having rehearsals, and called the manager back two weeks later to nail down the details.  "Oh, he doesn't work here any more.  He was fired on Tuesday," I was told.

"But ... but he wanted me to take over for your current cast!" I exclaimed.

"I don't think the owner was aware of that, but I'll have the new manager get back to you when we hire one."

Of course I never heard back.

***

So that fizzled up.

Meanwhile, I got hired to play the Fool at the Royal Dumpe Dinner Theater, and made money every weekend doing that, while delivering flyers door to door during the week, putting ads for pizza and cleaning services on people's door knobs while avoiding passing out from the summer heat or getting bitten by dogs.  I didn't tell people I made most of my money delivering flyers.  I told them I was an "Advertising Distribution Specialist".

Meanwhile, I kept trying to sell dinner theater shows to restaurants around the metro area.  In the fall of 1989, a guy called me from a restaurant in St. Charles and told me that he had a business who wanted a dinner theater show for their private Christmas party, which was to be held at the restaurant.  Did I have anything that would work?

"Oh, sure!" I said, pulling the script I had written out of a drawer.  "I've got this murder mystery I wrote.  People love it!"  Of course, no "people" had seen it, other than on paper.

The actress I had cast a year and a half prior was no longer interested in working with me, so I had to find another one.  I did and her name was Delia and she made it clear to me from the get go that she was a legitimate actress, that she had done lots of legitimate theater, and that this kind of low brow dinner theater was way beneath her and her abilities.

Delia and I learned our lines, rehearsed (in those days I actually used to rehearse) and performed Murder at Bunny & Clyde's (which I told the restaurant manager was called The Yuletide Homicide, since we were doing it at a Christmas party) for the first time on December 17, 1989 (which happens to be the night The Simpsons premiered - and we're both still going strong).

In those days we had little songs in the shows - but only for that first performance.  The audience was a bunch of 20 - 30 year old guys who worked at a construction company, and when we sang our first song, they just looked at us like we were gay.  But one of the audience members who played a bit role in the show was one of the cute secretaries at the office, and that alone made everybody happy.

All in all, it was better than the mystery I had seen at the mansion, but not by much.  Not lame, but hobbling.

In the car on the way back, Delia kept telling me what a great actress she was, how many professional and legitimate shows she had been in, how this kind of stuff was really sort of beneath her, and how she was hoping to get a lot more work elsewhere doing legitimate theater, and so forth.

For the next five years, I did this show a handful of times every Christmas season for private parties, enough so that I was able to figure out how to do it well.  It began to dawn on me that if I made the characters bold and extreme and funny and if I ad libbed a lot, people really liked this show and really liked me.  The key seemed to be to play lots of different roles and only to say things that I myself thought were funny - and that if I did this, I would have a lot of fun and the audience would have a lot of fun right along with me.

***

I had discovered a show biz gimmick, a format, that somehow perfectly suited my odd combination of talents - writing, producing, comedy, improv, comedic acting.  More than that, I had discovered something that would provide for me and my family for the next 25 years and more.

But I had to go halfway around the world and get kicked in the groin to learn that lesson.

More on that in the next installment.




"Affection at a Distance" vs. The Point of the Piercing of Christ



There is nothing cheaper than affection at a distance.

We can love the poor, as long as we don't have to deal with them up close.  We can love our neighbor, as long as he stays on his side of the privacy fence.

And we can love God as long as He's not among us, as long as He's up there in heaven minding His own business and letting us show Him the cheapest of all of our charades, the shameful sham of "affection at a distance".  And if you don't know what that kind of false display looks like, go to most suburban Masses, where we're all busy congratulating ourselves on how wonderfully we love this God that we refuse to learn the first thing about, this God who can't make demands on us and who can't love us to the point of changing us because we've made sure we've kept Him so very far way.

And don't for a minute think that Devout Catholics are incapable of this.  In fact, for many Devout Catholics, our very Devotion is an elaborate exercise at keeping the Spirit at bay.

We see this a lot with Theater of the Word Incorporated, this insulting display of "affection at a distance".  "Oh, we absolutely love the work you do, but there's no way we can pay you to do it.  It's so important, this work that you're doing, but of course we don't want you at our parish.  I'm so glad you're doing a pro-life play, but it's not the kind of thing we think an audience will actually watch, you understand."

