One Faith, Many Paths: Stephen Weese

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This month, I interview Stephen Weese, aka Steve Racer, the founder of Fans For Christ.

  1. What was your childhood like?

Wow, starting off straight into the deep questions! My childhood… in many ways I suppose it never ended. I loved reading, I started reading at age 2. I read science books mostly that my parents got me. One day I got the first Choose Your Own Adventure book, “The Cave of Time,” which was amazing to me even though you died terribly 90% of the time. I had Star Wars posters in my room, I had terrible nightmares almost every night, I was skinny, had thick glasses, and got picked on a lot. I had to sneak home via a hidden trail to avoid bullies after school. I always fell in love with the prettiest girl in my classes, and had zero chance with her. I flew model airplanes with my Dad, who had made me play baseball to help with my coordination problems, which worked. I was the Atari video game champ of my neighborhood, and I created a variety of “shows” on my Mom’s cassette recorder. I was always drawing things and creating, and I was a singer (cantor) at the local Catholic church. I fought and played with my sister, Julie, and started writing computer programs at age 10. If I wasn’t at the computer, I was exploring in the woods with a stick, pretending I was an adventurer in a fantasy land. Pretty much how I live now, really.

  1. How long have you been Christian?

Ever since I can remember my Mom prayed the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer with me before I went to bed. I always, always knew there was a God. I could feel him there. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience. At the age of ten I was baptized in the local Baptist church. I didn’t totally understand it, but I knew I wanted to give my life to God back then.

  1. What made you start Fans For Christ?

I didn’t really intend to create a Christian group or ministry. I saw a post on Cosplay.com asking if there were other Wiccans on the site, and I thought it would be fair to ask if there were other Christians. The response I got really amazed me. There were these Christian fans out there who had this unique experience of living in these two worlds that don’t overlap, and even have some hostility on both sides. I thought we should have a group to talk, share, and bond. The group then became more than that. A few years before, I was planning on becoming a pastor – but I had (and still have some) anxiety issues and didn’t feel like I could handle it. I had started training and everything, led worship, led small groups, gone to conferences… so that helped me make FFC into more than a group, but a ministry. I’m not sure exactly how you’d categorize us, but I love our folks. Christians are my family, and fans are my family too, and those people that are both – we belong together.

  1. What’s your favorite Bible verse? Why?

I love Revelation 21. It’s a few verses, actually. About how God will make everything new, and there will be no more “death or mourning or crying or pain.” Almost every time I read it I get tears. Anyone who has gone through the suffering of this world will know why I love this verse. One time, years ago while I was fasting and praying, I fell asleep. I had a vision. I woke up in a field of grass and clover, and the sun was shining. I knew I was on the new earth, because in my heart I felt that nothing was wrong. Nothing was wrong, anywhere. Everything was right. And I woke up and wept for the peace I felt in my heart for that brief moment.

  1. Who’s your favorite Biblical figure besides Jesus?

This tends to change over time, but my favorites are the ones that faced death rather than deny their faith. David faced Goliath, Daniel was not afraid of the king’s wrath. I always felt bad for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because they are known by their pagan names. They were basically held in exile and given new Babylonian names, but their original names were Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. They said that God could deliver them from the fiery furnace but “even if he does not” we will not bow before your false gods. Job said “though he slay me I will trust him” and Elijah stood alone in front of hundreds of priests of Baal and called down fire to burn and show who the true God was.

  1. Who inspires you to be a better person?

There are people I know who continue to remain true to their beliefs and what they know is good, regardless of circumstance. People who wouldn’t sell out for a million dollars, and people who have not let riches turn them into monsters. My friend and former freedom fighter Dr. J. Anthony del Marmol, who escaped Cuba and whose son was killed by the regime because he defied them. Bill Gates, who gives countless millions to improve life in third world countries. People who have gone through war, death, and terrible trials and yet still have loving hearts and are open to the future of humanity.

  1. I’ve heard claims that Christianity is going to go away. What are your thoughts on that claim?

Where would it go? Are we like the elves, all ready to sail away to the west? Seriously though, there are a lot of people who do not like religion, and Christianity in general. I understand that. Many things have been done in the name of God and even the name of Christ that harmed the brotherhood of humanity. Even today, many voices claiming to be of Christ condemn others and judge them, driving them away from Christ and God. Yet there are those of us that love Christ and love others, and I pray we are the ones that remain.

