Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mormon Filmmaker Leaves Church

Despite the fact that I was raised Mormon, I never took to their sub-culture at all. I didn't even know there was such a sub-culture (as in a culture that wants to feel mainstream while still spurning it) until I heard of a movie about Mormon missionaries called "God's Army."

I never went and saw it, or any of the other films made by Richard Dutcher. That someone would make a movie about one of the things I thought was most embarrassing about my then-religion was mortifying to me.

Up until tonight, I probably never would have thought about the guy until I caught a news piece saying that Dutcher has announced he's leaving the Mormon faith.

That takes guts for someone who made his living from it, especially considering the regular Mormon practice of demonizing anyone who has chosen a different path. To combat this, Dutcher has been posting comments on Mormon blogs to warn more objective observers about the attacks he's just starting to face:

It’s unpleasant to acknowledge, but the LDS community has a history of character assassination. It is an ugly truth, but it is the truth. I have often joked (darkly, and among friends only) that when wandering sheep stray from the fold, Mormons don’t go looking for them. What happens is: somebody climbs up on a really tall tower, takes out a high-powered rifle, gets the poor straying soul in the cross-hairs, and then blows his wandering brain out.

When individuals leave the fold, why do we find it necessary to blacken their names? This has been the case since the earliest days. Back then, a church member or leader could be in full fellowship one day and considered a wonderful, decent, loveable human being. The next day, if that individual chose to make an exit, he was the “blackest, basest of scoundrels,” an “adulterer” and a “counterfeiter,” etc.

Today, we’re a little less melodramatic. But still, when a scholar, artist, intellectual, or even a rank and file member of the Church decides to leave, his character is instantly under attack: “I think he’s gay” or “I bet she’s having an affair” or “I’ve heard he’s a drug addict,” etc.

Just for the record: I’m not having an affair. I’m not gay. I’m not a drug addict. I’ve never tried to illegally reproduce hundred dollar bills and I haven’t killed anyone. Sadly, I can’t even claim to have beaten anyone up, not since the 9th grade anyway. (Actually, now that I think of it, I didn’t win that particular fight. A neanderthalic 12th grader beat the snot out of me.)

However, I’m far from perfect: I do like to swear sometimes (seldom in anger, mostly for fun), and I’ve recently grown fond of really expensive dark Irish beer (enjoyed in moderation, of course). On occasion I’ve even been known to swear while drinking a beer. I’ve always been good at multi-tasking.

I tried smoking cigars, but didn’t care for them. Cigarettes I hate. Coffee’s not for me, but I have found some great dark teas that I really like. There’s one in particular, Lapsang Souchong, that I highly recommend.

Also, sometimes I daydream that Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie are both madly in love with me and I have to become a polygamist so that I can keep them both and not lose Gwen (my equally gorgeous wife).

There you go. Not very juicy. Downright silly in fact. On to more serious matters.

Many have jumped to the conclusion that I left because I’m angry that LDS audiences didn’t line up for my movies. If such was the case, I would be a truly shallow human being.

First of all, LDS audiences did line up for my movies. Even my lowest-grossing film, STATES OF GRACE, made $200,000.00 at the box office. True, that’s less than 1/10 of what GOD’S ARMY grossed, but still…most independent filmmakers would kill (or, at least, maim) for a $200,000.00 theatrical gross.

Some have very pointedly claimed that if my films had been more financially successful, I wouldn’t be leaving. Believe me, it has nothing to do with money. I didn’t make GOD’S ARMY because I thought it would make me rich, and I haven’t left Mormon Cinema because I’m afraid it’s going to make me poor. If STATES OF GRACE had made 20 million dollars, I’d still have made the same choice.

Others have said that I’m angry because Mormons didn’t “get” my movies. I think the majority of those who saw them “got” them. I’ve tried not to pay too much attention to the very vocal minority who didn’t.

Some have speculated that I may have been offended by a church leader or member. That’s not the case. Church leadership has never been anything but supportive, and I’ve never lost any sleep over disapproval from individual church members. I would never let a personal offense from a fellow traveler detour me from the path.