In fact, I've known parents who "love" their children so much they ship them off to boarding schools, day cares, even residential treatment facilities, simply to keep them out of their hair.  Like C & E Catholics, who only go to Mass on Christmas and Easter, there are a ton of C & E parents out there, who keep a very safe distance from the mess of engaging in the lives of their sons and daughters.

So, as I say, there is nothing cheaper than "affection at a distance".

And yet ... and yet ... we ought to tremble.  For Scripture addresses this very issue.

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev. 1:7)
And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (John 19:37)

St. John is referring to an Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah, which itself echoes a lamentation in the Psalms, both of which mysteriously refer to a suffering servant "pierced" by the unrighteous, who at some mysterious time are forced to gaze in astonishment at the damage they have done, at the "piercing" they have been a party to.  This prophecy is literally fulfilled at the crucifixion, when the hands and feet of our Lord are publicly pierced and displayed, and when His side is pierced for all to see by a lance after His death.  It's also fulfilled figuratively in the "piercing" of the heart of Jesus and His mother by our sins and by His suffering.

In fact, when the infant Jesus is presented at the temple, this figurative piercing is not only prophesied again, but is put into context by Simeon the Prophet ...

"Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed [spoken against, contradicted] -- and a sword will pierce even your own soul-- to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:34-35)

The piercing, then, penetrates not only the flesh of Jesus and the hearts of Jesus and Mary, but penetrates our own souls as well.  The "end", the "point" of this piercing, of this penetration, is the revelation of our own hearts.  And it is indeed a penetrating experience.

For this is not only a one-time event, it happens at the end of the age, it happens when Christ returns and the present creation crumbles away.

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

We are glib about this Second Coming.  Jesus, we are told, is a cool dude, and though His Second Coming will be the Last Judgment, He's not judgmental or anything like that.  We'll all get into heaven, after all, won't we?  We are all people of good intentions.

But we are not people of good intentions.  We are traitors.  We screw our neighbors every day, even our close friends, even our spouses, for trivial reasons - for convenience, for advantage, for comfort.  We do horrible things to one another and we keep telling ourselves that everything's OK because we all have the best of intentions.  We all "mean well".

But there will come a moment for each of us - a moment of horror and shame - a moment when we will beg the mountains and the hills to fall on us and hide us (Rev. 6:16, Hos. 10:8, Luke 23:30), a moment when we will look on Him whom we have pierced.  And we will wail on account of Him.

For in His wounds, we will see what we have done.





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's Your "Unreality of Choice"?



Richard's comment in response to Rosemary at a recent post is worth repeating here.  In short, we love whistle blowers and truth tellers, as long as they tell the truth we're comfortable with hearing and blow the whistle on the other guy.

Rosemary, it astounds me, as someone who is not "right wing" to hear progressives dismiss whistleblowers as "nuts" simply because they are not "our kind" of whistleblowers. 
Why is that one can narrate the excesses of greed to include over-the-top stories of double shift brokers spending their lavish earnings on hooker and cocaine binges or even resort to making money by manipulating California's energy grid and we don't call those "stories from nuts like this who fit their narrative"? Why, even if these are excessive examples, do we understand that mammon corrupts, and does so in a variety of ways?
Open your eyes. The social construct isn't male-female, it's MSM and FSF, a social construct for the 21st century. Tell me, what is crazier, the idea that men and women complement one another, or the so-called sexual evolution you speak of which attempts to recast reality to include relationships which themselves are modeled after the male-female patterns of relationships?
It seems obvious. Or so it should. But we don't like the kind of whistleblowers that shoot down our narrative. We pigeon-hole them as supporting one position or the other. All of us love whistleblowers, so long as they do not destroy the narrative of whatever political ideology we seem to hold. So let's ignore the commodifying wrought by surrogacy, let's label children of divorce or same-sex households as well-adjusted or bratty if they are not. 
At the end of the day, the popes were right. The Church is right. And both left and right are stuck with elephants in the room they avoid looking at all costs.

As Richard points out, the bizarre fiction that MSM (men who have sex with men) and FSF (females who have sex with females) is both normal and healthy is a fiction that rests on gay sex and gay relationships aping and imitating straight sex and straight relationships, without which "gays" would have nothing to imitate - and indeed would not even have been born into the world to imitate.  The left will buy into this fiction and ignore the elephant in the room - the disturbing reality of what the gay lifestyle and gay psychology is for most gays - because it's the Unreality of Choice for "progressives".

