Monday, November 24, 2014

The Furry Fandom, and some comments.

Furry is a subculture--a wide group of people who utilize a world of anthropomorphic animals to create different types of artwork. The artwork varies between drawn or painted works, written stories, or even crafts like making mascot suits by oneself, but that’s more of a rarity, despite the publicity that the mascot suits, or “Fursuits” get. “Furries” as they are called, generally hang out in Internet Relay Chatrooms (IRC) or on forums, at which they exchange their works that they’ve created. Some like to roleplay within their respected IRCs or forums as a means to play out their own furry characters that they’ve created, also known as “fursonas”. If Furries get the chance, they love to meet up and hang out together. This is generally because the subculture isn’t all of a big thing, and it’s exciting for them to meet with another Furry, or “Fur” for short, due to how rare it is to see one.
Some Furries are really big cartoon buffs, and gear their artwork more towards a cartoonish style. Others are intrigued by realism in the Furry universe, and incorporate that into their works.

Here are examples of some of the artwork:

I may or may not have given it away with the above links, but Furry art generally utilizes anthropomorphic canines and felines. You normally won’t see a “Furry” turtle or something like that… unless you watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when you were little. Those count.

Here are a couple examples of the fursuits:

Fursuits take a LONG time to make, months even, and are VERY pricey (800+ to 2000$+). Others don't have the funds to express their “Furriness” with suits, so they just make tails or ears, or wear collars (so, it’s not always the Goth kids!). The suits are generally worn at conventions, where a large number of Furries can congregate and show off their work to each other. Never been to one myself, but they generally have lots of fun from what I’ve been told.

What else are furries into?  If you look at the Chronicles of Narnia, Ms. Brisby and the Rats of NIMH, or Redwall, those would be considered pieces of Furry literature (albeit in varying degrees) by the subculture. Most old Disney movies or Don Bluth films (All Dogs Go to Heaven, anyone?) had a whole host of talking cartoon animals.Video games? How about some Star Fox, Banjo-Kazooie, or Dillon's Rolling Western?

Now, there are a very large range of misconceptions about Furries; I’ll rattle off a few.

1.) Furries seriously think that they’re animals. Why else would they wear the suits?

No. People, in general, who believe that they’re animals, or believe that they possess the soul of an animal are known as Therianthropes. Some Therians happen to be Furries, but those are a minority (Wikipedia Therianthropy for more info). 

Furries wear Fursuits for a couple of reasons. For fun, at parties, meetups, or even to entertain their community. Here's an awesome example of of that from TychoAussie:

Now come on, you have to admit that's awesome. This is pretty cool too!

2.) Furries have absolutely no life and just waste away online.

Again, no. Some furries do, but I’ve also met my fair share of very successful, and good Christian Furries. One Christian Furry I used to know works with NASA!

3.) Furries are sick, disgusting perverts who condone and perform zoophilia, or beastiality.

ICK! Sad to say, but there are furries that do this. HOWEVER, they are a minority and are known as “Furverts” within the subculture.

4.) Furries are sexually confused.

No. There are members of the LGBT community who happen to be Furry, but that’s not what Furry is all about.

Now, all that being said, there is a darker side to this that needs to be talked about. The online furry community is not one to be traversed alone--heck, sad to say but I wouldn't even Google furry. For the good, clean fun and art there is to be found, there is also a good chunk of perverse, nasty stuff too--most commonly yiff art (yiff is the furry term for sex). But in defense of the fandom itself (not the sin to be found in it), its community and the things residing in it are a product of its mother culture. We live in a sin-stained world.

It's sad to say that the darker side of the fandom gets the most publicity--and why not? We love to bring the dark and twisted to the forefront of our attention. Due to this though, there are many people who have an innocent interest in furry art and culture that feel as though they have to hide from everyone--families and friends alike. This secrecy in some cases in itself leads people down dark roads into deep patterns of habitual sin as they traverse the furry fandom alone, and any innocent interest they had goes out the window.

People, regardless of their age or background, should not have to hide. The world needs to see brighter examples of purity as a whole, especially in places like the furry fandom--and I'm crazy enough to believe that it would make a difference. Parents should be coming alongside their children and helping them cultivate their love for furry in a pure way instead of forcing them to shun it due to all of the darkness that they could get into. Older people should share their interest with their friends and family and be a force for good--like our buddy TychoAussie up there. I don't encourage that people presently in bondage to sin that's directly tied to furry to maintain a presence in the fandom, but I beg and pray for people that would help protect the innocence of people who presently have a healthy interest in it.

For those of you who read this that are struggling with sin in the fandom, I encourage you to take a step back. There may be things about the fandom that are good and you may love those good things with all your heart, but if sin is tugging at your heartstrings (like it's been at mine), for the sake of what good is left, step back. Seek God with all you have, repent of the sin that's been tugging at you, and hear out others around you for good, godly counsel--and for goodness sakes, get some accountability going. Don't try to do it alone.

If you're looking for a resource to help you break free from sexual sin, take a look at Fight The New Drug. I would also recommend talking to a pastor or ministry leader, or a strong Christian that you trust.

