Der Spiegel - The Mirror, 48/1996
Sects - Religion
"Make love, not babies"
Henryk M. Broder on religious zealots in the USA, who want to reduce the
number of people on the Earth
From the front the Reverend Chris Korda looks a little like Demi Moore, from
the side he resembles Caesar in the Asterix-Comic.
In a long black dress, with a little handbag across his chest, a five-pointed
silver star around his neck and long, pointed earrings, he would draw envious
looks in any group of women. The hairdo is in place, the makeup is perfect,
the lipstick not laid on too thick. Only in his carriage does the Reverend
show that he did not come into the world as a woman. Chris Korda moves more
gracefully, it is true, than Heinz Rühmann in Charley's Aunt, but that certain
swing of the hips, which women command by nature, is not his strength.
Reverend Chris Korda is founder and spiritual rector of a church called the
Church of Euthanasia (COE). Because it is recognized by the official US
government financial authority as a socially-beneficial educational institution,
gifts to the Church are tax-deductible. Contrary to the practices of other
churches, religious societies and sects - which treat their adherents to
a profusion of rules, requirements and prohibitions - the Church of Euthanasia
knows but one "commandment", which they preach absolutely without compromise:
"Thou Shall Not Procreate"
Whoever makes this single law his own, whether Christian, Moslem, Jew or
Atheist, is welcome as a member. Mothers and fathers of children will be
taken in, too - provided that they pledge to bring no more progeny into the
world. Whoever agrees, and then makes a child anyway, will be excommunicated.
"We welcome the children," says the Reverend, "however, we find there are
already quite enough of them."
This reduction to the bare essentials is not the only essence of the COE.
Founded in 1992 and registered in the state of Delaware ("because the taxes
there are cheaper than in Massachusetts"), the COE is some bytes ahead of
its time, a church of the 21st century - thanks to the Worldwide Web and
In the Boston vicinity, the center of its activities, the COE counts only
"a couple dozen" registered members, in the entire USA "a couple hundred."
However the host of hangers-on, says Reverend Korda, "is in the thousands
and is constantly increasing." Over 100,000 guests have visited the Homepage
of the COE (http://churchofeuthanasia.org/) in the past year, and
this year it appears as if it will double.
In the beginning people forgathered in a tiny "chapel" in the cellar of a
multi-family house beneath the picture of the suicide doctor [lit.: dying-helper]
Jack Kevorkian ("We admire him from a safe distance") and together read texts
from Albert Camus, James Baldwin and Allen Ginsburg. In between these meetings
the members and hangers-on of the COE communicate with one another in the
world-wide space of the Internet, and likewise the sermons of Reverend Korda
are electronically dispersed as "E-sermons."
Other than the "chapel", which is reminiscent of a surrealistically gotten-up
party-place from the '50s, the leadership circle around Reverend Korda convenes
in the "Middle East" on Massachusetts Avenue, one of the few restaurants
in the city to which the Reverend does not give a wide berth. Because he
is a vegan, a radical vegetarian. Not only does he eat no meat and no fish,
he shuns all animal products, living consequently without milk, eggs, cheese,
curd and butter.
In the summer the Reverend wears linen, in winter rubber. He uses a lipstick
made by "Clinique", as the manufacturer does not test his products on animals.
Let other divines serve God and mankind, Reverend Chris Korda has assigned
his service "to the Earth and the animals [Arten]." So that the Earth is
not destroyed and the species survive, the human population of the Earth
must be reduced - "through voluntary measures", as the Reverend intones,
in no case through force.
Among these measures are the renunciation of propagation, discontinuing the
taboos against and the criminalization of suicide, and the promotion of sexual
practices that do not serve reproduction. "There are simply too many people
on the Earth," says Korda, as he spoons up some pea soup, "either we reduce
the number of people, or Nature will take the duty away from us."
In fact it is no longer a question of if, but only of when. Thus the process
of self-destruction could at least be slowed down through judicious conduct.
"We are not the only organization dedicated to protecting the Earth from
humankind," says the Reverend, and checks his hairdo and makeup in a mirror,
"we are actually relatively moderate, since choice is our remedy, there are
others who are much more radical."
The "First Church of Christ, Abortionists", for example, who are in favor
of forced abortions; the "Voluntary Human Extinction Movement", who would
like to do away with the human race in one generation; the "GAIA Liberation
Front", a "very extreme group", who would spread a deadly virus, to bring
about the final resolution of the problem of mankind. And then there's always
the "Unabomber Political Action Committee", a support group for the alleged
"Unabomber", arrested in Montana at the beginning of April. The Reverend
can well sympathize with his love of nature and hatred of civilization.
The leader of The Church of Euthanasia, was born in 1962 in New York, son
of the novelist Michael Korda ("Success", "Power") and a playwright. He
is of course neither a millenialist nor weary of his own life. For the sticker
"Save the planet, kill yourself," which he designed and distributes, Korda
offers a dialectical-spiritual explanation in two parts. When a person is
at the end of his rope and needs to kill, then it would simply be better
if he were to kill himself instead of another person - or an animal. Moreover,
"kill yourself" could also mean: kill your Self, become something else!
Korda knows that he provokes ambiguities, surmises and misunderstandings.
And indeed he wishes to do so. "Lack of clarity / unclear situations are
good. They get people's minds out of their well-worn ruts. Although neither
transvestite nor transsexual, he often wears women's clothes, since he does
not have to adhere to a sex role. And there is a concept for it: "a transgendered
person," a person beyond gender.