Meanwhile, the bizarre fiction that the unfettered crony capitalism that ends up controlling government and enslaving workers is somehow a great mark of liberty and the lifeblood (rather than the leech on the lifeblood) of America is held by those on the right who ignore their own elephant in the room - the disturbing reality of what Hudge and Gudge (Big Government and Big Business) are doing to the free world and to the lives of ordinary people - because it's the Unreality of Choice for "conservatives".

Meanwhile, the right loves the whistleblowers who expose the seedy side of unrestrained perversion, and the left loves the whistelblowers who expose the seedy side of unrestrained greed.

But we never want to see the elephant that's sitting right there beside us.

(By the way, this is all in response to this video, which blows the whistle on one of the elephants in the one of the living rooms, thereby infuriating a great many people)


Conferences, Performances and Events in 2015

In addition to the murder mystery dinner theater shows, which I perform somewhere in the U.S. every weekend, you can catch me doing things that are a bit more dignified, such as ...

***

The St. Louis Marian Conference, Jan. 9 - 11, 2015.  I'll be speaking on Bl. John Henry Newman.  Also at the conference will be Dale Ahlquist of the American Chesterton Society and Deacon Jack Sullivan, the recipient of the official miracle that led to Newman's Beatification.

Frank C. Turner as John Henry Newman and me as Bl. Dominic Barberi at Littlemore, Newman's retreat in England.


***

In March, Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, Chuck Chalberg, Brian Daigle and I will be featured at the First Ever Louisiana Chesterton Conference, to be held at Chesterton Square in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.  

Here's a two-minute video promoting the event that's well worth watching.




***

In April, my Theater of the Word actors and I will be appearing with Joseph Pearce at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee as the Center for Faith and Culture hosts its first ever Shakespeare Festival.  We will be performing scenes from Hamlet, as explicated by Joseph Pearce on April 25.

Theater of the Word actors in a scene from The Quest for Shakespeare on EWTN.


***

In September, Joseph Pearce and I will be appearing at the Rochester Chesterton Conference in Rochester, NY as well as at the first ever Inklings Conference in Nashville, TN at the Center for Faith and Culture.  I will be appearing as J.R.R. Tolkien lecturing on Fairy Stories.  I'll provide more details as we get closer.

Me as J.R.R. Tolkien in the Hobbit Hole with author Joseph Pearce.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pandemonium

Please pray for my city, St. Louis, and our suburb Ferguson.  CNN is catching only the tip of the iceberg.  Looting and fires set all over the metro area at this point.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Show Business and Faith: Scraping, Scrapping and Scrambling

On Dec. 17, 2014 I will celebrate 25 years of performing my own murder mystery dinner theater shows.  So for the next 25 days, I'll mark the 25 years with 25 stories of my life in show business - and (believe it or not), how it all relates to the Faith.  I'll try to keep it clean.

***

The mystery of vocation was always present to me, in a penetrating and painful way, even before I considered myself a Christian.

You see, I was called to a life in show business - which is a way of saying that I had a deep desire to take words on the printed page and flesh them out in dramatic performance - to incarnate or incorporate the word (which is why our theater troupe is called Theater of the Word Incorporated).  I knew this was a vocation because I wasn't happy doing anything else.  In fact, I was certain it was a vocation because I couldn't hold down a day job.  I was quite literally constitutionally unable to actually work for a living.

This led to a great deal of hardship in my life.  But I had to be true to what God had made me for, even in those dark days when I didn't believe in God.  It's funny how that worked, but even when I wasn't sure there was a God or who God was, I knew that I was dealing with a kind of God-thing in my life: something bigger than I was, and something I couldn't alter or say no to without finding myself utterly miserable.  And that thing was my desire to perform.

And so I would scrap and scramble and scrape together a living - either acting or playwriting or directing or producing or singing or telling jokes, or a combination of all of the above.  For 34 years I've been supporting myself in show business - all of my adult life - which probably only 1% of all actors are lucky enough to say they have done.  If I hadn't loved it all and been compelled to do it - theater, comedy, acting, show biz - I would have given up long ago, as it can be a very demanding and sometimes thankless profession.  And yet - what a blessing it all has been!


The jacket monogram says, "Singing Telegrams" - that's me, 1981.