If you're looking for a safe community where faith and furriness collide, check out Christian Furs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A spiritual high.

So, as per usual, I've been battling with my sin. I've been learning about a lot of my other weaknesses too as I've walked with the Lord, but despite how much I learn about myself, my issues with the past still wait for me at my doorstep with every waking moment. Nothing new there.

Unlike my other posts, this won't be some long story with a big call to action (or at least, I don't intend it to be). I just kind of want to talk this time.

I'll start with why I gave this post the title I did, "a spiritual high." I was battling temptation one particular night, and I had let myself slip into some weird mental state to where I didn't feel like myself anymore. I realized in the moment that I didn't want to. I whispered to myself, 'I just want that spiritual high...' without thinking about it, and something dawned on me. I want a spiritual high just as much as a sexual one. 

When I give in to my temptation to fantasize about becoming a werewolf, at times it has extended further than simply looking at pornography. In these moments I don't want to just appease a fetish, I want something more than that. I want to lose myself completely. I want to step into the fantasy of being a werewolf as much as possible in the moment of my lust--telling myself in my mind that that's what I am, and in the midst of it visualize myself becoming it as I jerk off. I try to go to the point of mentally becoming the object of my fantasy, to create a sense of an augmented reality and escape as far away from real life as possible.

In all those times, not once did it dawn on me that I don't simply have some sort of sexual fetish, but that I'm yearning to have some sort of spiritual experience. There's a God-sized hole that only genuine, consistent time spent in fellowship with and worship to Him can fill. It's easy to think that I'm trying as best as I can, but it's also just as easy to fail to realize that when that lust gets worse, it's because I'm looking for an experience that only God can provide.

I can't say that I have this sorted out yet. I still live in this state of battling dysphoria, of yearning off and on for this experience that I've talked about of getting to be a werewolf in some fashion. It hurts, it's confusing, and there's not a passing day that I don't wish for some sort of resolution. Each blog post I write here, I want it to be my last one. I want to be able to leave a final note to everyone who reads this and tell the world that I don't struggle with my past anymore.

But I guess I won't ever get to that day where it's not a struggle. I don't say that in a defeated tone, but I somewhat say that hopefully. I worry about a day where I would stop fighting because I don't want this to overtake my life. I want to live happily with my friends, and family, not letting this daunting struggle become a waking nightmare that deprives me of every ounce of joy that I have. It's never not going to be a fight to choose to find joy and satisfaction in knowing and loving God versus wanting to create my own spiritual experiences and attempting to find rest in that (which I never do).

I don't know how many people really read this, but if you can relate to any of this, or you're dealing with anything (and I do mean anything) that's become too much to bear, send me an e-mail. Talk to me. Tell me how I can pray for you. Or, if you don't believe in God at all and are just frustrated with everything I'm saying, we can work through that too.

My heart goes out to those struggling with sin, and while I may not be a shining example of how not to struggle anymore, I pray I'm an example that shows you that Christ is better. Jesus is better than the sin we choose over him, and I ask for prayer that I would believe that myself (because that's a battle in itself every day).

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Christian mission in your fandom.

I'm copying this from a different blog that I post to. Give it a read.

I’ve been in a couple different Christian fandom-oriented groups before. I would stick around for awhile, become a known person in this group, and make a lot of new friends. Once these groups started to face hard times however, I was quick to leave and not really show my face again. From the fallouts of these different ministries, I’ve run out on quite a few different people all because the safe haven created by them came to no longer exist. Or just in general, people changed drastically and I couldn’t cope with it.

This has happened twice to date; instances where I joined a Christian fellowship group for different fandoms online and then abandoned them and the people I met within them. I’ve since then not wanted to get involved with a fandom group / forum / network that had the Christian label on it because I’ve feared dealing with more fallouts.

Something about that, tonight in particular, struck me as very wrong.

If I look back, and I’m honest with myself, I have to say that I was much more interested in being loved because of common interest and calling it Christian fellowship than bearing the burdens of the people around me and equipping others (or being equipped myself) to do legitimate ministry. I wanted to celebrate that I could be a Christian and a huge fan of whatever instead of using what I loved as a platform to disciple people and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ (I’ll get back to that in a moment).

So much of (at least my own) mentality in being involved with a fandom has revolved around being safe, comfortable, loved, and all the while obsessing over whatever it is I’m a fan of.

What exactly is wrong about that state of mind, you may wonder? Simple: It’s a complete waste of your life.

I said it. Read it again. Then buckle up for what’s next.

There is no merit in spending all your time being comfortable and geeking out over whatever floats your boat with a group of people in the supposed name of Jesus. I'm not knocking being in a fandom of any sort, but when all you're about is your fandom and being with people in that fandom, it gets to a point where it isn't Christian fellowship anymore–it turns into idolatry.

I think at this point I’ve probably made somebody angry, and if I haven’t, awesome. Let’s dive into this a little bit more. If a group of people, or you as an individual claim Christ as your Savior, then there are a few things that are true (among many others):

1.) You have been saved by a holy God through the sacrifice of his only son. (Romans 10:9, John 3:16)
2.) You have been given a free gift of grace, and through this have access to a personal, intimate relationship with your Creator. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 3:12)
3.) You are called to, by that gift of grace and that relationship, live as a living sacrifice for God (Romans 12:1-2)

And this is a really big one right here:

4.) You are called to go and preach the gospel by which you were saved to all the nations (Romans 10:14-17).

