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New York Daily Photo: Reverend Billy
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Saturday, 28 July 2007

Reverend Billy

This was yesterday's First Amendment Fest at Union Square, fueled by a number of current issues such as pending legislation regarding restriction of photography and videography in New York (click here for article) and issues regarding Critical Mass bike rides. When I first ran into Reverend Billy with his bleached blond bouffant hairdo, white suit and fully robed choir in a park several years ago, I assumed that I was witnessing another religious group proselytizing on a much larger scale. We see many groups in NYC - fundamentalist Christians, Mennonites, Jews for Jesus, etc. However, as the entertainment component became greater, I realized I was watching a performance, albeit a very convincing, revival styled one. Reverend Billy (aka Bill Talen) and the Church of Stop Shopping is an activist group, working internationally and using guerrilla theater to get their anti-consumerist messages across, warning against the "Shopocalypse." They have had numerous targets over the years: Nike, Disney, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret. Ironically, Reverend Billy was recently arrested for harassment for reciting the first amendment - click here for the AP article. Bill Talen was born in Minnesota in 1950 and brought up in a Dutch Calvinist tradition. After graduating from Franconia College, Talen moved to San Francisco where he earned a reputation as an actor and performer. Moving to NYC in 1994, Talen became an artist in residence at St. Clement's Church where developed his character as Reverend Billy in collaboration with Reverend Sidney Lanier. Talen cites Elaine Pagels, Lenny Bruce and Andy Kaufman as major influences. The depth and breadth of his philosophy, organization, mission, past actions etc are too great to go into here - I would direct you to their website for perusal - click here. He is the subject of a new documentary (produced by Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame) entitled What Would Jesus Buy? Reverend Billy can be frequently be seen at St. Mark's Church and other NYC venues - try to catch him live ...


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