The Emerson Avenger

The Emerson Avenger is a "memory hole" free blog where censorship is scorned. This blog will "guard the right to know" about any injustices and abuses that corrupt Unitarian Universalism. Posters may speak and argue freely, according to conscience, about any injustices and abuses, or indeed hypocrisy, that they may know about so that the Avenger, in the form of justice and redress, may come surely and swiftly. . . "Slowly, slowly the Avenger comes, but comes surely." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

In 1992 I underwent a profound revelatory experience of God which revealed that the total solar eclipse "Eye of God" is a "Sign in the Heavens" that symbolizes God's divine omniscience. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan of the Unitarian Church of Montreal contemptuously dismissed as my "psychotic experience" here: - This revelatory religious experience inspired me to propose an inter-religious celebration of Creation that would take place whenever a total solar eclipse took place over our planet. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan and other leading members of the Unitarian Church of Montreal falsely and maliciously labeled as a "cult" here: - I am now an excommunicated Unitarian whose "alternative spiritual practice" includes publicly exposing and denouncing Unitarian*Universalist injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy. The Emerson Avenger blog will serve that purpose for me and hopefully others will share their concerns here. Dee Miller's term DIM Thinking is used frequently and appropriately on this blog. You may read more about what DIM Thinking is here -

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rev. George Exoo aka Reverend Death Is A U*U In The Media. . .

But U*Us would never know it if U*Us looked for some recent mention of Rev. George Exoo on the U*U World blog U*Us In The Media web page. . . Apparently the U*U World magazine and blog would prefer to pretend that Rev. George Exoo aka Reverend Death is quite unworthy of any mention in U*Us In The Media, even though Jon Ronson's television documentary about Rev. George Exoo, and many of the recent media announcements and reviews of 'Reverend Death', clearly identify Rev. Exoo as an American Unitarian minister. There is not the slightest mention of Jon Ronson's 'Reverend Death' television documentary or the print media announcements and reviews of 'Reverend Death' in the May 23, 2008, Unitarian Universalists in the Media blog entry inspite of the fact that the documentary was aired on Britain's Channel 4 on Monday May 19th 2008 and was reviewed by several British newspapers, magazines and news websites. A search for Reverend Death George Exoo in Google News currently finds about nine results including this unflattering review by Andrew Billen in the prestigious London TIMES newspaper:

To see a genuinely sick man, you needed to watch Jon Ronson's documentary Reverend Death (Channel 4) in which he followed America's Rev George Exoo as he went round encouraging the terminally well to top themselves. “This is a great adventure. Look forward to it,” our Rev Peter Pan told a depressed woman who, when the moment came, stood up and toasted herself a bagel instead. This was a rich, dark comedy of a documentary. At one euthanasia-practitioners get- together, Exoo even extolled the “comic resonances” in his work. I think he meant “cosmic”. The only mystery was why Ronson, who filmed Exoo for six years, kept claiming to like the creep.

As previously noted, 'The Guardian' ran this article about 'Reverend Death' written by Jon Ronson himself.

'The Herald' ran this review by David Belcher on May 20th.

'The Citizen', and related regional newspapers such as 'The Lancashire Evening Telegraph', ran this brief review by Jon Anson., apparently a British web based news service, posted this short announcement of the airing of 'Reverend Death' - It's a tough choice between More4 and Channel 4, however, as Jon Ronson documentary Reverend Death (22:00) tells of the morally confusing story of George Exoo, a Virginia pastor who has taken part in more than 100 assisted suicides.

'My Park Magazine' ran this brief review that concludes by asking, “If you think your calling from God is to help people die, are you a saint or something more dangerous?”

The List, posted the following announcement and review by Brian Donaldson as far back as May 8th - Jon Ronson is a documentary maker who likes to take his chances and with Reverend Death (Channel 4, Mon 19 May, 10pm ••••) he’s returned to the same kind of territory he travelled to with Kidneys for Jesus as some religious people conduct themselves in a way that might be considered distinctly unreligious. Over the course of six years, Ronson has followed the story of George Exoo, a Unitarian minister who assisted the suicides of countless lost souls across America, even stretching his Grim Reaper-like influence into Ireland. What made him controversial (if you don’t think the subject is already teetering on the dubious) is that terminally ill individuals are not the people he’s seeing off into the next life, but a bunch of folks who are merely kind of miserable.

