Category Archives: WC70 – Charlatans & Chicanery

White Crane #70 – Contents

Drpresto
The White Crane Guide
to Charlatans, Chicanery & Other Perils of Cheap Grace in Gay Spirit Land

Cover Art by Frederick Nunley

FALL 2006 · # 70

ONLINE SAMPLES ARE HIGHLIGHTED AS LINKS

Departments
Opening Words
"If You Meet the Buddha In the Baths"
by Dan Vera & Bo Young
Call for Submissions
Letters
Updrafts by Dan Vera
Honoring Elders "John Addington Symonds" by Dan Vera (PDF file)
re:Sources by Eric Riley
The Everyday Sacred by Donald Engstrom
PRAXIS “Air Freshener for the Soul” by Andrew Ramer
Subscriber Information

Specials
A White Crane Interview with Peter Grahame of Ironic Horse Studios
Bo Young & Dan Vera

My People, My Tribe:
An Interview with C. Cleo Creech

Dan Vera

Taking Issue:
The White Crane Guide to Charlatans, Chicanery
& Other Perils of Cheap Grace in Gay Spirit Land:

All Our Lies Holy by Randy P. Conner
Superchrist in a Superstate by Malcolm Boyd
The Everyday Charlatan by Greg Marzullo
Prophets For Profits: Dodging False Messiahs by Perry Brass
Your Money or Your Life by Q. Planet
Keep It Quiet: Secret Mentorship for New Generations Of Queer Men And Women by Chris Bartlett

Poetry
June 22, 1969-June 27, 1969 by C. Cleo Creech
Pentecost by James Day

Culture & Books

Kathleen Dobie on
Now Is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer

Jesse Monteagudo on
Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo by Walter L. Williams & Toby Johnson

Amara Das Wilhelm on
Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West by Ruth Vanita

Greg Fletcher-Marzullo on
Vellum: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan

Jesse Monteagudo on
Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation by James T. Sears

Toby Johnson on
Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth by Daniel Helminiak

Steven LaVigne on
Two Boys in Love by Lawrence Schimel

Steven LaVigne on
The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham

Toby Johnson on
Blessing Same-Sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage by Mark Jordan

MUSIC:
Bo Young on
Buddha Machine by FM3

White Crane #70 – Poem by C. Cleo Creech

June 22, 1969-June 27, 1969
by C. Cleo Creech

70creech_1
A partial Filmography:

1937, Broadway Melody of 1938
1939, The Wizard of Oz
1940, Strike Up the Band
1941, Ziegfield Girl
1944, Meet Me in St. Louis
1946, Ziegfield Follies of 1946
1948, Easter Parade
1950, Summer Stock
1954, A Star is Born
1963, I Could Go On Singing

It had been a rough week.
It always is when stars fall from the sky.
The drag queen Judys drowning their sorrows,
With cheap beer down off Sheridan Square.
Go-go boys dancing on the bar.

There was the Meet Me in St. Louis Judy,
Sad hobo at the Palace, Judy,
And a whole flock of Dorothy Gails.
Mascara tears ran down their stubbled cheeks
As they Lip-synced to well-worn albums.

The raid was the just the last straw,
And just ask Rosa Parks
About how revolutions get started
When you’re just too damn tired
To keep moving to the back of the bus.

So this night, the cowardly lion
Grew some brass cahones
Scarecrow figured it all out, and
Tinman felt the injustice
Deep down in his new heart.

By the time the Flying Monkeys
Flew in with riot gear
The good People of Oz
Were tearing up the Yellow Brick Road
So they’d have bricks to throw.

Dorothy screamed to the bartender
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”
And the Good Witch reminded her,
“You had the power all along,
But you wouldn’t have believed it.”

