Born Again

George W. Bush is probably the world’s most famous born again Christian. At age 40, he was a borderline-alcoholic, a failed businessman, and the son of a successful politician. He credits a conversation with the Reverend Billy Graham in the mid-1980s, a high-profile preacher and Bush family friend, with turning him around.

Whatever you think of Bush as a politician, and whether you believe his story about rediscovering religion (plenty of people feel it’s a convenient fiction), it’s a compelling narrative: “ne’er-do-well boozehound finds God; becomes president”.

Bush’s story is unique but the sentiment is common amongst born-again Christians. Born-again Christians like Bush credit their faith for showing them the path to becoming a fully realized person. It is a revelatory experience to discover, or rediscover, your direction in life. The strength of that experience is such that born-again Christians are notoriously evangelical about their faith.

Which brings me to the furry community.

Many furries don’t discover the furry community until they are already an adult. The experience of learning about your personal identity, combined with the fellowship of the community, is often intense and profound. It’s common for such furries to go through changes that might qualify as being born again: they reconsider their lives and find a new, more honest direction. A born-again furry immediately gains an important social group; commonly re-evaluates their sexual preference; and sometimes changes career, relationship status or living situation.

Finding furry later in life can be revelatory. Just like born-again Christians, the experience is so strong that born-again furries can be evangelical about the community. (Some of them go so far as to write articles for websites dedicated to meta-analysis of the community itself.)

To those people who discovered furry as they were maturing, for whom furry has always been a part of their adult lives, the evangelical attitude of born-again furries can be a bit ponderous or cloying. After all, the furry community is flawed: the drama, the toxic personalities, the popularity contests, and the cliques are all reminiscent of the worst aspects of tribal juvenile behaviour, otherwise known as high school. How could a self-destructive and childish community be so great and life-changing?

To which the born-again furry might answer: try being a latent furry who doesn’t connect with their natural social groups. Or perhaps: if you think furry is childish and self-destructive, you should see what the rest of the world is up to.

The evil funhouse mirror version of the born-again furry is the anti-furry. An anti-furry (for the purposes of this article) is someone who thinks the furry community is a bad thing. In my experience anti-furries usually fit into one of two categories:

  1. The burned fur: a fur who has been hurt by or become disgusted with the furry community. They usually cite the endless whirlpools of drama, or the community’s tolerance of unsocial or oversexed behaviour. These furries often ragequit by airing their grievances in some public forum, quietly lurk online for a while, and eventually return – albeit harbouring ill will towards the community in general.
  2. The troll: someone who rails about the horror of the furry community. Something Awful was a notorious hotspot for this sort of behaviour some years ago. I’m happy to say I have personally seen less trolls in recent times. The trolls who are obsessed with the furry community are often (surprise surprise) latent furries who haven’t managed to admit it to themselves.

The anti-furries are similar to the born-again furries because they have equivalent confidence in their opposing convictions. They are also similar in that those strong opinions are rooted in personal experience: the revelation of the furry community at a late age; the feeling of being let down by the community; the pain of being a closet case.

Regardless of your own opinion, born-again furries and anti-furries alike have interesting and valid personal stories to tell. They are all worth your time and your fellowship.

There is a rough truism here – a closely-held extreme belief often belies a transformative personal experience – that can apply in any case where a strong opinion is expressed. It holds for born-again Christians and, to refer back to my recent post, it holds for controversial topics like zoophilia.

My article from two weeks ago makes a defence for ethical zoophiles, practising or otherwise. It’s a topic that is rarely discussed in any sort of intelligent fashion. In my experience, most conversations devolve into flame wars between two people who hold extreme positions on either side. But there are strong reasons to defend and appreciate the people holding both the extreme pro-zoo and the extreme anti-zoo opinions.

A few weeks ago, there was a zoophilia thread over on Flayrah. The subject is a furry who has been prosecuted for bestiality. The subsequent comment thread is difficult to read without becoming enraged for the un-nuanced opinions asserted from all sides – see below for a relatively mild example.

Comments from Flayrah

But let’s consider a closely-held extreme belief often belies a transformative personal experience. This puts a different perspective on our flamers. I have already made my defence of the zoos, so let’s look at the anti-zoos. Here are a couple of plausible scenarios:

  • The topic of zoophilia is important to our anti-zoo because she is a zoophile and is rejecting it in her own head. Participating in zoo-related discussions helps reinforce her belief that zoophilia is wrong. It also helps her believe that she will be able to escape her own sexuality. And perhaps, subconsciously, it’s also a little titillating.
  • The topic of zoophilia is important to our anti-zoo because he experimented at a young age with the family pet. What if our anti-zoo was discovered by a family member mid-act? (We all vividly recall our own shameful experiences and we know how powerful they can be.)

In either case, our angry furries are a lot more complex and interesting than their comments suggest.

Some of the most interesting furries I’ve met were angry. The topics that triggers their anger are all different, but they all share the same destructive consequences: anger is exhausting and, in the long run, unhealthy.

The furry community is a positive one for people exploring their own mind and their own personality. This holds true for the angry furries as well. Most of the angry furries I’ve met have changed or moderated their position over time – the community has helped them accept their sexuality, or their past, or their familial relationships, or whatever it may have been. Everyone has a unique story.

It’s easy to get fired up when someone disagrees with you. I’d suggest that we should be tolerant towards all parties – even the trolls, even the born-again Christians. They might surprise you with their intelligence and ideas. (Your milage may vary if you befriend George W. Bush.)

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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11 thoughts on “Born Again

  1. I can understand a good bit of this article, and it does make a lot of sense. I think though, that though there may be a few ‘anti’ of different groups, your typical font of negativity and rage is just the usual internet trolling. Particularly in some of the more heated debates, all it takes is someone versed in the internet to stir up trouble somewhere, point, and pull the trigger.