A standard Google search turns up even more British media previews and reviews of 'Reverend Death' including this one by Michal Dzierza on The Orange website. This review on the TV Scoop website is worth a read.

So what gives? Why does the editorial staff of the UU World blog want to bury 'Reverend Death', and the numerous British media reports about this documentary about Unitarian minister Rev. George Exoo, from the view of the eyes of lifelong U*Us U*U Worldwide? After all it's not like they haven't ever mentioned Rev. George Exoo as a Unitarian*Universalist aka U*U in the Media before. . .

Update: 25.05.2008 2:oopm from the Sunday papers. . .

Kathryn Flett of The Observer had this to say about 'Reverend Death' -
By the time I got to Reverend Death, Jon Ronson's surreally disturbing (all the more so for being lightly handled) documentary about George Exoo, a Mr Magoo-ish Unitarian pastor from West Virginia whose 'calling' is helping people commit suicide, I was starting to feel queasy; by the time Exoo bolted from chronic fatigue syndrome sufferer Pam's house, because, instead of swallowing her poison as agreed, she had chosen to fix herself a bagel with cream cheese, I was gagging.

Pam didn't die that night, but later, assisted by George. As a former sufferer of CFS myself, this depressed me enormously. While it's certainly miserable as hell, CFS is very often also curable by, among other things, embracing a rigorous diet that not only excludes the questionable attentions of a 'Reverend Death', but also, painfully ironically, processed white flour products such as bagels. And if that's a tasteless note to end on, then it's been a tasteless sort of week.

Hermione Eyre of The Independent wrote - Jon Ronson's Reverend Death was a vividly creepy portrait of the irresponsible face of euthanasia, Dr George Exoo, a Unitarian minister from West Virginia who claims to have assisted 102 suicides. Ronson started off with a sympathetic attitude, but slowly grew disenchanted. Very slowly. "Now I've spent a few years with George I'm beginning to wonder if he's too in love with death ...", he mused. There is a problem with these faux-naive broadcasters, who are always beginning to wonder if it gets dark at the end of the day. Just because it's called the Idiot Box doesn't mean you have to pretend to be one to get on it.

But Ronson redeemed himself, boldly confronting one of the self-described midwives of death: "It sounds pretty sick to me, and I don't think you should do it."

Unlike, say, Mark Dolan, he is a presenter of depth, whose simple style gained momentum. He ended Reverend Death with powerful misgivings about Exoo's vocation. "I wonder how much less corrupting the love of a calling is than the love of money."

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Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Rev. George Exoo contacted me privately by email earlier today. His email contained a response to this blog post. I was not certain whether or not Rev. Exoo wanted me to post his comment to the blog so I responded to his email and suggested that he post it as a comment to The Emerson Avenger blog himself if he wanted it to be public. I encouraged him to engage in open dialogue about this matter so that people may hear his side of the story forst hand. I have just received a follow-up email from Rev. Exoo informing me that he had in fact attempted to post his comment to this blog post but had been unsuccessful in his efforts. With his permission and at his request I am posting the comment that he sent to me via email below. I intend to respond to Rev. Exoo's comment later, however others are welcome to respond to Rev. Exoo before I do if they so desire.

Here is my comment for your blogspot.

The Channel 4 program, cynically labeled by producer, Jon Ronson, "Reverend Death," was supposed to have been a study of spirituality and assisted suicide by the terminally and hopelessly ill. In agreeing to the program, I had hoped to uplift the spiritual aspects of this sort of intentional dying, so often ridiculed by men and women of the cloth and feared by the faithful. I wanted to show, based on signs I have received within 24 hours after these deaths, that the Other Side seems not to condemn such suicides. I had hoped the program would lessen fear of traditional faithful by showing that fear of punishment is more a matter of superstition than what is warranted either by life experience or Judeo-Christian Scripture. That was the reason I agreed, against legal advice, to be filmed back in 2002.