Beginning in 1981, when I was only 20 and still living with my mom and dad, I got hired to do singing telegrams.  Over the next five years, while the singing telegram fad was hot, I performed over 3,000 singing telegrams across the St. Louis area - dressed in a gorilla costume, or as a super-hero, or as the "birthday fairy", or in a simple red tuxedo.  These singing telegrams were like guerrilla theater (or gorilla theater, if I had the monkey suit on).  I'd barge into a restaurant or a bowling alley or an office, blow a slide whistle, and get everyone to listen to me and laugh for five or ten minutes as I told jokes and embarrassed the telegram recipient, doing a short stand up comedy routine that ended with a song.  I learned how to improvise, how to judge a crowd, how to cut or pad on the fly, and how to put up with the unexpected rigors of getting the check and not getting killed (the two things that make for a good show).  I did quite well with singing telegrams, loved every minute of it, and managed to move out on my own and make what was a lot of money for a young guy in those days.

I would come into a public place dressed in a business suit, like Clark Kent.  I would call out for the birthday girl, stand her up and then rip off my suit (which was held together by Velcro) to reveal a super hero costume underneath.  Here's the grand finale of a super hero singing telegram delivered to a lady celebrating her birthday in a restaurant.


After the fad died out, I tried my best to get work doing other non-show biz "real job" stuff, but I simply couldn't.  It got to a point where I had depleted all my savings and was spending a jar of pennies that my grandma had given me, and using that to buy food.

But, right on the verge of starvation, I got a gig doing stand up comedy at a local night club.  I was the house comic, and I was making enough to support myself.  This was the hardest thing I ever did in show business (nothing is harder than standing on stage alone with a mic and trying to make people laugh), but it paid the bills until one night when the night the club owner got drunk and got mad and threw all of his customers out onto the street, cursing at them and telling them never to come back.  He was boarded up and locked the next day.  Nobody knows what set him off - other than how drunk he was.

Me, the River, the Boat.

So I went back to starving, and the pennies soon ran out, and I was getting desperate, when all of a sudden I got a good paying gig to work as an MC on a riverboat that went on daily dinner cruises up and down the Missouri River in St. Charles.  I got hired to tell a few jokes and sing some songs with the band and greet people as they walked on and walked off before each cruise.  So I got some material together and rehearsed and was all geared up to go - but three days before the first cruise, my agent called me and said (in an off-handed way), "The boat owner wants a magician to go table to table during dinner and perform close up magic.  So I told him you'd do it."

"But I'm not a magician!  And there's no way I can do close-up stuff!" I protested.

"Go out and buy some tricks and practice.  You've got three days," my agent replied.

So I did and spent the next year as a comic-singing-MC who went table to table and did close up magic - with no clue as to what I was doing, but I bought tricks that were impressive and easy to do, so it worked.

Me as Professor Palladium, entertaining with feats of close up magic.  Smoke and mirrors, indeed.


Then that gig ended and the next thing I knew I was starving again.  But right when the wolf was at the door (I could hear him panting and I refused to let him in), I manged to find a local theater that wanted somebody to run a children's acting program for them, and I spent the next three years teaching and directing children's theater with actors ranging in age from 5 to 16 years old.  I ran the entire program myself, and did everything from marketing to set building to lighting to sound to teaching and directing to playing piano for the musical numbers.  But most especially, I wrote the plays.

I found that there were very few good children's theater plays out there, and that most of my students (especially the teens) would be bored and unmotivated by the kind of awful things we'd buy from Samuel French or Dramatist's Play Service and try to produce.  However, I discovered something.  All I had to do was ask each class for suggestions on the story they wanted to tell and the characters they wanted to play, and then I'd go home and write scripts based on their suggestions.  The kids loved this.  It motivated them and brought the whole process to life.  Suddenly they were rehearsing and performing shows that they liked, that they had helped to create, and that they took pride in.  It was a great teaching tool for them.

And for me, as it taught me how to write for the stage.  There is nothing better than writing something that you see performed before your eyes.  You suddenly learn what works and what doesn't.  You learn how to write for specific casts and levels of talent.  You learn how to cut and rewrite the material that's not working.  And - since this was simply children acting - I learned that it was safe to take risks, because it was safe to be bad.  No matter how bad my scripts were, the parents would love the shows, since it was their sweet darlings up there on stage!

When I started the program, the theater had a total of 6 students enrolled in their children's theater classes.  By the time I left, three years later, I had built the program to a total of 72 students in four different classes, each producing a different script that I wrote, based on suggestions the actors had made.