And with the twister spinning all around,
Dorothy clicked her ruby slippers
We will never go back,
We will never go back,
We will never go back.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this taste of White Crane.  We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

White Crane #70 – EXCERPT C. Cleo Creech Interview

70creech My People,My Tribe
An Interview with Poet
& Activist C. Cleo Creech

By Dan Vera

Sometimes things connect in ways one could never expect and you’re reminded how delight walks on the thinnest of filaments in our lives.  I received a letter from a dear friend, Mark Clinard, in Atlanta.  He’d attended a reading of gay poets organized by Franklin Abbott and had been moved in particular by the work of one poet.  And knowing my love of poetry, he sent me two poems in an envelope.  This is how I came to know of C. Cleo Creech.  Upon reading the two poems I knew what had so captivated my friend  Here was a writer of directness and power. 

I got a hold of Cleo to see about publishing his work in White Crane.  But when I chatted with Creech, he told me of his latest project — a collection of poets responding to the killings of LGBT people by the U.S.-supported Iraqi government.  This work is alive and so current that you may be forgiven for not knowing the subject at hand.  The repression has received scant attention in U.S. media.

I had a chance to speak to Cleo about his writing and the heavy cost of doing the vital work of bearing witness:

Dan: I wanted to talk to you about the Green Zone project.  Can you tell me how the project came about?

Cleo: Well the first I heard about it was a column in the Advocate a few months ago.  There has been only very spotty coverage on the issue.  It was taking about the recent Fatwa or religious edict issued by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.  When asked what the punishment should be for gays and lesbians.  He stated that they should be executed and killed in the “worst possible way.”  That edict just opened the floodgates to allow Islamic fundamentalists to openly execute gays and lesbians and they have the protection of law under the new constitution.

Dan: Have there been specific cases reported in the media?

Cleo: Several, but mainly in international and UK media.  A transvestite was stoned to death in a public square. A gay man was shot by a mob that came through his gym. There are stories of men being lured into rendezvous via chat-rooms only to be met with death squads, the list goes on and on.  The most unsettling for me though, have been the execution of children.  One 14 year-old boy who was merely trying to raise money for his starving family was accused of male prostitution and executed on his family’s doorstep by police.  Recently an 11-year old boy who was kidnapped by crime gangs and forced into prostitution was similarly executed by police.  The stories go on and on.

Dan: Al-Sistani is the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq.

Cleo: Right and actually the man who the Bush Administration has held up as a great leader in Iraq, and one of the main people the U.S. Government has chosen to work with, the British Government as well.  He has his own security force, the Badr Brigade, which enforces Islamic/Sharia law, and it is now taking over the security and police forces in Iraq.

Dan: Can you say a bit about the relationship of Sharia Islamic law to the U.S.-supported Iraqi government?

Cleo: Well, in forming a new Iraqi government, the United States was under such pressure to get a government in place and appear to be making progress.  They made a major concession from a secular constitution to a Sharia-based constitution.  At the time it was presented as “not that big a deal.”  However, some red flags were raised immediately.

Dan:  What red flags exactly?

Cleo: Howard Dean, to his credit, immediately pointed out that women’s rights had just been knocked back generations, and all the voting rights and equality of women were gone over night.  He was slammed at the time for raining on the parade.

Dan: What’s your role as a poet in all of this?

Cleo: Well as a poet, or any artist, you have to feel that your craft has a chance to change people’s minds.  To make them feel and empathize for people.  Even to make a difference and change the world.  I’ve always believed that what the essay is to reason and logic, the poem is for feeling and understanding.

Dan: I love that.  But you’re in Atlanta. Whose minds are you trying to change?

Cleo:  Hmm… good question.   Atlanta isn’t really a hot bed of international rights.  However don’t forget we’ve produced two Nobel peace-prize winners in MLK and Jimmy Carter.  I myself come from a very rural fundamentalist (Baptist) background.  I knew people that were active members in the Klan and my hometown had the last standing KKK billboard in the country.  So in a sense, we’re not all that far from what’s happening in Iraq.  This was one of those instances where I just had to ask myself, “what can I do about this?”  And as a poet, I’ve done what I do.  There’s a great synergy between political action and arts.

