By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
While Jones says that no one chooses their sexual orientation, sexual behavior is a choice. He and Mike Sares both believe that while God does make some people gay, it is best that they remain celibate.
"I think that is really sad and hypocritical," says Lonnie Hanzon. "Had I known that, I never would have helped them. Because I'm gay."
Hanzon bought the building Scum now calls home back in 1998 and spent years and almost a million dollars renovating the property, where he lived and ran Hanzon Studios.
But in 2008, when Scum came calling, he was broke and the bank was about to foreclose. The church was looking for a new location after leaving the Church in the City on East Colfax Avenue. Hanzon says he worked hard to convince the bank that a church called Scum of the Earth could survive and be a good custodian of his beloved church building. Ultimately, he sold it to Scum for about $625,000, and even threw in his grandfather's Fiat and took on a $15,000 tax debt on the sale.
"If I'd known they were so conservative, I would've just let the bank foreclose," says Hanzon, who explains that he feels strongly about this because he has family members who work for the anti-gay Focus on the Family. Hanzon, who regularly cites God as having a strong influence on his life, is a member of an interfaith community that is accepting of LGBTQ in a way that Scum is not. "I would've just let the place rot if I'd known this," he continues. "I thought I was doing something for the grace of God, and this is just...ugh."
Sares and others at Scum say they did not mislead Hanzon in any way, although they acknowledge there was some miscommunication when they bought the building. "I respect Lonnie Hanzon as an artist and admire him as a compassionate, kind human being," says Sares.
However Scum got its new home, it's proven to be a mixed blessing. Despite the fortune that Hanzon spent on renovations, when the Denver Fire Department paid a visit in July, it found the building in violation of several fire codes and forbade Scum of the Earth from holding services there. Right now, Scum is holding its evening services, complete with free dinners, at His Love Fellowship Church, two blocks away. It could cost upwards of $250,000 to get Scum up to code, and the church — which raised the money to buy the building at a gala fundraiser — barely gets by on the meager tithings its congregants can afford, along with random donations from other churches. "It's looking like it's going to be pretty expensive," says Joshua Dylan. "It's pretty rough, because we don't have a lot of money."
Unlike Lonnie Hanzon, the anarchists living in collectives around Scum were well aware of the church's position on homosexuality. That's exacerbated the tensions between two scenes that, on the surface, would seem to fit well together. Not only do the anarchists and the church members dress the same, but they're both vehemently pro-bicycle, are very environmentally conscious, and aren't opposed to dumpstering for food. But once their Christian identity is revealed, many Scum members have found punks in the neighborhood taking offense. "To try and mask [Christianity] with a punk uniform is trying to avoid responsibility. I mean, the punk movement is opposed to everything Christianity stands for," says Maria, who's somewhat exhausted by the friction between Scum and secular anarchists. "I've had a lot of people tell me they felt uncomfortable coming to the house because of the large Christian presence there."
"They see Christianity as part of the machine, the man, the oppressor," Joshua Dylan responds. He says he sympathizes with criticisms of his religion (many Scum members spend just as much time complaining about Christian culture as anyone else, he notes), but does not see his faith and his identity as an anarchist as being at odds with each other. Dylan cites scripture that teaches man to "follow no law but God's law" (although he also supports the division between church and state), and also says he finds Jesus's message of anti-materialism and charity to be perfectly aligned with anarchist ideals of individualism and non-hierarchical fellowship.
Aaron Pott, who lives on the second floor of the Scum building, agrees with Dylan. He plays drums for the evening church services and volunteers each Sunday in the bicycle workshop. His band, Munster Boogie, is firmly integrated with the secular punk community — yet many members also attend Scum and play music at the services. Coming from a Christian community in suburban Denver, Pott says he's benefited a lot from the oasis that Scum provides — a quiet place to reflect on his life and his spirituality without his parents looking over his shoulder. He's a quiet, unassuming young man who is well-liked in the anarchist scene, despite his pro-Scum alliance. But then, like Dylan, he has his frustrations with some of the ideas that come out of it. "In that community, there's a strange way that people will push to be accepting and open-minded about the things that are outside of normal society," he says, sitting in a thrift-store chair on the second floor of Scum, a dog-eared copy of The Hobbit on his lap. "But whenever something falls within 'normal society' [like Christianity], then these walls come up."