One Faith, Many Paths: Chris Bern

bern1. How long have you been Christian? What was your childhood like?

I grew up Lutheran, and was nominally Christian, but God wasn’t central to our family.  We prayed at dinner and before bed, we attended church on Sundays, but we didn’t truly live by God.  It was a good childhood, though, with very loving, supportive parents who helped foster confidence and independence in me.  When I went to college I became agnostic and looked into other religions.  I reached a low point in my life when I was 28 and turned to Christ.  That was in 1998 and I’ve followed Jesus every since.

2. How long have you worked for Fans For Christ?

I first came across FFC at Dragon*Con in 2005.  Within the next year I became secretary for the group, and pretty soon I was helping lead worship services.  A few years ago I officially became co-director of the group and am in charge of the FFC efforts in the eastern half of the US.

3. Can you explain what your people do at conventions?

We set up a fan table and talk to people that come up to us.  Our purpose is to share Christ and the Gospel with people, but we aren’t heavy-handed about it.  We want to show those in the fan community that you can be a geek and a Christian.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  We also want to reach out to other Christian fans/geeks and give them a place of fellowship and community.  When possible we participate in con events such as marching as a group in parades, hosting and participating in panels, and otherwise being a light for Christ.  We also try to hold church services whenever possible, usually with a con-friendly theme.  God isn’t openly discussed much at cons, and we want to change that.  Yet we want to attract people to God, not turn them away.

4. Why do you feel that Christians who attack Sci-fi and fantasy, such as Harry Potter, are doing harm?

Many of us who are fans are very passionate about our interests.  I have seen all Star Wars movies when they were first released in the theaters.  I’ve been reading comic books since I could first read.  And I’ve been playing and running role-playing games for over 30 years.  None of that keeps me from loving God and following the Bible.  None of that affects my salvation.  These things aren’t central to my life, but they give me joy and entertainment.  When someone directly attacks these interests, especially without really knowing anything about them, they are indirectly attacking me.  Most fans and geeks feel similar, and feel that when a Christian belittles their passion it is a direct reflection on themselves as a person.  That Christian is then seen as narrow-minded and judgmental, as well as boring and uniformed.  Why would anyone want to be like that?   Christians who attack these things are certainly trying to look out for the hearts and souls of people, but in a very misguided way.  What is there in these attacks that would make anyone want to be one of those people?  Many fans have been condemned and hated simply because they liked anime or dressed like a Jedi.  Yes, there are absolutely things in fandoms and cons that are influenced by Satan and go against what the Bible teaches.  But most of it is harmless fun.  We should be trying to make people WANT to know Christ and WANT to be part of God’s kingdom.  Condemning them only pushes them away and makes them not want to have anything to do with Christ.  Christians shouldn’t be accepting of everything, but they should try to get to know the people and things they are talking about and find common ground.  That is a large part of the purpose of FFC.

5. What is your family like?

My wife and I are about to celebrate our 15th anniversary.  We have a son, Lucas, who is 12, and a daughter, Elena, who is 10.  My wife has a custom costuming business, A Touch Of Magic Costumes.  All of us are geeks and enjoy cosplay.  Our children have grown up going to cons and think that people who don’t attend them are boring.  My wife and daughter are very active in theater, while my son and I dabble a bit in it.  All of us are very close and it is important to us to make a point to do things as a family.  We are close-knit, but a bit of a unique family because of our hobbies and interests.

6. What is your job outside of FFC?

I’m a veterinarian who has been practicing for 16 years.  And I’m always happy to discuss my geek side at work!

7. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?

Definitely the Apostle Peter.  I relate to him so well because he is the most “human” of Jesus’ disciples.  He was the most hot-headed of Jesus’ followers and routinely shot his mouth off and said things the didn’t mean and later regretted.  Yet at the same time he was one of the most spiritually strong, being the only person besides Jesus to walk on water, being the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and being one of the most successful preachers in the New Testament era.  Peter was so fallible and prone to mistakes, yet Christ recognized the strength of his faith and used it despite his flaws.  If Jesus can use someone as imperfect as Peter, he can use me also.