David Malone of Extreme Productions in Belfast signed a pledge that stated my lawyer would have an opportunity to review the documentary before it aired. David Malone produced the documentary for the first three years, but his company went bankrupt. The project was then picked up by Channel 4, with Jon Ronson as producer.

When I told Ronson about the agreement I had with David Malone, he seemed indifferent to the document. He requested the original copy and wanted to confer with Channel 4, but I was unable quickly to find the card David Malone used to make his promise. I referred Ronson to Malone to corroborate the agreement, but Ronson still did not think that the legality of what Malone had promised was important. Little wonder. He changed the agenda of the program. I have never seen "Reverend Death," even though it was agreed that I would receive a copy of it before it aired so my lawyer could review it for accuracy and to make sure there were no incriminating or controversial statements made. I agreed to be in a film about spirituality. Ronson apparently (based on his own comments in The Guardian and comments in the British press) turned the show into sensationalism, thus negating the serious spiritual work on which I had agree to comment back in 2002.

The blogspot, U*U Avenger, reveals that many (if not all) the British newspapers condemned me with vitriol calling me "genuinely sick" and morally bereft. Since I have not seen Ronson's program, in reading these comments, it seems obvious that his edit was not a documentary which focused on the spiritual aspect of voluntary euthanasia. Surely words about spirituality got tossed onto the cutting room floor. Therefore the person who alone entrusted her deepest spiritual insights gleaned after decades of soul searching and suffering, (I am thinking of the American Buddist, Pam, with her incurable Chronic Fatigue), became, under Ronson's edit, nothing more than an object of ridicule and the subject of triviality about bagel munching.

I believe David Malone would have kept the program on track. Jon Ronson, who showed every sign of being sincerely interested and supportive, gave way, apparently, to opinions of a British Freudian psychiatrist who had no business commenting (unless one wants the opinion of any old man-in-the-street) so that the promised focus on spirituality gave way to a study of sensational psychopathology; the Journal of Religion, to the National Inquirer. My sacred calling, without exception lauded by those who have received and thanked me for my services, was so trashed that it became impossible for me to read these press comments and believe it was I these critics were describing.

I should have listened to my lawyer way back when, but, as the Amish say, "we grow too soon old and too late, wise."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 6:20:00 pm  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Well it looks like I am now acting as a blogging intermediary for both Rev. George Exoo and British journalist and documentary film maker Ron Jonson. I received an email from Ron Jonson this morning informing me that he is "away on holiday with access only to an iPhone" (which presumably does not provide him with the capability to post a comment here directly) asking me to post the following response to Rex. Exoo's comment on his behalf -

In answer to George's specific points:

I was actually on this film from the beginning. In fact David Malone only did one day's filming before I came on as director.

Re: seeing the film before broadcast. George had been worried that he might have said something unguarded specifically relating to the Rosemary Toole case, but when the extradition attempt failed, and I told him that there wasnt much in the film about Rosemary, his worries seemed to vanish and he didnt request a viewing.

There is a lot in the film about spirituality. The agenda never
changed - it was always to be a film that would look at the role of spirituality within the context of George's ministry, and indeed it does. I have asked our production manager to send George a DVD. It is on its way. I think he should comment once he's seen it.



I will add that I have not seen the full documentary myself but only a few clips from it that are available on the internet so my ability to comment on 'Reverend Death' itself is somewhat limited although I can ceratinly comment on other aspects of this matter such as the British media previews and reviews of 'Reverend Death' and the fact that (so far. . .) there is not the slightest mention of 'Reverend Death', or the numerous British media reports about it, in the UU World blog web page that is dedicated to Unitarian*Universalists in the media.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 11:38:00 am  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Oh dear. It looks like my apparent undiagnosed dyslexia has struck again. . . ;-) Needless to say I meant to write Jon Ronson rather than Ron Jonson.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 12:30:00 pm  
Blogger Chalicechick said...

