I Saw the light!
by Joe Mont
Soon, in what has become an annual rite of autumn, you will see fresh-scrubbed folks, clipboards in hand, wandering the streets of the Back Bay in search of participants for "a personality test."
For anyone unfamiliar with the drill, they are Scientologists, followers of the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, a mediocre science fiction writer who boasted that he could easily create his own religion -- and then made good on the threat.
I'll save you some time. Should you take the "test" being offered, you will inevitably learn that you have deep-rooted problems that can only be cured by reading Hubbard's meaning-of-life treatise "Dianetics," and undergoing church training, which includes both mental and physical "detoxification" and shelling out big bucks for personality adjustment machines that resemble Venutian marital aids. Scientologists take considerable pride in how the religion supposedly helped Tom Cruise and John Travolta attain their success and alleged acting skills. I have two words for them: Kirstie Alley.
But I'm not here to beat up on the Dianetics set. Too easy a target. In fact, the more I think about it, maybe L. Ron had the right idea. Perhaps the quickest way to obtain the Warhol-apportioned 15 minutes of fame, with everlasting life thrown in as a bonus, is to do the same and start a religion of your own. Cult is a harsh-sounding word. Unique business opportunity with unlimited growth potential has a much nicer ring to it. Think of the benefits package: good pay, devoted followers, fame (or is it infamy) and the chance to meet chicks who think you're God.
And best of all, tax-exempt status.
One man who has done just that and started his own church is Chris Korda.
Last weekend, as he has periodically done throughout the summer, Korda (who wears makeup and dresses and prefers the pronoun "she") rounded up the members of his Church of Euthanasia to confront Operation Rescue demonstrators at the Preterm clinic on Beacon Street
Korda, who described his church's dogma as "voluntary population reduction through abortion, suicide, sex for pleasure and radical vegetarianism" led a procession of about 20 people into the heart of a shouting match between pro-lifers and pro-choicers.
Most of the Operation Rescue demonstrators tried their best to shut out Korda and continue their prayers, hymns and finger-pointing. But ignoring them was virtually impossible.
In a press release announcing his counter-protest, Korda said the pro-life camp has an "Achilles heel" that can be easily exploited.
"The one thing they can't stand is being made fun of," he said of Operation Rescue and other abortion opponents. "The pro-choice people take them seriously and that's a mistake we don't make. They're trying to intimidate everyone with shock tactics and disgusting props, but we're not impressed. We can out-shock and out-disgust them any day. We're seizing the moral low ground right out from under them."
"What do we want," began one of their chants last Saturday.
"When do we want it?"
"Why do we want it?"
"Because it tastes good."
A plea for cannibalism probably won't have much effect on the national schism the abortion debate has wrought. But Korda, who described himself as from the "John Waters school of abortion protest," sees it as an appropriate response and an effective strategy. Other signs at the protest used the cannibalism metaphor to further mock the Christian beliefs of Operation Rescue. "Drink more blood, eat more flesh," read one.
Korda said that much of what he does is Dada-inspired, using public action to create a real world theater of the absurd. In an age where very little is shocking anymore, his stunts try desperately to, at the very least, disgust the general public.
Korda credits Abbie Hoffman's Yippie era stunts as an inspiration, and like Hoffman, there is an undeniable sense of humor, at least an attempt at humor, to what he and his church do. Consider its 24-hour suicide assistance hotline, a service very near to being launched nationwide with an accompanying billboard campaign. Funny or tasteless, you make the call.
But is Korda serious about all this? Hard to tell.
When Korda explained that the Church of Euthanasia was inspired by a dream in which an alien intelligence urged him to join the fight to save the Earth's failing ecosystem by using the slogan "Save the Planet, Kill Yourself," my first instinct was to laugh.
When he spoke of how mankind's industrial reliance has ruined the planet and, by spending their lives "one step away from being veal cows," they will do the same to themselves, I had to stifle the urge to yell, "Amen."
But when he spoke of similar groups that urge such endeavors as releasing deadly airborne viruses to wipe out the human race, or explains how his church differs from the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement in Oregon, I squirmed.
At times, Korda seemed very much the prankster. At other moments he was impassioned, forceful and brilliant in his arguments. Occasionally, his screed was dark, depressing and scary.
But here's the kicker. The very government that the Church of Euthanasia seeks to drive into obsolescence, recognizes it as a church and has granted it tax-exempt status. The "Eat a Queer Fetus for Jesus" signs and "Honk if you need an abortion" bumper stickers that taunted Operation Rescue last weekend were all tax-deductible.