And it was one of those scripts - based on student suggestions - that led to my first murder mystery.

But more on that next time, in which I will also tell the story of when I toured with four young ladies, doing a show I wrote that we performed at military bases overseas (I refer to this as the Kick in the Groin Tour - and there's a reason for that).  I will also talk about the day my wife said to me, "You have to get out of show business.  I can't live like this.  This has to end."  That was 21 years ago, and I'm still hanging on and hoping she hasn't noticed that I ignored her completely.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Radio Appearance



This coming Sunday, Nov. 23, at 1:00 pm U.S. Central Time, I will be a guest on Catholic Kaleidoscope, which airs live on Radio Maria.  The show is hosted by Catholic author Alyssa Bormes.  I have no idea what we're going to discuss, but Alyssa has a good sense of humor, so it could be anything!

You can listen live on the radio if you live in a market that broadcasts the Radio Maria programming, or you can listen live online, or even wait and listen to the archived recording from your computer or smart phone at your convenience.  More information and a list of archived shows is here.

***

ADDENDUM - This was a great interview!  I just finished it.  We had a lively and engaging discussion on my conversion, on drama, on G K Chesterton, on vocations, and on lots of things!  I'll put the podcast up when they archive it.




Potential, Perfection and the Heresy of Inconsequentialism



Our Faith is made to be brought to life in a certain way.  Our Faith is not designed to be shut up and suffocated, placed on a shelf like other dry and dead things.  Our Faith is like a seed, a seed that is designed and programmed to bring forth a certain kind of life in a certain kind of way.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any force, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love. (Gal. 5:6)

Other translations, instead of "faith working through love" say "faith expressing itself through love", which is a far weaker rendering of what appears to be the force of the original Greek.

ἀλλὰ
but only
Conj
4102 [e]
pistis
πίστις
faith
N-NFS
1223 [e]
di’
δι’
through
Prep
26 [e]
agapēs
ἀγάπης
love
N-GFS
1754 [e]
energoumenē
ἐνεργουμένη  .
working
V-PPM-NFS










"Working" in this interlinear translation stands for the word energoumene "ἐνεργουμένη", which is related to our English word "energy".  These words, then, can almost be rendered,

"Faith which makes itself alive and active in love" / "Faith which is operative in love" / "Faith which is perfected in love."

Indeed, one of the commentaries on this verse says ...

The apostle, therefore, by the words, πίστις δι ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη means not, "faith through love doing works of beneficence,' 'but "faith evincing its vitality and power through the love which it begets in us;" "faith by love operative and influential.' 'Love is not contemplated as a separate acting of the Spirit, added on to faith as it were by an extrinsic effort of the soul, but as a product of faith itself, by which faith exerts its own internal energy.

In other words, there is something in the nature of Faith that, if allowed to bloom, becomes alive in love.  James tells us that "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17), which is to say that unless Faith "energizes" and is allowed to give life as Love, it is like a seed which does not take root.  Dead things lead to nothing; living things lead to surprising things; living things "express themselves" by becoming what is implicit in them.

But we prefer dead things.  This is the age of Sterility writ large. We are Inconsequentialists these days.  We all share in the mindset of the heresy of Inconsequentialism, which denies that one thing leads to another.  Not only is it beyond us to imagine that Faith, when living, becomes Love; we find it hard to imagine that anything leads to anything else, that there are Consequences built into the nature of reality.  Reality, for us, is make believe.  It is Unreal.  It is a handy fiction we create to suit ourselves.

At the heart of this is the denial of sin.  For sin is simply that human act that leads to enslavement and death.  And those are Consequences we'd rather not see.

This all goes back to the interesting discussion some of my readers and I were having with Harry, my blog reader from Wales.  (See the post and the comments here).  Harry was claiming that the movie about Joseph Sciambra (the ex-gay porn star who is now a devout Catholic) was kind of like Reefer Madness, the B-movie from the old days that tried to shock people away from marijuana by making absurd and extreme claims about the effects of using the drug.  Harry's point was that there are many faithful Catholics who take pride in identifying themselves as "gay", though they struggle to remain celibate, as the Church calls them to do, and that a movie about the life of a man that was filled with the lurid side of the gay porn industry of San Francisco, complete with satanism and other horrors, is not the best way to evangelize others and ignores the dignity of these apparently celibate but self-proclaimed "gay" Catholics.

My response was hard for me to articulate.  But it really came down to this.