Rev. Exoo,

Judging by the clips, I've seen, I'd suggest you fire your assistant (who seems to have figured out that if she scares people away from you she stands to make money) and listen to your lawyers next time.

I also haven't seen the whole thing, but what is up on youtube looks like a hatchet job to me. (Seriously, you think they showed enough closeups of the scary-looking lizard in your assistant's house? Ok, ok, we get it. We're supposed to think you're a scary guy.)

The psychologist diagnosing you without having met you was garbage and they are irresponsible for using that.

I don't understand why the "emotional/mental pain can be as severe and incurable as physical pain" point is so hard for some people, but it seems obvious to me, so I don't at all have an issue with what you're doing as the people involved sure seem to know what they want.

But yeah, listen to your lawyers next time. Documentary filmmakers make money from sensationalism and Ronson's claims that spirituality is a focus of the film is certainly belied by the article he wrote, which barely mentions it and focuses so much more on the sensationalist aspects.

who posts from her Iphone all the time, FWIW

Thursday, May 29, 2008 7:44:00 pm  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

That would be an iphone FWIW CC. I was a bit surprised that Jon Ronson was unable to post a comment using his iphone but perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for his inability to do so. In any case this online interview of Jon Ronson, that I just found within the last half-hour or so, tends to corroborate what he said in the comment that he submitted to me via email. Hopefully both Jon Ronson and Rev. George Exoo will see fit to comment further here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 9:58:00 pm  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Here is the pertinent text from the interview since it may no longer be accessible using the link that I provided.

::How did you come across the subject?

:Six years ago, David Malone, a producer I've worked with, heard about US reverend George Exoo in the Irish press. Exoo was facing charges of assisted suicide. David approached George, then me, about making a programme.

::How did the idea evolve?

:Slowly. I kept going back to film more bits whenever I was filming other projects in the US. I was blinkered to people telling me he was fishy. A doctor told me Exoo enjoyed being around death, but I thought he was being over-dramatic. Then a year ago, I met Exoo's new assistant. She was the worst possible choice - completely irrational and saying she'd help anyone die who'd pay. Reluctantly, I changed views and the film shifted gear when it emerged that Exoo was part of an underground movement, receiving cases that established support groups won't touch, such as the mentally ill.

::What challenges did you face?

:During the project's long gestation, there was a change of commissioners and David Malone also moved on. It became a bit of a joke at C4 and was regarded as the film that didn't exist. Two years ago, Aaqil Ahmed asked me to decide whether to make it or not. As the story evolved, he helped push through a longer film. Confronting Exoo with all sorts of stuff was tough as I thought he would hit the roof, but he realised he had a lot of questions to answer.

::What did you learn from the experience?

:I shed my preconceptions. One of the film's arcs is me changing my view of Exoo and uncovering this messy, unregulated movement. I still believe in euthanasia but it's a lot more complicated than I'd thought.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 10:04:00 pm  
Blogger Chalicechick said...

To me, it seems to corroborate what I said in that there is ZERO mention of an exploration of spirituality being a goal. I'm not sure what cave Ronson has been in that he entered into the project with the idea that these issues were simple and I don't get how it took him years to get to the Captain Obvious conclusion that they aren't.

And of course the people who do what Exoo does are disorganized. What they are doing is the equivilent of back-alley abortions in a country where they are illegal but people still desperately want them.

The arrogance it must take to go "Well, that lady SAYS she wants to die, but she doesn't look sick enough to me" blows my mind.

I'm not sure why the capitalization of "iphone" is important to you Robin, but fine:

who posts from her iphone all the time, FWIW

Friday, May 30, 2008 9:34:00 am  
Blogger Kickass Chris said...

Having met the Reverend George Exoo, along with his so-called "assistant," I can say, in all honesty, that while he is a kind and compassionate man, whose primary intent is to assist people who are in pain, his "assistant" is another story entirely: a miserable, monstrous, greedy woman whose only goal, clearly, is to profit from the death and the misery of others. If Rev. Exoo wishes for himself, and the cause which he so fervently believes in, to be taken seriously, he needs to get rid of this parasite ASAP.


Friday, September 26, 2008 10:43:00 am  
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