8. What is your favorite Biblical passage and why?

Proverbs 3:5-6.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Many things in my life haven’t made sense to me.  I’ve been turned down for jobs that I’ve really wanted when I felt that I was the most qualified person.  I’ve moved to places I never thought I’d live.  I honestly never thought that I would become a licensed minister, hold church services, and help lead a ministry.  In fact, if I go back and look at my life, nothing has ever really gone exactly in the way that I had planned and expected.  This passage in Proverbs really helps me get through those confusing times when I can’t see what is ahead of me.  I’m also a very strong-willed, stubborn, independent person who has a hard time letting go of things and turning them over to God.  When this happens I can go back to this part of Proverbs and remember that God tells me to trust Him completely and absolutely, and as long as I do HE will be the one in charge and will take care of my path.  It’s been a hard lesson for me, but I’m learning that His ways are better than mine.

9. Is there anyone who inspires you to be a better person?

My wife and children.  I want so much to be a better father, husband, and person, and how I act around the people closest to me helps with how I act around everyone else.  I’ve learned many things about myself since they have been in my life and have especially learned just how fallible and selfish I can be.  I wouldn’t be a minister if it wasn’t for my wife’s guidance and calling me out when I’m being pig-headed and stupid.  I’m learning patience and unconditional love from my children.  Other than God they are the focus of my life and the reason I keep going through the difficult days.

10. What evidence would you give for God’s existence?

Wow, I don’t even know where to begin!  I’ve studied a lot of apologetics and it’s impossible for me to quickly and succinctly give all of the evidence.  For someone who wants to delve into the details, I would recommend reading “The Case For….” series by Lee Strobel and “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” by Josh McDowell.  Both are excellent and exhaustive sources on how the Bible is accurate and how God really can exist and do everything that He has.  Personally I can simply see the change in me after I experienced salvation and how I am absolutely not the same person I was before that.

11. Are there any Sci-fi or fantasy programs you feel have brought you new insight into the Christian faith? (Excluding stuff like Narnia or Lord of the Rings, which is Christian to begin with) How did this happen?

Believe it or not, Firefly.  The character of Shepherd Book was created by an atheist, acted by a Buddhist, and is one of the best representations of a Christian that I’ve seen.  He is strong in his faith, but also very human and fallible.  He has a questionable background that he gave up to serve God.  He associates with known sinners and tries to bring light into their lives rather than condemning them.  I’ve long found him an inspiring character and one to admire.  It doesn’t change my faith as much as it shows me how our human failings can be overcome, as well as still affect us.  He sometimes shows fear in the face of death but also stands up to danger.  Too many times Christians and especially preachers are seen as somehow weak when their shortcomings are visible.  Book proves that the faith can still support someone even when things seem to be going wrong around them.

12. What is your opinion on the DC reboot? 

Okay, I’ll try to keep this relatively brief, but comic books have always been one of my biggest interests and passions.  I certainly can understand the reasons for DC’s reboot to the New 52, as there were decades upon decades of sometimes convoluted changes, characters, and other “baggage” that would make it hard for someone new to comics to understand. By completely wiping the slate clean in a way that had never been done (even in their previous “reboot” events such as Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour) they made their series and characters more approachable.  I’ll admit that it helped get me back into DC comics.  On the other hand, the got rid of some beloved storylines and even characters.  And the timing is often confusing.  For example, in the new timeline over a five year period there were four Robins:  Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damien Wayne.  How did all of those guys have time to be Robin in such a short period of time?  Some characters have been changed in unwanted ways, at least to me, such as the Creeper and Blue Devil.  And there are also many characters that still haven’t shown up, such as Metamorpho.  A lot of the minor characters from the previous DC universe have gone AWOL and we don’t know if they will show up.  So overall, I think it’s a mixed bag.  I love what they’ve done with Aquaman (one of my all-time favorite characters), but don’t like how they changed Green Arrow (another favorite of mine).  I really like the Earth 2 series and how they are modernizing the Golden Age characters such as Jay Garrick’s Flash.  I wasn’t as happy with Firestorm being two separate characters, and think that they went back to the merged being too late.  I do have to give DC credit for sticking to their guns and making this a completely new universe, not going back and putting things back to the old ways.