Everything has a telos, an end for which it is designed, a perfection toward which it tends.  The telos of a human sperm and a human egg is a new living man or woman.  The telos of the acorn is the oak.  The telos of love is life.

And the proper end, the perfection as it were, of Same Sex Attraction is the hell that Joseph Sciambra led - tremendous promiscuity, mutual abuse, violence, drug abuse, sexually transmitted disease, and the objectification of the human person in pornography and in other ways.  This is not to say that all cases of Same Sex Attraction lead to these things, but it is to say that they tend to because that's the "perfection" inherent in the desire itself.

Here are some examples from what I wrote in the comment box at that post to illustrate what I mean ...

There seems to be a movement afoot that's analogous to the Westian movement. I would call it a kind of "grooming" or "slippery slope" - but "grooming" is really what it is. If your homosexual neighbors keep their lawn nice, how bad can they be? And if they are good people (and of course most of them are), then how bad can same sex attraction be? And if same sex attraction is not bad in itself, then how bad can acting on it be? 
 ***
Gay men are much more promiscuous than straight me, for example. I have written before on this blog of a high school friend I had who confessed to me that he was gay and admitted to having dozens of encounters every weekend in the men's room of the truck stop where he worked, from the age of 16 or so on. Most high school guys I knew then had maybe one or two sexual encounters by the time we graduated; my gay friend had had hundreds. 
In addition, I've got plenty of anecdotal life experience to draw on, especially as I've been in show business all of my life. Every gay actor I ever hired or worked with was extremely promiscuous, prone to depression and sometimes quite willing to act selfishly and leave his other actors in a lurch if the mood struck him. 
Of course the crux here is my contention that the disorder itself (the temptation - the sexual attraction to your same sex) has the seeds to lead to what Sciambra experienced. In fact, his life is the natural conclusion to where that's headed. In the same way that all unrepented sin leads to slavery and to death and ultimately to hell, so this temptation to [this kind of] sin is a temptation to exactly that.
I've mentioned before that my sin of choice would be adultery, if I ever decided to give in to the temptation. I've known a lot of adulterers. Are some able to cheat and be happy? Are some able to leave their wives and find contentment with the other woman? Are they all troubled by their consciences? Of course, you can find happy, well adjusted adulterers, but at least here in the States adultery goes hand in hand with a wake of misery - both for the children, the spouse, and even for the adulterer. There's a pattern you see in guys who cheat. You can spot what the decision to cheat will ultimately do to them and their families, even if a few specific cases don't fall quite as far.
My biggest point here is while we must love gays and not harass them, while they must have equal rights and have our respect for being fellow humans made in the image and likeness of God, while we must always acknowledge that this particular cross to bear is something those of us not bearing it have no business judging or being smug about - that while all of these things are true, the attraction itself will lead to pain and suffering. That's why it's a sin.
Look at the attraction to porn. It's a temptation every man alive experiences. But Sciambra is quite right - the use of porn leads to addiction, and to tolerance, to the need for more and more degraded images, and often to acting out with others on the lust that pornography stokes.
Does this mean that every man who uses porn becomes a perverted porn addict, whose ability to relate to women becomes compromised? Of course not. In fact, most don't experience anything that extreme. 
But we know that this is where porn leads. We know that playing with it is like playing with a loaded gun. That's why neither you nor any sane person would emphasize the good that's in pornography - though the Christopher West crew tends to do just that. We know that, even though the use of porn won't necessarily destroy your life (or send you to hell), it has the potential to, and in fact that's where it's made to lead you to.
 
It's hard to articulate these things because we've forgotten that everything that exists has a perfection toward which it tends - and the perfection of sin is death, the eternal death and horror of hell.

And at the very least to a hell on earth.

In the case of Joseph Sicambra, that's exactly where it led, and that's exactly where it's designed to lead.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

World's Best Headline

There's certainly more to this story, and I don't mean to make light of the pain this man caused those who care for him, but this is a classic headline and story.

Missouri man who took out the trash and never came back found in Branson

5 hours ago  •  
3
CADET, Mo.   •  An eastern Missouri man has been found safe, more than a month after he was reported missing.
The Daily Journal newspaper in Park Hills reports that Gerrial Stone, 65, of Cadet in Washington County, was found alive and well Tuesday at an apartment complex in Branson. He had been missing since Oct. 6 when he took out the trash and never returned.
Washington County Sheriff Andy Skiles says Branson police went to the apartment and confirmed it was Stone. Skiles says Stone apparently wanted a new start.