    The internet debacle with Jennifer Hepler is a prime example. I don’t feel that even 10% of the people railing on her even understand what they’re being angry about. They’re just raging to rage. Sometimes I love Reddit. Today hasn’t been one of those days.

    I get angry at things too. We all get flustered and nerd-rage or gallop around on our high horse (sorry JM) about something… I dare someone to say otherwise. I am definitely not a fan of zoo-philia. It is never something I feel I would take part in, and I honestly find it repulsive. But I am glad that everyone was able to talk about it in an intelligent way earlier. I didn’t take part in the discussion not because of lack of opinion, but rather lack of knowledge of the subject.

    As for the born again feeling… I don’t feel I’m quite there yet. Even as I’ve started to accept, understand, and appreciate the different aspects of being furry, I found the network of friends around me not only didn’t understand, but were in fact those anti-furries. I haven’t really had an outlet myself now, save for my venturings onto this blog and taking part in intelligent discussions with the folks on it.

    Its refreshing. Thanks guys.

    1. Hi Forge, thanks for the kind words.

      It’s not easy to put things in perspective on the internet. It’s a pretty anonymous place, and it’s easy to jump to conclusions when you don’t know much about someone beyond a shouty opinion.

      I’d encourage you to reach out towards groups of furries as you feel comfortable, online or (ideally) offline. It took me a year or so, between discovering furry and poking my ears out. In the end it was very rewarding. Hopefully it is on its way to being very positive for you too.

  2. At the risk of being off-topic a tad, do you have any recommendations? Online places and the like that you could recommend for someone I mean. I’ve always had the mentality just punching something into google and letting it fly would have frightening results. Even here I lurked for a bit and read everything before realizing, “Hey! Polite? Intelligent? I’m in.”

    I hold no illusions to that being common of course.

    1. That’s a good question. I would suggest scanning through Wikifur, see if there are any furry groups with an online presence somewhere near you. And if you use IM, I’m intermittently online at jm@furrynet.com on MSN (email as well) – come and say hello.

      1. I should note that WikiFur itself is a community that could be worthwhile. There are also forums associated with the site, though I haven’t looked too deeply into them. Additionally, other social sites are cropping up here and there such as The Furry Agenda (http://furryagenda.com). Furry News Network (http://furrynewsnetwork.com) also occasionally has a fairly good track record.

        I’ll chime in with JM here, as well. I’m occasionally on AIM as drabmakyo, or email as makyo@adjectivespecies.com – I’m up for talking as well :o)

  3. This is a very interesting take on furries. The way you use born again Christians as an intro is also very interesting. I have been raised a Christian, and, considering my age, may as well be someone also raised in the furry subculture. So I do not fit into either category of born again furry or christian. But being influenced by Christianity for a much longer time, I am still rather cautious about the fandom (I do not know which term to use at the moment — fandom or subculture — so as not to sound repititious…) When you [JM] bring up the “born again” furry vs. the “always been” furry (paragraph 6 or 7, depending on the one spaced sentence), it hit my mindset on the matter perfectly. It IS a flawed community, and I have a bit of a time wrapping my mind around it, hence “cautious.”
    Otherwise, this blog (?) is a great site, and you guys bring up such thought provoking ideas about furriness. Plus, every (main) post airs on the side of neutrality, or otherwise is intelligently argued for or against a certain topic. I do have my own (conservative) opinions on this stuff (Zoo-philia = no, Sexual preference = straight for life), but that does not mean I am going to “damn ye all to hell.” I am all for being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, and in that sense you all are doing an awesome job! I enjoy [adjective][species] immensely; keep it up.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Nimadro.

      I’m solidly atheist but I think that Christians are unfairly marginalized in the furry community. Furries tend to focus on the church’s hypocritical teachings or the views of Christian extremists, which I think is missing the point. Most Christians that I know don’t read or even really believe the bible, or the existence of a literal, physical God: Christianity is an internal foundation. It seems to provide people with a personal reference point, possibly better described as “spirituality” rather than “religion”.

      I hope I’m being fair towards yourself (and other Christians) there. Friends of mine who have lost their religion (often with my enthusiastic support) have talked about how they feel like they need to replace the idea of God with something. There is, of course, no such thing: atheists are completely alone in the world.

      Anyway, I’ve got some more Christianity coming up on Monday. Hopefully you’ll enjoy that one too.

  4. Awesome article, JM.

    I just started interacting with the community, although I identified with the fandom at 29. It was absolutely an epiphany for me, and it did set off a series of life changes. The experience was so powerful and permanent that I still want to evangelize it. I’ve only recently started to notice that those who have been in the fandom through their formative years tended not to have a similar experience when they found it.

    Your articles have a theme of tolerance that really resonates with me. I think a big reason for that is because of how much I hated myself. To me, the fandom is tolerance, starting with completely accepting myself. Do you suppose there is a more general association of tolerance with born again furries? I’m not saying that those who grew up with the fandom aren’t tolerant – I think pretty much anyone who grows up furry is going to get lots of hard, unnecessary lessons in intolerance.

  5. I discovered Furry at 14, in high school, yet I am a very “evangelical” Furry. I hold a lot of passion for my adopted culture. Why don’t I fit the definition of someone who discovered Furry at a young age? I have been Burned, but I never took a negative view of the Fandom. Something always came along that reaffirmed my faith in my people. Is it just that I was more mature for my age? Even now, at 19, I get along more with grey muzzles than I do the drama furs my age who are always causing or suffering from some miniscule problem, and blowing it out of preportion. I have never ragequit the Fandom. Perhaps I meet the born again Furry definition because unroll Furry I had no path or goal?

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