13. About your agnostic period, what led you back to the faith?

It’s actually kind of interesting.  When I was in college I had an opportunity to travel to the UK for a month of study as part of the honors program.  Being a young, rather naive American, I brought some unwanted jeans to sell on the street corners in London.  By the end of the trip I hadn’t worked up the courage to do so, but had run out of room in my luggage due to souvenirs.  Needing to get rid of the jeans, I walked into a church planning on donating them to the poor.  It was during the week so someone went to get the priest.  I sat in a pew waiting for him and looked around.  The church had been badly damaged during German bombing during World War II and remnants from the old stained glass windows were used to make new ones.  While I was sitting there just looking around, I suddenly felt the overwhelming presence of God.  There is no other way to describe it.  In an instant I was absolutely convinced that God himself was turning his eyes on me.  It was overwhelming!  I had not expected or sought this kind of experience and was unprepared for it.  I started crying and when the priest came out I’m sure I confused him as I shoved the jeans at him, tears running down my face, and blubbered something about giving them to the needy.  Then I quickly left!  I didn’t know what was happening, but I no longer had any doubt whatsoever that God was real!  Unfortunately, despite that experience I didn’t follow Christ.  I had no doubts that God existed, but I didn’t understand Jesus’ sacrifice and what that meant.  I didn’t live my life as I should have.  It would take me another 10 years before I would reach a low point in my life, realize that I had nowhere else to turn, and pray for God to accept me and forgive me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debunking Lies: Was Hitler Christian?

I believe that atheists have really stepped up their game in recent years.  They spread many lies to attempt to destroy Christianity.  So, I’ve come up with a new series of posts to debunk these lies.

We’ll start this one: Hitler was Christian. Yes, they dare to break Godwin’s Law.

Now, let’s give credit where it’s due.  Hitler was born into Catholicism, albeit a warped view. In his atrocious autobiography Mein Kampf, he even claimed he was “fighting for the Lord.”

First, let’s consider this Biblical verse: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16). Hitler could not have been following the Lord.  Jesus was born into the Jewish faith. Because of this, Christians can not be considered anti-Semitic.  Hitler considered equality and compassion–two tenets of Christianity–weaknesses.  His leading advisers were in fact atheist and sought to eradicate Christianity’s influence.  Hitler himself stated in 1941: “National Socialism and religion cannot exist together….The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity.” (Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity by Michael Coren, pg 108)

Let’s look at more quotes:

“The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death.” (ibid)

“Christianity is an invention of sick brains.” (ibid, pg 110)

In 1932 before Hitler got into power, 65% of German youth went to Catholic schools. In 1937, it was 3%. Catholic youth groups were forbidden to compete in sports. Hitler set up a separate educational structure. He also said:

The most dangerous activity of countless Catholic clergy is the way in which they ‘mope about’, spreading despondency. Favorite topics are the “dangers of a new time”, “the present emergency”, “the gloomy future”. Prophecies are made about the speedy downfall of National Socialism or at the very least mention is made of the transience of all political phenomena, compared with the Catholic Church which will outlive them all. National Socialist achievements and successes are passed over in silence. … There is thus a deliberated undermining of the very basis of the National Socialist program of reconstruction, the people’s trust in leadership of the state.

–quote from http://www.catholicbridge.com/catholic/was_hitler_a_catholic.php

As you can see, Hitler was a politician. If it helped his cause, he would praise Christianity. But once Christians rose up to oppose him (and yes, they certainly did.), he changed his tune.

50 Years of Doctor Who: The Christopher Eccleston Season (2005)

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Note: There was no regeneration from Eighth Doctor to Ninth, so I linked his first scene instead.
Oh, I did it again; I picked another stupid ape! I should’ve known. It’s not about showing you the universe, it never is. It’s about the universe doing something for you!
Now I can talk the revived, modern version of Doctor Who, right?  Yes, but first there’s a few more “wilderness years” to cover. So I’ll adopt a timeline format.