Gay Catholic Good Great Gay Hooray!



It's taken me a while, but I think I'm beginning to understand how people think (or don't think) on the internet.

Yesterday I posted a very powerful movie that tells the true story of how an ex-gay porn star escaped the hell that the world of gay porn is.  And I knew, I simply knew, what one of the comments would be, if I got any.

The comment would be, "Of course, this story is shocking and disturbing, but it's not typical!  There are plenty of good things going on among gay people!"  I really should have written the comment and posted it myself, saving Annonymous the trouble, who wrote ...

Sorry Kevin, but I think your approach to homosexuality is a perfect example of unreality in action. 
I think there's a temptation for us loyal Catholics to take Sciambra's experience as definitive for all gay people because it tells us exactly we want to hear.
It would be difficult to deal with the gay issue if we had to acknowledge anything of value in the relationship of gay couples. Much easier to dismiss it all as lies, lust and demonic temptation.
The trouble with this is that it pretty obviously isn't true. Happy gay couples are not logical contradictions, and insisting that this is the case only makes us look like fools.
I think the Church's teaching with regard to gay people is perfectly clear - they must remain celibate. That may not be what many of them want to hear, true, but that's the deal if you want to be a faithful Catholic.
I don't see why, in addition to that, we also have to insist that homosexual people aren't REALLY gay, they must never use that word and they also need to subject themselves to crank psychologists in order to heal themselves of their sinful desires.
Read gay Catholics like Gabriel Blanchard, Melinda Selmys and Eve Tushnet - what makes their stories inauthentic? Did they not experience the REAL gay subculture, in the same way that because you or I have never attended a strip club, dabbled in swinging or picked up a prostitute we have never REALLY experienced straight culture?

The only thing Anonymous didn't do while insisting on the Good of Gay was to point out all the good things about pornography, and how we won't get anywhere as Catholics until we admit that porn has some good elements, the way Christopher West and his followers do. I wonder why Anonymous didn't do that.  Is it because we're still ashamed of pornography and what it does to us?  Is it because any normal person knows that there's a good in pornography that draws us to it - but that seeking that good in that particular shady and shameful way is nothing to brag about?

Of course there's good in both gay sex and porn.  That's why people seek them.  Catholic theology (and common sense) is clear on that.  We seek the good in things, even things that are not, ultimately, ordered toward a greater good.

But I'll let the Ex Gay Porn Star himself answer the "gay Catholic good great gay hooray!" that Anonymous seems to be pushing - even while Anonymous is admitting that celibacy somehow trumps it. Anonymous brings up Eve Tushnet.  Joseph Sciambria says of Eve Tushnet ...

I have serious reservations about how she has chosen to deal with her own homosexuality - and more importantly, what she is recommending to others. 
First of all, the problem starts right off in the title of the book itself: “Accepting My Sexuality..;” this is not “my sexuality,” and it is not your sexuality, it’s a wounded condition. In fact, it’s not a sexuality at all, as the Catechism rightly states - it’s a “disorder.” And, as the Sacred Congregation wrote, in its “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:” the inclination itself “…is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” Therefore to “accept” homosexuality is to accept a moral evil. 
Secondly, Tushnet disturbingly writes: “I’m in no sense ex-gay. In fact, I seem to become more lesbian with time—college was my big fling with bisexuality, my passing phase…” While I completely understand her ambivalence towards embracing the Catholic ex-gay therapy movement, by the way - which I highly recommend (in particular: Dr. Joseph Nicolosi,) I am gravely worried by her admonition that she has become “more lesbian.”

He continues ...

I am proud to state that I found absolutely nothing “beautiful” in gay life. Now, there were moments when it seemed real and took on an illusion of beauty, such as when I held the hand of my dear friend dying at age 26 of AIDS, and his face became so peaceful and angelic after death, but later the certainty of it all hit me: the waste, the pointlessness of his death, and the continuing tally of other boys contracting HIV. In fact, I think Tushnet is fooled by the phantasms in gay culture because she has surrounded herself within a tiny enclave of intellectual gay elites who have all lost touch with the actuality of what it is to be gay in the modern world.

This is a man who paid the price, who followed the "gay culture" to where it actually and eventually leads.