One third of the world calls themselves Christian in some way; a long way from a simple man in a small town in Israel proclaiming the truth. Rome could not destroy Christianity, persecution and death could not end it. I believe it persists and will persist because it is God’s truth, and if God is truly real, it cannot be taken away except by his will.

  1. Which denomination are you?

Generally speaking, I’m a Charismatic, which means I believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit – like healing, prophecy, words of knowledge – operate today and that we are to seek those things. I have studied many denominations, partially because Fans for Christ is open to all Christian denominations, and I have some theology from many of them. I love John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist church, and also John Wimber, one of the founders of the modern Vineyard movement. I probably associate closely with the Vineyard churches, but there isn’t one close to me. I have a lot of Reformed roots that persist in my theology, especially about the sovereignty of God.  I go to a great charismatic church that is not part of a denomination–Harvest Rock, or HRock.

  1. Tell me about your book(s)?

In 2001 I wrote a computer book, The A+ Exam Prep, with a couple of cool technical authors. I mention that because if you search on Amazon you’ll see that come up under my name. I’m sure you’re asking about God Loves the Freaks, which is my book that I wrote because of my FFC ministry but also because of the wonderful people in the Christian Goth and Punk scene that I know. I was in a very legalistic church for a while and had to suppress who I really was to fit in. Besides that I became terribly anxious because I was always being corrected for minor things about what I said, how I dressed, or other things I couldn’t predict. I ended up not being able to go to church for over two years due to extreme anxiety. After I recovered I had an epiphany that God made me strange and different and that it was a wonderful thing. I expressed myself, entered the goth scene, and started my faith all over with Jesus at the center. I realized I was made this was for a reason and I could reach out to other freaks and geeks. The book is about my experiences as a Christian goth/geek, but also is an important source of bible verses and theology that explains that dressing differently, being weird, reading Harry Potter, playing D&D and many other things are not evil or wrong. It’s a defense and a great book to give to people who don’t understand us, but also an encouragement for those of us who are in this place – God loves us and accepts our uniqueness and you don’t have to wonder or worry about trying to conform to some man-made mold.

For most of my life I’ve suffered with Adrenal Fatigue or burnout – a condition many medical doctors don’t even believe in or give much credit to. In 2013 I had the worse episode I’ve ever experienced, I almost lost my mind and my body. Through a rigorous nutrition program, I’ve slowly recovered. I am writing a book on this experience to increase awareness and help other people who have similar problems. Adrenal fatigue is insidious, since the glands handle about five different hormones, you can have many different problems. Fibromyalgia is similar in that doctors didn’t believe it existed until enough people came forward and more studies were done. So, I’m writing this book, Adrenal Fatigue: Three Times Fallen, Three Times Reborn about my history and the three major episodes I’ve had, as well as what I have learned. I’m completing a diploma in nutritional balancing so I can help others. I realize that what I’m learning is considered alternative medicine and it’s controversial, but traditional medicine had no answer for me. So, there’s the short answer to your question. 

Sandman: Dream Country

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“Writers are liars, my dear. Surely you have realized that by now?”–Prince Erasmus

Dream Country is the first volume in Sandman not connected to the main arc, and collects issues #17-20. Each chapter is its own separate story.  This also marks the debut of Kelley Jones, one of my favorite comic book artists, as penciller on the comic. He is most well-known for his work on Batman in the 90’s beginning with #515, and the Elseworlds Batman trilogy Red Rain, in which Batman fights Dracula himself.  In the script for the first story (which is included with the current version of the trade) Gaiman tells Jones that the reason each story is separate is that after doing two arcs, he felt he needed a break.

“Calliope” concerns the titular Mse.  She is the youngest of the nine Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the personification of memory itself.  Each muse resides over a specific art:

  • Calliope–Epic Poetry
  • Clio–History
  • Euterpe–Music
  • Erato–Lyric Poetry
  • Melpomene–Tragedy
  • Polyhymnia–hymns
  • Thalia–comedy
  • Theogony–kings
  • Urania–astronomy

Calliope has been held against her will by a man named Erasmus. He sells her to a struggling author named Richard Madoc. Despite her status as a minor goddess, Calliope no longer has the power to free herself because her religion is not as prevalent as it once was.  In desperation, she calls out to Dream, who was her ex-lover.  She fears Dream will not hear her, but to her surprise, he does in fact help her.  To make Richard release her, he plagues him with so many ideas that he on the brink of insanity.  This story also mentions Calliope’s son, Orpheus, who plays a key role later in the series.