This is just an excerpt from this fantastic interview in White Crane.   We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

C. Cleo Creech was born in North Carolina to Conservative Baptist tobacco farmers in 1959.  He led a very sheltered life until he went to college and became the biggest partying frat boy on campus overnight.   After leaving Wake Forest he moved to Atlanta GA, the gay capital of the South.  He did all the basic wham things, worked tables, bartended.  He went back to school for a BFA in ceramics and printmaking.  He has been writing poetry for about 10 years now and is very active in the spoken word scene in Atlanta.  He is also an active volunteer in everything from politics to tree planting.  He has been HIV positive for 20+ years – which has heavily influenced his writing and activism.  He lives in the East Atlanta enclave, with his cat Ava, named after Ava Gardner, the only famous person ever to come from his hometown.  He has a bit of a mixed family pedigree in literature with an ancestor, (William Creech), who was the poet Robert Burns’ Scottish editor and publisher and another ancestor (William Creech) the compiler of the first Baptist Hymnal.  He is hoping to fall somewhere in between.

He can be reached via email or visit him at his website.

White Crane #70 – EXCERPT Randy Conner’s All Our Lies Holy

Excerpt from White Crane Issue #40

70conner All Our Lies Holy

By Randy P. Conner

I do not believe
our wants
have made all our lies
holy.

Audre Lorde “Between Ourselves”

For Bo and David, who lift their brothers up, for Kathy Griffin, whose "Life on the D List" gave me the courage to write this, and for Ben, who made it past the Gates.

Note: The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

You want to talk about charlatans and snake oil sellers?

It’s a typical L.A. summer afternoon in 1986, blimps advertising cosmetic surgery, helicopters whirring, with onboard cops on loudspeakers yelling, “Come out of your house! We know where you are!” as we drive up to the West Hollywood ranch-style house to discuss the first magazine ever to be wholly dedicated to Gay Spirituality (at least insofar as L. A. goes, which, of course, is all that matters).
Two lesbians, sharply dressed and sporting short shag haircuts, greet us as we swerve into the driveway. The only reason I’ve come is because my friend Luke has invited me. He knows I’m into spirituality and a Faerie to boot.

Meg and Peg wait ‘til all four guests—all gay men—have arrived before they show us into their Better Homes & Gardens living room and seat us at a long table overflowing with pink boxes of donuts and #2 pencils. The aroma of Folger’s percolates throughout the house. I realize I need some—quick—as I’m experiencing caffeine withdrawal. When we’re all seated, they seat themselves at opposite ends of the table and introduce themselves; they are Meg and Peg, the most successful real estate agents in all of West Hollywood, and, more importantly, personal-friends-of-Lily-Tomlin-and-Jane Wagner. They’re pretty certain that the magazine will be called A Place for Us, since this title will let gay people know—I notice that they never utter the word “lesbian” or “dyke”—what the magazine is about without offending straight people.

They ask us to introduce ourselves and to give a reason why we think publishing a Gay Spiritual magazine is a good idea (later on I realize that “good” means “lucrative”). First, Matthew introduces himself; he hopes that A Place for Us will guide folks to Jesus. Second, Mark introduces himself; he hopes that A Place for Us will serve as a complement, supplement, or antidote to the New Age straight freebies (we’re talking covers of Tantric retreats that specialize in massage and hot tubs) that litter Melrose Avenue. Third, Luke introduces himself; he hopes that A Place for Us will serve to counterbalance all the gay magazines that feature shopping, muscles, and Hollywood-Legends-Who-Like-Us.

I try to think of something a little different, so I explain that I hope that the magazine will introduce the Gay Spiritual Community to Witchcraft and Vodou. I get the feeling they don’t approve. Suddenly, Matthew turns to me and asks, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Satan?” He pauses, and adds, “Maybe it’s the beard.” Meg nods in accord, then says, “Moving right along…we feel strongly that this first meeting needs to be about advertising. We all know that magazines can’t survive without advertising. So we’d like to have your input about how best to scout out potential advertisers. We’re thinking wine and beer.”
Matthew is a minister. Mark is a guru or something like that. But why, I’m wondering, have the rest of us been chosen? Maybe Luke knows.

