Tag Archives: religion

Tongues of Beasts and Angels

Guest post by Toledo (@toledothehorse). To the furry community, Toledo has mainly been an amateur artist. But outside the furry community, he can’t stop analyzing religion and furry things – often at the same time.

In April 1906, at a home at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street, Los Angeles, fire fell from heaven.

This was no fiery column defending fleeing Hebrew slaves nor cause for a modern-day Elijah to slaughter idolatrous priests. To those at the Bonnie Brae home, these were the “cloven tongues of fire” that had visited Christ’s apostles at Pentecost. They were a sure sign of Jesus’s saving power, in latter days come again into the world.

And they were literal tongues, too. Late one night, a black pastor and a white friend were kneeling in prayer when the latter let loose a flow of ecstatic syllables. The next day, the pastor, William Seymour, did the same. And when Seymour acquired a church-turned-warehouse-turned-stable as his new mission center—the famous Azusa Street Mission in downtown LA—hundreds more, of all races, experienced the outpouring of divine power. Those on the margins of society, generally poor, found in this power meaning for their lives, healing from their ills, and salvation for their souls and communities. Missionaries, believing themselves endowed with the power to speak foreign languages spontaneously, set out penniless but joyful to spread the Good Word.

And there was neither black nor white in Christ Jesus to these revivalists. To onlookers in an America in which racial barriers were being erected and fortified, the expressions these early so-called “Pentecostals” took for signs of divine favor were horrific breaches in social protocol. Seymour’s erstwhile mentor, from whom he had learned of the gift of tongues, denounced the “Negroisms” on display under Seymour’s ministry: seemingly nonsensical ululations, jerky dancing motions, raucous exclamations, weeping faces and bodies collapsing, beatifically smiling all the while. Black men were embracing white women, a clear racial transgression for those of the time that was all but overtly sexual: everyone knew black men couldn’t be trusted around virtuous white women. While the Azusa Street Revival under Seymour’s leadership was revolutionary in its deconstruction of strict racial boundaries, it suffered the fate of all revolutions: the disapprobation of those who defined “decorum” as “like us.” Even today, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t scoff at the so-called Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit, from healings to tongues to handling snakes.

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Furry as an Alternative to Religion

Furries are a diverse bunch.

Our diversity means that we’re often excluded from the mainstream. This is particularly evident in our sexual preferences – only about a third of us identify as ‘heterosexual’ or ‘mostly heterosexual’ (Ref). Other traits displayed by some furries – gender dysmorphia, heavy internet usage, or even simple geekiness – can also play a part in our diversion from society’s definition of ‘normal’.

Not surprisingly, furries do not closely embrace religion, a societal construct that can embody and tacitly enforce the norms of the mainstream. A little more than 50% of furries are essentially areligious (Ref). This rate is about five times higher than for the wider American population (Ref).

Furry provides some of the benefits of religion – I identify two in this article, loosely defined as ‘spirituality’ and ‘community’ – that provide insight into how mainstream society might react to the challenges of our changing world. Furries embody some of the biggest challenges to religion in the twenty-first century: acceptance of diversity, the growing online world and, most importantly, the increasing rejection of religion altogether.

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