“A Dream of a Thousand Cats” is about cats attempting to free themselves from the tyranny of humanity. Although I did like Jones’s artwork on the story, I felt it was the weakest of the quartet.  Dream only makes a small appearance in the story.

Continue reading “Sandman: Dream Country”

My Facebook Page Got Deleted

I joined Facebook in 2008. I had recently attended one of my mom’s annual family reunions, and heard so many of my relatives were on there.  I thought I’d sign up in order to see what they’re up to.

Facebook has many positives for someone like me.  I don’t spend much, if any, time out of my house (unless you count getting groceries and helping my dad with his bricklaying business). Facebook is a great way to meet people without having to be face to face.  I may never actually these people in person, but I’d still consider them friends.  (In fact, most of the people I’ve interviewed for my “One Faith, Many Paths” series are people I know from Facebook)

I’ve also joined a few autism groups on Facebook.  Many of the people in these groups are so proud to be autistic that they even put the first two letters in the word “autism” in their username, either at the end or in the middle. These letters also stand for a movement on Facebook called Autism United, a group dedicated to a positive image for autism online.  I was inspired to join in, so I inserted an AU into my username as well, right at the end.

Then came a problem. There are trolls on Facebook who are using fake names to set up accounts for their heinous activities.  Facebook decided that everyone with a fake name was guilty of trolling, whether they did it or not. (I wouldn’t know the first thing about hacking someone else’s page, for the record.) This resulted in a new policy: fake names would no longer be allowed on Facebook.  To Facebook, this included people with suffixes as well, like the AU that I had in my name.  This despite suffixes being used often in names like Hank Williams Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (I think that’s how it’s spelled).

This new policy gave cyberbullies a new way to bully others.  They sought out people like me who had “AU’ in their usernames and reported many of them. Eventually, I was reported and deleted.  When your page gets deleted, you get no notice, not even an e-mail.  So, when a bully reported me, I had no idea my page was deleted.  All I knew was that my username and password no longer worked.  I sent an e-mail to Facebook and got a confirmation code, so I thought that would help. No dice–they only work if your page is still up.  After several tries, I finally realized what happened. I was now one of the victims. I had two options. First, I could send Facebook proof of my identification  and wait 60 days. 60 DAYS! The second option was to get a new e-mail and create a whole new account. Waiting 60 days was out of the question. I did not want the bullies to think they won.

Continue reading “My Facebook Page Got Deleted”

My Favorite Covers, Part 1

I’m a lover of rock, and I especially like covers. A cover is when someone records a song someone else did, often putting his/her own spin on the song. I’ve decided to start a new series of posts where I share my favorite covers.

The list’s criteria will be as follows:

  1. One cover per artist. This not only applies to the artist, but to the artist being covered. So no list will have more than one Jimi Hendrix cover, for instance.
  2. The original artist must not be involved in the cover. For example, the Run-DMC version of “Walk This Way” is not eligible, because Aerosmith performs the song with them.
  3. I must be able to find the song on Youtube.
  4. Tribute songs, such as Ice Cube’s “Bop Gun (One Nation)”, are not covers.

1. “Blue Suede Shoes”–Elvis Presley (original: Carl Perkins)

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The fact that Elvis recorded this song during a time when many radio stations refused to play black musicians is irrelevant to me. Elvis had a presence that, to this day, cannot be matched. So what if the King never wrote any of his material? He still had talent.

2. “I’m Not in Love”–Tori Amos (original: 10cc)

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This song comes from Tori Amos’s cover and concept album, Strange Little Girls. Tori Amos is a true talent, and she is no stranger to great covers. I first heard her when she covered Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on her Crucify EP. To be honest, I can’t stand the original version of this song. So to hear someone I like do the song better is enough to include her in this list.