Early on in life, at 12 or 13 years of age, he felt that he "had an extremely
unusual personality," his outlook on things seemed to be "entirely different,
as if from another star." He had "very few friends, and as a result displayed
more anger in school, with his parents, and all authority." He resisted
all attempts "to break me, to make me function like everyone else."
At age 14 he ran away from home, later he studied Information Science and
went through "several careers," such as street musician, jazz guitarist,
sound technician, record producer, and female impersonator in the cabarets
of Provincetown on Cape Cod. For all that, his only profession was "consultant"
and "knowledge worker," he advised individuals and companies how they could
make best use of their knowledge.
In 1992 he meditated a great deal and one day had "a dream and a vision":
"Save the planet, kill yourself!" Had he not founded the Church of Euthanasia
out of this experience, he would apparently have been dead before long, by
his own hand. The church is his personal survival strategy.
As his "heroes and models," the Reverend Korda names the philosopher Rudolf
Steiner, the sex researcher Wilhelm Reich, and the anarchist Abby Hoffman
- a wild mix, which, however, would not cause an explosion in the civilized
climate of New England.
Korda signs his letters with a friendly "Thank you for not breeding," and
when he goes shopping with his Mitsubishi, he does not forget to feed the
parking meter. Should global collapse be imminent, the Reverend wouldn't
want to make the situation worse through disorderly conduct. He considers
good manners to be very important and rejects war as a means of population
control. "First of all war destroys the environment, second, after every
war there's a baby boom, which equalizes the losses."
Also on the question of why he preaches his message to Americans, whose rate
of population increase is relatively static, instead of taking it to the
high-reproduction inhabitants of the third world, he has a rational answer
prepared. "We have no right to be giving advice to people we have exploited.
Besides, each North American produces 100 times as much trash as an African."
During this year the organizational structure of the Church of Euthanasia
should be completed. Korda, supported by a three-person directorate, but
finally doing everything himself, would like to organize a country-wide field-operation
on the model of the "Thank you for not smoking" campaign. Everywhere in the
USA, on billboards, those gigantic advertising signs along the highways,
the sentence "Thank you for not breeding" should be on display. Then he
would like to carry through a "procreation-free day," first in Boston, after
that in Massachusetts, finally throughout all of America, "but, of course,
Korda knows that this is a Utopian idea. And his idea of creating "a procreation-free,
sex-friendly and vegetarian place of refuge," for like-minded people "who
don't want to live together with those people," is in this same category.
So he concentrates his energy at the present time on what can actually be
accomplished. He borrows from Radio Shack a battery-operated bullhorn and
from Rent-A-Wreck he rents a beat-up little army truck with which he takes
a dozen placards, and as many friends as are willing to do so, on a sortie
to the Front.
Pious Christians from "Operation Rescue" have been called up to demonstrate
in front of Preterm Clinic in Brookline. At this place, just two years ago,
a fanatical abortion opponent shot a staff member of the clinic. But the
demonstrators don't want to think of the murder, only that in the Preterm
Clinic abortions are still going on.
Beneath the picture of Our Lady of Guadelupe, the Protectress of the Unborn,
about 100 believers pray the rosary. Across from them stands a handful of
counterdemonstrators with pro-choice placards, women from the National Organization
for Women (NOW). They shout "Keep your rosaries off our ovaries!"
A couple meters farther on, separated from the police by a barrier, Reverend
Korda and his friends have gotten into position. Of all the groups they
seem to have the most fun at the demo. The words ("Peace, Love and Sterility,"
"Fuck breeding") come across as a joke through the displacement of the political
statements. But the believers from "Operation Rescue" don't let themselves
get provoked, they never even look over at them, as Korda's people shout
"think quick, think fast, every prayer may be your last!"
The way seems open for a confrontation as an elderly woman from the "Operation
Rescue" demonstrators goes across to the Church of Euthanasia people, takes
a tiny flask from her pocket and sprinkles "holy water". But a policeman
pulls the woman back: "Ma'am, just keep going."
After the demonstration Korda and his friends balance the books over a mug
of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. "There were three times as many of us as the
people from NOW." Rebecca, who carried the sign "Make Love Not Babies" is
also pleased: "The police had a lot of fun."
Then the party breaks up. The truck from Rent-A-Wreck has to go back, otherwise
there's another day's rent to pay. Then Reverend Korda wants to get right
to his computer, to update the Homepage. "Have a nice day," he calls to
a passerby, who turns toward him, "save the planet and kill yourself."
The sect craze of Americans is little written about publicly. While people
in the Federal Republic regard sects with distrust, in the USA extremely
ludicrous quasi-religious groups can get going quite freely. The "Church
of Euthanasia," founded in 1992, is one of more than 1000 communities of
belief in the USA. They are in favor of a "restoration of the balance between
the Earth and humankind" - by reducing humankind. The sect, headquartered
in Boston, whose actions are reminiscent of Dada, is recognized as an educational
Church of Euthanasia leader Korda: procreation-free, sex-friendly, vegetarian.
in front of a picture of suicide doctor Kevorkian.
p. 152 Korda demonstrating Rosaries and ovaries
p. 153 callout: Words of sterility, and holy water.
At the demo, the police have a lot of fun.