Autism and Church

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been writing for Autism Awareness Month this month and now I’d like to get into some deeper content beyond just the internal aspects and more into how being an Aspie works with me in social settings and I’m sure some other Aspies as well. As a friend pointed out, some traits apply to people who are not Aspies. That is to be expected. Ours could just be more extreme at times.

Church is an interesting aspect for me and I have a great concern with the American church today. We seem to be big on feeling and little on content. Now there is nothing wrong with emotion, but there seems to be an emphasis on worship being that which produces a good feeling rather than that which produces goodness in the worshipers. A good service is said to be one where we leave feeling good. It could be in fact that there could be some good services where we live feeling miserable because we have the conviction of God on us.

Music is one aspect found in worship services and I sadly have a tin ear. It is one of the aspects I understand the least. However, if I listen to church music, I would much more prefer the old hymns. I remember growing up and thinking that the hymns seemed boring, but now I look at them and realize that they often have a rich theological content. Consider especially if the church sings “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This is a song I just sit down for immediately being aware of being unworthy to stand in the presence of a God who is holy.

For the most part however, I find the musical aspect difficult to relate to. I have seen some services where I wonder just how many times can you repeat the same chorus over and over? One can think of the story about how someone will play “Just As I Am” until someone has come down the aisle and perhaps sometimes some Christians come down the aisle just because they don’t want to hear the chorus over and over again.

Most services also have a time of fellowship. This is an unusual time as well. If someone comes up to me, I want them to really talk about something. If I go talk to someone, I try to make the conversation short and sweet if I can. For the most part, I would prefer being by myself most of the time. The exception is my wife who’s always next to me in the services.

Of course, the real content of a service is the sermon. Unfortunately, I have heard many many bad sermons. I have even heard some sermons that were so bad that when the final songs were being played, I walked out. I hope to hear something new when I hear a sermon. I want to know that there has been a point in research done that I would not have noticed before. I want to hear an argument. I also want to know that a sermon is not entirely application. I believe if we’re looking at a text of Scripture we need to ask questions in this order.

What does it mean?

What did it mean to the original hearers?

How is it relevant to us today?

Most of us skip straight to the third one. My main example of this is being in a Sunday School class where the idea was that Joshua was written so that we would know to obey God. While I’m sure Joshua had that goal in mind on an a practical level, I don’t think he wrote it solely for that purpose. He also wanted to give a history lesson to Israel and explain the new covenant they were in with them.

Sermons are not meant to be entertainment, but they should be entertaining. Remember that people liked to hear Jesus speak. If our audiences don’t really want to hear us, we should look at how we’re doing. Do we have any humor in our sermons? (Jesus did) Do we have relevant examples? Are our points deep, but also explained in ways that are understandable?

The American church by and large today is bereft of good theology. I am thankful that our church is quite distinct from this, but when churches thrive on simply getting an emotional response, they are going to be unprepared for intellectual objections. As an Aspie, I happen to love the intellectual aspect of the sermon. I do not want a sermon that’s just “Do this” and “Don’t do that.”

While I believe working on these will help reach the Aspies in our world, they will also strengthen the American church in general. If we do not change our ways, I do not believe there can be a strong American church much longer. We need the right balance of intellectual and emotional. We need the application built on the foundation of the proper theology. We need to understand the text in its context rather than just thinking the text is about us.

We need to, and we can, do better.