I’m drifting when I begin to hear Mark murmuring something like “Blub, blub, blub.” At first I think he’s saying “blood,” but why would he be saying that? Then I think, maybe he’s really saying “Bubbie,” as he’s an awfully hot, hunky Jewish guy with gold hair and azure eyes who’s wearing a tight-fitting salmon shirt that reveals taut nipples and a silver star of David around his neck but then I think, why would he be saying “Bubbie” unless he’s missing his grandmother? Or maybe he knows that my Mom has always called me “Bubbie.” No, it’s definitely “Blub, blub, blub.” I decide to say something, anything, to distract the others from this Very-Merry-Unbirthday moment when I notice that all eyes are turned toward Mark, whose “Blub, blub, blub” is beginning to sound rather like a Tibetan Buddhist chant West Hollywood style. I blurt, “Well, it seems to me that when one considers the deep structure of Gay Spirituality…” Meg “shushes” me. This is one of the few things I simply do not tolerate. She explains gravely and ever so slowly, in the voice of my first grade teacher, who’s trying to explain to me that 1 + 1 + 1 is 3 and not 1 like they told my Catholic cousin at church, that Mark is channeling the voice of a dolphin from Atlantis. They obviously knew Mark before. I clearly need to be more respectful. Unfortunately, no one, not even Meg, seems to understand Dolphin, so we fail to grasp the oracular message Mark’s conveying.

As Mark continues to “blub,” Meg talks incessantly of advertising.  At some point, she remarks, “Peg and I just know this magazine’s going to be a great success. In fact, we’ve already decided to form the Peg and Meg’s — and, of course, you guys’ — Gay Spirit Fund from the profits we…”

I honestly don’t recall what happened after that. I just kept hearing “Advertise! Advertise! Or the eagles will come and tear out your eyes!” Or maybe it was more like “You can even dye your hair to match your gown!” It was like lost time in occult lingo. I don’t even remember Luke dropping me off. Had they spiked the Folgers? We never heard of A Place for Us or Meg and Peg again.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are reader-supportedand need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks! 

Randy P. Conner is the author of many wonderful books, all classics of gay spirituality and culture.  These include the landmark Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions, Blossom of Bone: Reclaiming the Connections Between Homoeroticism and the Sacred, and the editing of Cassell’s Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol, and Spirit.  He was interviewed by Toby Johnson in White Crane in 2005.

White Crane #70 – EXCERPT Malcolm Boyd’s Superchrist

Excerpt from White Crane Issue #40

70boydSuperchrist
In A Superstate

by Malcolm Boyd

Editors Note: In the waning days of the 1950s, in the heyday of Marilyn Monroe and Doris Day and Bishop Sheen, Malcolm Boyd was embarking on a 30-book writing career that would span the next four decades, beginning with two books Crisis in Communication (1957) and Christ and Celebrity Gods (1958).

In an earlier, lay career, Boyd had been at the very pinnacle of show business, producing films and working with no less than the legendary Mary Pickford, rubbing elbows with the glitterati of the day. We all know the prolific Boyd from his many books, not the least of which is Are You Running With Me Jesus…but were you aware that he was also the very first president of the Television Producers Association of Hollywood? Oh yes, boys and girls, Boyd knows intimately whereof he speaks — then and now  — and then he brought a unique insight into matters of celebrity and snake oil and “cheap grace.” It is no surprise that this is where his first spiritual commentary might start, his teacher at Union Theological Seminary, Reinhold Niebuhr, coined the phrase.

