In the midst of all the important news stories competing for my attention lately, I found myself distracted the other day by what, at first blush at least, seemed a decidedly trivial one. Apparently there exists someone by the name of Sean Stone. He is twenty-seven years old, and is the son of Oliver Stone, the famous film director, writer, and outspoken fan of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and other charismatic totalitarians. Coincidentally, Sean Stone has also appeared in twelve of his father’s own movies, which means he is obviously an exceedingly talented young actor.
Sean was born with the middle name of Christopher, which means “bearer of Christ.” He has now, however, changed his name to Sean Ali Stone, because he has converted to Islam. In what seems a nod to family tradition, he did not just convert to Islam, he did it in a country run by the kind of tyrants his dad loves, namely Iran.
Young Sean explains his new faith in good old-fashioned addled-celebrity style. On the one hand: “I have said a simple prayer, ‘There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his messenger.’” On the other:
“I am of a Jewish bloodline, a baptized Christian who accepts Christ’s teachings, the Jewish Old Testament and the Holy Koran. I believe there is one God, whether called Allah or Jehovah or whatever you wish to name him. He creates all peoples and religions. I consider myself a Jewish Christian Muslim.” It will be diverting to see how young Mr. Stone’s new Muslim friends will respond to his theological insights.
It is also worth noting that Sean’s conversion, according to him, followed hard upon his reading of the Koran. He claims to have learned from his study of that volume that “Islam is not a religion of violence any more than Judaism or Christianity is.” He must somehow have missed the many passages in the book that vilify those who, like him, have a “Jewish bloodline.”
This news about Sean Stone caused my mind to wander back a few decades, to a time when the spiritual flirtations of addled showbiz types took rather different directions. Some readers will be old enough, for example, to remember est (Erhard Seminars Training), which in its 1970s heyday snagged such big names as Cher, Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, and Yoko Ono. Various varieties of Buddhism and Hinduism were also big for a while. For a brief period, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi famously won the devotion of the Beatles, helping to skyrocket the spiritual master into a higher tax bracket and purportedly inspiring the White Album. Mia Farrow, who had just married Frank Sinatra, was also hanging around the Maharishi’s ashram at the time, along with Donovan and the Beach Boy’s Mike Love. (Reportedly the Maharishi made a move on Mia, and you can hardly blame him: what red-blooded guru would pass up a chance to hit on Old Blue Eyes’ wife?)
Then there’s Richard Gere and his decades-long involvement with the Dalai Lama. As it happens, Oliver Stone also identifies as a Buddhist. So does another famous Stone, Sharon, who says she’s a Tibetan Buddhist (but is also, curiously, an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church). Kabbalah studies have also been a big draw, winning such notable adherents as Roseanne Barr, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and, most famously, Madonna. And need one even mention Scientology, which would almost appear to have been contrived, right down to the last detail, to appeal to a certain kind of Hollywood mindset?
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