  • 1999–BBC airs the Comedy Relief charity special “Curse of the Fatal Death”, featuring Rowan Atkinson (of Mr. Bean fame), Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Joanna Lumley, as the Doctor.  This is a spoof, so it’s not considered canon.  I highly recommend watching this. It’s on Youtube, so go check it out. You will laugh, guaranteed.
  • 2001–“Death Comes to Time”, an audio drama featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace airs on BBCi, the Internet version of the BBC.
  • 2002–“Real Time”, an audio drama featuring the Sixth Doctor and Big Finish exclusive companion Evelyn Smythe airs on BBCi
  • 2003–an animated version of “Shada” airs on BBCi, this time featuring the Eighth Doctor and the second Romana. Also on November 13, the BBCi aired the 40th anniversary special “Scream of the Shalka”, featuring Richard E. Grant as the unofficial “ninth Doctor (for this reason, he is often called the “Shalka Doctor”) and Derek Jacobi as The Master, a role he would later reprise in the episode “Utopia”.

In 2004, Russel T. Davies began work on the return of Doctor Who, coming off the success of his controversial program Queer As Folk. He brought on Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell, and Rob Shearman as writers, all of whom had written either Doctor Who novels and/or audio plays for Big Finish.  He also brought on Stephen Moffatt, writer of “Curse of the Fatal Death”.  The first episodes aired the next year.

About Christopher Eccleston

Christopher is the youngest of three sons and was born in Lancashire, England.  At the age of 19, he was inspired to become an actor.  His first role was in Let Him Have It. His first TV roles were in Inspector Morse, Cracker, and Poirot. Also, prior to Doctor Who, he starred in Gone in 60 Seconds and 28 Days Later.

When Eccleston starred on Doctor Who, he became the first actor playing the role who was born after the series began.  According to Davies, Eccleston’s contract only lasted for one season because it was uncertain if the revival would be successful. He played Destro in the first GIJoe movie, Rise of the Cobra. He will play Malekith in the upcoming Thor: The Dark World.

Changes

  • The show’s episodes were no longer serialized, although some stories do take more than one episode.  The show’s episodes now run for 45 minutes.
  • Murray Gold became the new composer. Although the new arrangement is fine, I don’t really care for the logo sequences on the new show. However, because I’ve been showing the changes in the logo, here you go:
  • Davies introduced the concept of the Time War to explain the Eighth Doctor’s off-screen regeneration. Very little of the Time War is known, but is understood that the Doctor is now the last of his kind.
  • First Christmas episode: “The Unquiet Dead”
  • First appearance of the Slitheen: “Aliens in London”

Conclusion

Eccleston’s tenure ranks the lowest for me, more for it being so short than anything else.  I enjoyed his moody portrayal, which seemed to be the result of PTSD. His relationship with Rose really helped her become one of my all-time favorite companions. It was a great foundation for the revival.

The Companions

Rose Tyler (Billie Piper)

First Appearance: “Rose”

Last Appearance: “The End of Time” (w/10th)

I really don’t get all the Rose Tyler hate, she’s received in recent years.  I think she was a fine companion, giving the Doctor a reason to love again. She was kind, feisty, and had the sense of wonder I think was in all the best companions.  The show works best when the Doctor is in a mentor role, as he was with companions like Jo, Sarah Jane, and Ace.  Rose was a fine companion, despite her flaws.

Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke)

First Appearance: “Rose”

Last Appearance: “The Age of Steel” (with 10th)

Mickey was an excellent character, especially for comic relief.  I feel that his initial status as supporting character helped him to prove himself as an ally to the Doctor.  He was a great source of tension for the Doctor and I enjoyed his character a lot.

Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley)

First Appearance: “Dalek”

Last Appearance: “The Long Game”

Adam was a first for the show: the first bad companion.  “wait, what about Vislor Turlough?”, you say? Well, I don’t think he was that bad a companion. Yes, he was self-serving, but he was still loyal to the Doctor.  Adam left Rose to die with a Dalek in his first episode.  That she survived is irrelevant.  And he had the audacity to blame the Doctor when he caught him trying to send information from the future to his own time.  He deserves that hole in his head.

Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)

First Appearance: “The Empty Child”

Last Appearance: “Journey’s End” (with 10th)

Harkness is another first: the first bisexual companion. You would think because I’m a Christian, I would have a problem with this character.  However, Harkness’s nobility is enough to make me overlook this.  His charming personality makes him a great character.

Best Stories

“Rose”– This is how you start a show.  Give the faithful continuity nods to  show that their loyalty is appreciated and give the newbies a foundation so that they don’t have to watch the Classic version (but they still totally should).

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”–This is Colin Baker’s favorite Doctor Who story. He’s not wrong, folks.  You want to know why the Doctor is such a great hero? Watch these episodes. “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everyone lives!”

“Father’s Day”–A great story about why the Doctor tries his best not to mess with time, even if it seems like an innocent mistake.

Worst Stories

“Aliens in London/World War Three”

I did like this story at first. But then Sarah Jane Adventures began using the Slitheen as recurring villains. It’s hard to be intimidating if a normal woman, some meddling kids, and a robot dog can defeat you as easily as that cast did every time.

 

 

Bookworm: The Divergent Trilogy Part 1

divergent
I love dystopian novels. Brave New World is one of my all-time favorite books. And when I heard about the Divergent trilogy, I was intrigued.  I will now do a trilogy of reviews, one for each book: Divergent, Insurgent, and the upcoming Allegiance. 

Now I want to clear something up.  The hype machine for next year’s tie-in movie has been billing it and the books as “the next Hunger Games”.  (For the record, I enjoyed The Hunger Games) It is anything but.  The heroine, Beatrice Prior, is less confident than Katniss, the heroine of The Hunger Games. The environment is more urban than The Hunger Games, taking place in a futuristic Chicago.  The only thing Veronica Roth’s trilogy has in common with Suzanne Collins’s is that they both have female leads.

In the world of Divergent’s Chicago, the world is recovering after a war, which has divided it into five factions. Each one is geared toward a specific virtue.  They all have a specific logo, color scheme, and culture.

divergent Abnegation wears gray. Their virtue represents altruism, putting others before yourself. They are in charge of the Council, Chicago’s governing body, because it is believed that because they value others more than themselves, they are incorruptible. They abhor vanity, to the point where they don’t even have mirrors. They never draw attention to others if they assist, which is in keeping with Jesus’s advice–do good without boasting (Matthew 6:1-4). At the start, this is the faction to where Beatrice belongs, however, she doesn’t feel as if she fits in.

the peaceful
the peaceful

Amity is the faction that is geared toward peace. They wear red and yellow and hold counseling facilities around the city. They are very affectionate towards each other, as Beatrice notes to the reader when she sees two members greet each other by hugging as if they are siblings. This is really all we know in the first book, but the second book goes more into their culture.

the honest
the honest
The Candor are for honesty and work in consort with the Abnegation. They wear black and white to represent their simplistic viewpoint. They are not only trained to always tell the truth without discretion (yes, that dress does make you look fat), but also to determine if others are being honest as well.
the brave
the brave
The Dauntless wear black and represent bravery. They can also be identified by their tattoos and/or body piercings. They are the ones protecting the city, working in consort with the Candor and the Erudite. However, they are disdainful towards Abnegation, rudely addressing them as “Stiffs”.
divergent Finally, there are the blue-wearing Erudite. They represent the intelligent and are the most arrogant as well.
When someone turns sixteen, he/she goes to the Hub (the Sears Tower in today’s world). There they are given a serum that induces a simulation. Your decisions during the simulation determine where you belong. Furthermore, faction is given total precedence–“faction before blood.” During the test, Beatrice discovers she is Divergent, meaning that she has aptitude for more than one faction. She joins the Dauntless, where she meets Four, a boy who becomes a close friend. Eventually, she learns there is a conspiracy between the Erudite and the Dauntless.
To explain more would spoil things more than I probably already have. My next review, for Insurgent, will explain the flaws of each faction and review the plot of that book as well.