Both these books, and the later Christian: Its Meaning in an Age of Future Shock, in which he writes a chapter entitled “Superchrist of a Superstate: Political Manipulation of Christian” are nothing less than prescient, even prophetic, in their intuitions of the insidious culture of celebrity that was just then building steam, and the breakdown of the separation of church and state, a demagoguery whose fruition we are witnessing today. It is startling — maybe even a little bracing — to read passages of Crisis in Communication, and realize that, with the simple change of names from, say, “Marilyn” to “Madonna,” that Boyd could as easily have written the piece yesterday as he did 40 years ago.

White Crane asked our friend, the Reverend Canon Boyd, poet/writer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Episcopal Archdiocese, to revisit these writings and reflect on them here.

The whole problem began when I was a kid in school. My education got all screwed up. I was taught a pack of lies.

  • I was taught that patriotism meant “my country, right or wrong.” (But how, it was suggested, could it ever be wrong?)
  • I was taught war was justified if my country fought it.
  • I was taught that black people were a bit lesser than human and called “niggers.” (If they don’t like this country, why don’t they go back to where they came from?)
  • I was taught that Native Americans had killed kind and courageous (white) troops fighting for “our country,” and deserved to be punished and isolated.
  • I was taught Latinos were meant to do manual labor and be treated as children. (Are they too lazy to learn English?)
  • I was taught modern civilization was essentially good, incapable of committing horrors such as those of the past described in history books.
  • I was taught homosexuals (the word wasn’t really supposed to be spoken in polite society) were social lepers, degenerates, intrinsically evil, damned by God.

My actual education commenced long after I left school — and unlearned a lot of things. And, learned new ones.

I learned there is a brand of fundamentalistic Christianity which tells the rest of the world that it awaits the Second Coming of Christ to solve pressing “social problems” such as hunger, starvation, war, racism, sexism, colonialism, grinding poverty, environmental destruction. It basks in the ineffable sort of prestige bestowed upon docile religion by seasoned manipulators of caesaro-papism—which means to say, the state using religion for its own purposes.

Theocracy provides well-trained clergy who publicly mouth politically supportive caricatures of prayer at government ceremonies or public assemblies, plead with a partisan god to let “our” side win our wars, and distort the gospel of Christ in mealy-mouthed “sermons” to the mighty in palace chapels and White House East Rooms.

All this would not be so dangerous were it not for today’s sophisticated technology. But — with almost insuperable irony—technology brings the McLuhan prophecy full circle so that the medium is the message. Take, for example, a giant revivalist rally—the lonely crowd flaunting religious symbols, and in the distance a superstar-cum-evangelist performing under bright lights. But where did JEEE-sus go? The betrayal of Jesus is perpetrated in his own name even as his own words are read aloud.

Against the backdrop of yet another American success story, I’ve discovered — to my genuine surprise — that there’s a commonly accepted belief in some form of encroaching doom. It may take the form of the death of a city, the destruction of a nation, or the end of human life in a part of the world. It may come from insoluble problems or inexorable forces within one’s own environment rather than from any form of enemy attack. It may be linked indissolubly to mounting violence as a way of life.

Indeed, Stanley Kubrick’s archetypal film “A Clockwork Orange” went so far as to depict modern worship of a god of violence. As ancient Aztecs tore human hearts from living bodies for a holy sacrifice, so young men in the film ran with verve as they stomped a helpless old man, gang-raped a woman while kicking to a pulp the face of her watching husband, and crushed the skull of another woman. This worship of a god is passionate, self-immolating, taut with commitment. These extremely devout youths are absolutely caught up in the liturgies and rites of worshiping their deity. 

I must observe that such adherence to a creed represents far more profound communion with a god than the lukewarm, lifeless travesty of worship to be found in countless piously conventional churches. It seems to me that the god of violence is honored and loved more in American society than is the God of love and peace. Casual acceptance of such violence means that our humanity is seriously threatened. Writing in “The Day of the Locust,” Nathanael West warned that people consumed by the fury of an “awful, anarchic power…had it in them to destroy civilization.”