3. Bananarama–“Venus” (original: Shocking Blue)

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In many cases, a cover can overshadow the original. This is definitely the case for Bananarama’s version of “Venus”. For me, the song suits female vocals better than male vocals. Besides, I’m a child of the 80’s and I completely embraced the New Wave movement.

4. “The Sky is Crying”–Stevie Ray Vaughn (original: Jimi Hendrix)

(note: I could not find a video of the Hendrix version)

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There are many guitarists who have attempted to cover Hendrix. Stevie Ray Vaughn took it one step further. The man doesn’t just emulate Hendrix, he channels Hendrix’s spirit into his body and produces a masterpiece.

5. “Shine”–Pillar (original: Collective Soul)

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When Collective Soul recorded this song, I had a feeling a Christian artist would come along and do their own version. Pillar is one of the best Christian rockers out there (check out their song “Front Line” for proof), and they do a great job with this song.

6. “If You Want Me to Stay”–Red Hot Chili Peppers (original: Sly and the Family Stone)

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I’m a Chili Peppers fan. Do you really think I wouldn’t include one of their covers? This was the first cover they released, and they do a good job. Flea shows why he is one of the best bassists in rock.

7. “Games Without Frontiers”–Arcade Fire (original: Peter Gabriel)

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This comes from a double CD called Scratch My Back And I’ll Scratch Yours. The first CD is Peter Gabriel doing covers, while the second is artists returning the favor. Arcade Fire does a great job here.

8. “Let’s Go Crazy”–Incubus (original: Prince)

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To me, Incubus is a band that deserves way better than they already have. Their song “Drive” is good, but there is so much more to them.  And if you’re going to cover this song, you’d better be able to do it justice, because Prince just wails on the guitar. Incubus is certainly up to the challenge.

9. “Rock of Ages”–Kelly Hansen (original: Def Leppard)

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For those who don’t know, Kelly Hansen is the current lead singer for rock legend Foreigner. If he can do this to Def Leppard, I have got to see him on a Foreigner song.

10. “No Matter What”–Def Leppard (original: Badfinger)

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And speaking of Def Leppard, here’s one of their covers from their cover album simply titled Yeah!, which was released between Slang and X. I think it’s a great way to showcase Vivian Campbell as a good replacement for Steve Clarke, who was a tough act to follow.

 

 

If you know of any other great covers, contact me at rocklobsterjwt@gmail.com and put “covers” in the subject line. I will be doing more of these in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fictional Spectrum: The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time

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I am a member of many autism groups on Facebook. One day, I asked if anyone knew of any great fictional portrayals of autistics as inspiration for future installments of my “Fictional Spectrum” series. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon was mentioned several times, so I decided to try it out.

The story begins when the book’s narrator, Christopher John Francis Boone, discovers a dead poodle in his neighbor’s yard.  He is 15 years old, and lives with his father, Ed, in Swindon, along with a pet rat named Toby.

Christopher is never stated as having autism in the book.  In fact, Haddon himself has stated that he did not intend for Christopher to be perceived as autistic.  Nevertheless, he does possess many autistic traits.  He is exceptionally intelligent, especially in math.  He does not like being touched.  He is obsessed with both Sherlock Holmes and prime numbers. (In fact, the book’s chapters are numbered in prime numbers, starting with 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and so on.  It is Christopher’s obsession with Sherlock Holmes that drives him to solve the mystery of who killed the dog.

Ed, his father, is not very kind to Christopher. He tries well, but does not seem to understand Christopher’s personality.  He tends to get angry with Christopher easily.

For the most part, I identified with Christopher. I was quite the chatterbox as a kid, and was dubbed a “walking encyclopedia” because of my ability to absorb what I’d read. This is a trait I’ve never fully outgrown. I found this part enjoyable, even though Christopher tended to veer off on irrelevant topics.

I did have some problems with the book, I did have some issues.  My biggest problem is that Christopher is a savant when it comes to math.  Not every autistic is a savant, and I believe that a positive stereotype can be just as damaging as a negative one.  A person might see a positive stereotype and wonder why he or she does not “measure up” to its image. I would love to see a book or TV show with an autistic character who does not happen to be a savant or a math genius.

Would I recommend this book? Actually, yes. I feel that the book was well-written and portrayed an autistic character well, intended or not. It was good at keeping suspense, which is great for mystery stories. If you like mysteries, I say check it out.