Jen Fulwiler and Alana Newman are former atheists who will share their stories at this year’s 2020 Summit West. One will make you laugh and the other will give you pause. Jen, author of Your Blue Flame, will perform her standup comedy routine, and Alana will answer questions following a special preview of the documentary, Sexual Revolution: 50 Years since Humanae Vitae which she helped produce.
Every life a nod from God
Alana Newman is a single mother of three, a singer, musician, and founder of The Anonymous Us Project, a forum with personal testimonies about failures inherent in assisted reproductive technology, which includes sperm and egg donors, in vitro fertilization, and surrogacy.
The documentary, directed and produced by Daniel DiSilva, reveals the effects of the sexual revolution and contrasts it with the truth and beauty of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. It examines the developments of the Pill and modern Natural Family Planning (NFP). One path leads to union with God and spouses during procreation. The other had begun initially by testing contraception on women in insane asylums, and ends now in places like petri dishes and rented wombs.
Alana was donor-conceived and her biological father was a sperm donor she will probably never meet. When she was eight years old, her parents divorced, and she never again saw the man she had called ‘Dad.’ “He was my father when my mom wanted him to be, but after the divorce I was told, ‘He’s not even your real father,’” Alana explained. “I’m grateful that my mother loved me and gave me every gift she could, but as a teen I became a statistic of fatherlessness.”
Alana went down self-destructive paths, feeling a deep lack of identity. “My biological father sold me for $75,” she said. “You can paint it as altruistic and giving the gift of life, but the gist of the transaction is the money. A biological parent receives money and gives up all rights to the child. I felt unlovable and like no man would ever love me.”
While living in San Francisco as an atheist, she supported contraception, abortion, and third-party conception. Learning about Natural Family Planning, it led to her conversion. “When I discovered the evil surrounding contraception and that the Catholic Church is the only one that got this issue right, I wanted to know what else they were right about,” she said. (The Catholic Church opposes interference with the marital act and turning children into commodities. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2373-2379.)
Alana left for Brooklyn, NY to record and perform music and became connected with film maker Michael Galinsky of Rumur Productions who was making documentaries. She also began writing for the Institute for American Values, which is a think tank focused on family policy and marriage. They helped her found AnonymousUs.org for people to write openly and privately about their experiences. “The fertility industry does not want to hear about the problems,” Alana said. “Their livelihood depends on the acceptance of third-party reproduction.”
Alana was invited to speak on a panel about donor-conception before an audience of potential customers. “When I shared some of the problems, they ripped the microphone out of my hand and would not allow me to speak anymore,” she said. “I had been taught this is good, this is why you exist, but in the end, I realized it created far more problems than it solved.”
The new “Sexual Revolution” documentary which she helped produce explains how contraception increases the infertility problem, destroys romance and trust, and causes spiritual harm. It also reports on the exciting science of NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology) that enhances women’s reproductive health.
“The film brings back romance and highlights the work of the saints that gave us the gift of NFP” Alana said. “It restores the beauty of what marriage and human sexuality should be like.” According to her, the movie is ideal for parishes, schools, and especially engagement retreats. It is available to stream on VIMEO and on DVD through https://www.sexualrevolutionmovie.com.
The lighter side
Jen Fulwiler is a mom of six children (born within eight years), an author, and a standup comic. She hosted a daily talk show on SiriusXM for five years and was recently interviewed on NBC’s Today show about her latest book Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive. Jen used her own (often hilarious) transformation from harried to happy to share serious principles.
“It [your blue flame] is something you do and were destined to do, that fills you with energy and adds love to the world,” she explained. Jen identified her blue flame as communicating, which she has done through writing, speaking, and now comedy.
She and her husband Joe, a lawyer/CPA/MBA, were both only-children and atheists. “We read and researched our way into Catholicism,” she explained. “After our first child was born, atheism did not seem accurate anymore.” Her first book, Something Other Than God, tells her conversion story
As a comic, Jen addresses a secular audience. “My background is so well established, I don’t feel a need to publicly label myself as a Catholic or to work God into routines,” she said. “My life is a witness to Catholicism.”
Doing comedy actually seemed to be God’s idea, according to Jen. “I had been thinking about comedy and did not see our perspective [Catholic mom with children] represented,” she said. “I prayed about it and felt God calling me to this.” She began practicing at a comedy club in Austin, Texas where she lives. Although she bombed a lot at first, Jen would analyze her performances, then try again.
“I knew I was ready to go on tour when I started making audiences laugh,” she said. Jen often was the only female performer and the only one with clean humor. “Keeping it clean requires growing as a comic,” she explained.
After being told that there was not an audience for a standup, minivan-driving mom from the suburbs, Jen arranged her own tour, dubbed the Naughty Corner Tour. Using a credit card, she rented theaters on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays to get the lowest prices despite those being difficult nights to attract audiences. The theaters, which held between 400 and 1,000, filled up. Most were sell-out crowds, including two shows in Manhattan. “In Chicago, people in the industry were floored that I sold out on a Wednesday, and in Columbus 600 people showed up on a Monday.”
Jen handled most of the details including advertising and sales. In September of last year, in the middle of the tour, just before going on stage, Jen learned that her dad had suddenly died. “It was hard,” she said. “He was at my house every day. I had to do my own sound and light check that night and then do an hour of standup comedy.”
The tour was a family affair. “We’d let two of the kids come to each show and Joe often came,” she said. The whole family joined Jen on stage in Chicago, which was filmed for a future special. Their children, ages 7 to 15, are homeschooled, with Joe handling most of it.
The tour ended right before COVID shut things down. You can follow Jen on Facebook and on Instagram at @JenniferFulwiler.
PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.