America’s soul is troubled. People feel betrayed, frustrated, restlessly anxious and scared to death. The gap between people’s unfilled spiritual needs and organized religion’s failure of nerve is soil for a demagogic, chauvinistic national religious movement linked to super patriotism and endless engagement in global warfare. This, I believe, is one of the most frightening prospects Americans will face if steps to prevent it are not taken now. I speak of religion with conformity built in and the most rigid doctrinal allegiance enforced.

At first subtly, then quite obviously, add patriotism to religion as a prime good of the nation. Then a mass-structured organization can more openly take on a quasi-military form. Leaders of state-sponsored religion can address masses of people in great arenas or on TV.  Church and state move closer and closer together. In the early ‘70s we saw this take place. Government surveillance of private citizens was unprecedented in scope up to that time. We saw the emergence of “enemy lists” of citizens. At White House “prayer breakfasts” invited guests bowed their heads in unison for photo ops even as they knew bombs were falling on heads of innocent people abroad and, at home, the poor were being betrayed. So the corporate sins of an aggressive, imperialistic America went unacknowledged. No one confessed them. Who is confessing them now?   

I do not want church and state to draw close together in a tragic misuse of religion. I want to be saved from Superchrist in a Superstate.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

White Crane #70 – EXCERPT Bartlett on Secret Mentorships

Excerpt from White Crane Issue #40

70bartlett_1

Keep It Quiet
Secret Mentorship for new
Generations Of Queer Men And Women

By Chris Bartlett

Many spiritual traditions point to the value of a gift freely and anonymously given. Jewish tradition states that all charity and philanthropy (tzedaka) ought to be contributed anonymously, with the goal that the recipient not be aware of who gave the gift. The strength of such an anonymous gift is that it can have a positive impact on the recipient, neither bringing about shame nor reinforcing existing power dynamics. I argue here that a gift of mentorship can likewise be given secretly—fueled by a powerful intention, and strengthened, paradoxically, by the lack of formal or named structure. In short, please mentor someone—but don’t tell him or her that you are doing it!

How would it feel if you knew that a number of men and women had been secretly watching your back; both gently guiding your path with an invisible hand, and offering words of support in moments of both success and failure. They had actually been doing this for you for over ten years, without formalizing the relationship or pointing out the many gifts of coaching and leadership development that they had offered. You had often noticed their involvement in your life: the shared lively debates about politics, tips on how to manage a difficult situation or person, or advice on the best disco music for inspiring a crowd. It was they who (without telling you) had advocated that you receive the scholarship or the position of leadership. It was they who (without your knowledge) sent friends your way: new, inspiring friends who came along at just the right moment.  They (unbeknownst to you) observed your growth and watched your development. It was they who told you that you were more than up to the many challenges that confronted you in living a good life.

I was lucky to have such an intentional and powerful gay adult in my life in Eric Rofes, who had been my friend and colleague for fifteen years when he died in June, 2006. Eric played an influential and unobtrusive role in my development as a leader. What I didn’t know until quite late in our relationship is that he had an intention to have this role towards me (and to quite a few others).

I had been thrilled and honored when Eric sent me the draft of one of his books to review, or invited me to sit on a panel with him, or introduced me to another gay writer or activist whom he admired. He gave me gentle feedback about my own efforts: “Your talk grabbed the audience;” “You could have given a few more examples;” “You need to include more ideas from women and people of color.” When I went through some very challenging months in 2000, Eric wrote me an encouraging note but didn’t offer any intrusive or unsolicited advice. If I had attempted (as some did) to formalize my relationship with Eric in some way, he would have said, “I don’t like the concept of the mentor. Too hierarchical. I learn as much from you as you do from me.”  ======

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Chris Bartlett is an HIV educator living in Philadelphia. He is continuing the Gay Men’s Leadership Academy, a project he and Eric Rofes began with White Crane Institute this year. For more information about the Academies, visit www.whitecranejournal.com/academy.html  He is also the lead consultant for Philadelphia’s LGBT Community Assessment. His last article was in White Crane #69. He can be reached at academy@gaywisdom.org