Evangelism should lie at the heart of anyone that claims to follow after Christ, and to tell the truth, that’s scary for me. Terrifying even. I don’t like doing evangelism at all. I don’t like taking the risk of being hated for telling people about Christ, especially when it comes to people that I want to innately like me because I’m into the same stuff that they are.

In the end though, what’s really worth it: Gaining a few friends based on common interest (all the while being afraid to even touch the gospel with a 39 1/2 ft. pole), or gaining real brothers and sisters in Christ based on the truth of the gospel and the salvation we’ll share for eternity?

I struggle with this, and probably will every day… heck, I pray that I do…and that I pray that at the heart of everything that I and my brothers and sisters in Christ do, they strive with all they are to worship God alone, and trust in Him fully for the grace and strength they need to be a light to the people around them… be they otakus, bronies, furries, whovians, or anything else.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The addiction cycle, and some words of hope.

In the second chapter of the book Fortify by Fight the New Drug, it covers the addiction cycle. For the benefit of myself and my readers, I'm going to go over this cycle, and offer some encouragement as best as I can.

It starts like this:

1.) Discomfort of some sort arises. This is normal and experienced by everyone, regardless of whether or not they are addicted.

The choices are as follows:

A  → Choose a healthy response to the discomfort. This can be anything that genuinely brings joy and helps you bear with the discomfort instead of merely providing a quick distraction. In some instances however, like dealing with a stressful homework assignment, it's better to bear with the stress and work through it instead of trying to find an escape from that stress.
B  → Allow yourself to enter into the addiction cycle by letting the desire to escape the discomfort fester.

Okay, so say we've entered into the cycle. Where are we now?

At this point in the cycle, your body and mind seem to fall into an auto-pilot mode. The steps go as follows from here:

2.) You entertain the idea of using, rationalizing excuses to do so. This can seem subtle at first--you have flashes of thoughts that get your gears turning, and you become enticed by them.

3.) You begin the ritual. You close the blinds, lock the door, turn down the volume, and the gears start turning more and more as your focus narrows.

4.) You "use." Don't really need to describe what happens here. You feel some relief for a few short moments.

5.) You experience harmful effects after use. The discomfort of life grows, piling the resulting emptiness from chemical overload onto the fact that stuff still isn't going right for you.

The addiction cycle as illustrated by Fight the New Drug.

The cycle at this point, once the emptiness kicks in, can jump right back to step 2, without you even really having much time to recover from the first time around.

Or, you can choose to step out of the cycle. You can recognize these different steps of the addiction cycle that you go through, and at any time, choose to step away. It's not easy in the slightest, especially starting off... but there is a way out.

Regardless of where you are even right now in the addiction cycle, Whether you're contemplating using or just about to actually use, you can step out and turn away.

You are not your addiction, nor the thoughts and feelings that you pair with it.

But what about those thoughts and feelings? They can be really vivid and hard to cope with, especially since they're so easily paired with the emptiness and guilt that comes from using. Take heart--once you realize and accept that you're not what you think or feel, facing the thoughts and feelings can start to become a little easier.

I know that knowing what's going on in your head in and of itself doesn't suddenly make things easy, but it's a step. Watch your thoughts, especially the seeming subtle ones that poke at your desire to use. Remember, those thoughts and feelings aren't you.

Now, I'll say some things that Fight the New Drug might not. I wholeheartedly believe that in spite of what choices you've made, in spite of where you may be in your addiction cycle, there is a God who loves you fully and completely, and does not identify you by your addiction or the sins that go with it, and He can help you. Below are some verses that may help you understand how God helps us:

Romans 8:1-3:  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

This tells us that if we believe that Jesus is who he claims, and have accepted his death on the cross for our sins in our place, and that he rose from the dead three days after, then in the eyes of God we are not condemned, but fully accepted and loved. Not only this, but that through the Holy Spirit we are given the power to do what we could not through simply knowing right and wrong.

Mark 11:23-25: For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I believe that this passage holds a very important truth: We must pray believing we have received our salvation through Jesus, and not only that, but the grace, forgiveness, and love that was/is shown through what Jesus did. However, it's important to note that if Christ died for us, he also died for those whom we may be angry or hateful with, and we must forgive them if we believe God has forgiven us. 

1 Corinthians 10:13: The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 

This passage is often misquoted to say that God won't give you more than you can handle. That isn't true--it's through the hard times that we turn to God so that He can show us his strength and our absence of it. However, it does say that God will provide a way out of our temptation--a way to obey his call to sexual purity in the midst of wanting to throw it away. I think this goes well with the previous verse. God says to pray believing we have received and it will be done--pray believing that God has a way out for you, and you are promised that he will show you a way to endure.

I'm in a place personally where I realize that I do indeed need God's grace every day, and that while God won't take my addiction away, He is working in me to help me stand on top of it instead of it standing on top of me. I should say to be honest that without Him, I couldn't stand at all.