A man of many passions

JesusLoves2Sharon Waxman of The New York Times had quite a story during the weekend: Porn star rediscovers God, expresses ambivalence about the past 30 years of his life and begins a ministry to other porn stars that he plans to transform into ordained ministry within the Episcopal Church.

It’s the perfect sort of story for people who see the Episcopal Church as, oh, modernist Christianity with smells and bells, or — for that matter — for conservative Episcopalians who enjoy their “Another thing like that and I’m outta here” moments.

Here’s the problem, though. As documented in a punctual takedown on the Rev. Jan Nunley’s epiScope blog, the porn star’s rector disputes the report’s claim that Rod Fontana (Christian name: Ronald Boyer) has:

• Met with the suffragan bishop of Los Angeles to seek the church’s blessings for a ministry to sex workers.

• Begun preparing to be a deacon.

• Entered the discernment process to become a priest.

Further, Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles has written a letter to the editor to dispute some aspects of the coverage.

The story is dramatic and oddly moving, but for those important details. Boyer has only begun a journey away from making a living in porn, and his thinking about sex reflects this:

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.”

. . . 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.”

Nevertheless, other aspects of his story reveal a progress that the Christians behind XXX Church could perhaps applaud:

“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.

Dig the use of “what he considers,” which has become just as much a journalistic cliche “alleged” for an all-purpose “We’re reserving judgment” adjective.

In any case, read the story of Boyer’s first steps away from a life of porn, bracket his romantic hopes of being addressed as “Father” anytime soon, at least within the Episcopal Church, and hope that the next time he makes the papers, it won’t be because he’s fallen off the wagon.

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  • Joseph Fox

    After reading the articles in epiScope, it seems the real story is in the journalist, Sharon Waxman.

  • Peggy

    At least the Episcopal Church has SOME standards.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    It does look like the reporter made mistakes.

    At the same time, I sense a technicality here. Did they TALK with him (phone maybe) or MEET with him? I mean, is the man lying?

  • Fred Goodwin

    Isn’t Jan Nunley an editor with ENS?

    If her exposé is correct (and I have no reason to think otherwise), one wonders why ENS hasn’t issued a formal press release? Or why hasn’t the diocese or parish issued a press release? Why hasn’t the NYTimes issued a formal retraction?

    I think its still a bit too soon to say the story is all lies.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc


    I, for one, am not saying the story is all lies. That’s not the plain-text meaning of a sentence like this: “The story is dramatic and oddly moving, but for those important details.”

    I am, however, pointing out where Mr. Boyer’s understanding of events conflicts with that of his rector and of Bishop Bruno.

    In response to Terry’s question, I think the articles in question are clear (and I’ve added italics for greater clarity).

    Sharon Waxman:

    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.”

    Jan Nunley:

    “No way!” exclaimed Mitchel. “I talked with Bishop Talton. He never met with Ron. Couldn’t pick him out of a crowd.”

    This is not exactly imprimatur territory.

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