For someone to have watched his video (which Anonymous may or may not have done) and to reply with, "Yes, BUT there's good there too!" is astonishing.

It would be like reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and saying, "But not all slaves were unhappy, you know!"

And yet ... this is the way the internet works.  Because the internet merely reflects how Sin Makes You Stupid.

***

My friends, we are to love gays and to recognize that we are all sinners like they are.  But we are all more than our sins.  Our sins do not define us.  Our "sexual orientations", our sinful inclinations, are not who we are.  I am more than an "adulterer in my heart", more than a coward, more than an egomaniac, more than a man who has been at times very well acquainted with pornography.  I am proud of none of those "orientations".  They will all lead to misery on this earth and perhaps to a kind of hell both now and later.  They are all sins or inclinations to sin, and they are all leading me to slavery.  Yes, not all slaves are unhappy all the time, and good can be found anywhere.

But if we don't call a spade a spade, or a sin a sin, we're doomed.  I have not lived through the hell that Joseph Sciambra has, but I have lived through other hells - and they were hells I built for myself through sin, and they led me to the kind of suicidal despair that Sciambra felt.  I too know whereof I speak.  And I can say with the authority of a dead man (for that stuff killed me), that to see sins for anything other than what they are  is to invite disaster.

Let us have the courage to be men.  And women.  Let us stare the devil in the face and call that liar out for who he is.  If we can't do that, we can never begin to love God or to love our neighbors.  We can never begin to get real.

***

ADDENDUM - When Anonymous argues that gay sex no more leads to the hell that Sciambra describes than "straight sex" leads to strip clubs and swinging, he's being an Inconsequentialist.  He's simply refusing to see the inherent consequences of an act that's ordered toward a greater good and compare them with the inherent consequences of an act that's not.  One of the reasons the Church teaches that certain things are intrinsically evil or disordered by their nature is that they have built in hellish consequences, while acts that are not intrinsically evil or disordered do not have built in hellish consequences, unless these good acts are indulged in to a point that changes their nature (as when mere sexual desire, which leads to love, marriage and the family becomes lust, which leads to objectification, abuse, and hell on earth - such as the strip club culture) or are sought in circumstances that are forbidden or perverse (i.e., per-verse, turned-away from proper order - such as swinging).  But can one even make a distinction like this with someone who is not arguing in good faith?  Honestly, if Anonymous watched Sciambra's movie and can only reply, "It's not that bad", and proceed to lecture me for being "Unreal" in the face of the reality that Sciambra endured (as well as in the face of the reality of God's grace that rescued Sciambra), then Anonymous is not interested in clear thinking on the nature of actions and their built-in consequences.  It's like listening to a beautiful symphony and complaining about the scuff marks on the trombonist's shoes.  You can't understand basic moral theology if you've lost all perspective.

But, as I say, sin makes you stupid.  And rationalizing sin makes you really stupid.

***

ADDENDUM 2 - In addition to the comments below (which are worth reading - for a change!), I try to articulate my argument more clearly here.


Upcoming TV Appearances



My actress Maria Romine writes ...

It's almost Advent and once again EWTN is airing A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS and THE SURPRISE.

A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS will air December 20 at 10pmDecember 21 at 3amDecember 24 at 6pm  and December 25 at 10am 

THE SURPRISE will air December 24 at 1pm and December 26 at 3am

All showtimes are listed at EST.

TOLKIEN'S "THE LORD OF THE RINGS"-ELVES, HOBBITS AND MEN will be on EWTN on December 14th at 9pm (EST) and December 16th at 5pm (EST)


I'm in all of these shows, and the Tolkien special is a new one.
 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ex-Gay Porn Star Escapes from Hell

Here is a very powerful witness to God's grace and to the evils of the pornography industry and the "gay lifestyle".  It is a difficult video to watch.  It's very well made and quite simple, but it's disturbing.  It points out the great lie-du-jour in a very effective way.




Joseph Sciambra on his website reveals that he's a solidly orthodox Catholic who does not buy in to any of the "gay Catholic" nonsense that's out there.  When you've paid the kind of price he's paid, you're in no mood to play along with the make-believe.

And, to the great shame of Catholic Media, Sciambra notes, "I have been doing this for several years, no Catholic television media outlets have wanted to work with me, but these good non-Catholic Christians did [the ones who produced this video] - and, I think that speaks a lot for them." 

Thanks to Joseph Sciambria for his witness and thanks be to God for his infinite mercy.