Autism Awareness: Finale

What is the conclusion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Okay. One final example first. It looks like WordPress apparently independently decided to change my font and I am not sure how to change it back. My Aspie side is internally screaming at this. I realize others not on the spectrum could be the same way, but I definitely am being on it.

But for now, until I get that fixed, let’s discuss the heart of the matter. We’ve been looking all this month at life on the spectrum. Today, it has come to an end. By the way, as I said on Facebook, while I have every now and then seen something about Autism in an ad on a website or a commercial, it is nowhere near the celebration when it comes to identity politics. I find that interesting.

So in the end, what is the goal of all of this? It’s to help those on the outside to understand. It is not to justify any sort of bad behavior. I always say that our Autism is an explanation, but it is not a justification, which only applies if we are doing something wrong or inappropriate. I am not asking for special treatment. I just ask for understanding.

After all, who are we? We are your neighbors. We are your family. We are your friends. We are the people you see at the grocery store. We are the people who are serving you at the bank. You worship with us in a church service. You sit next to us at the DMV. We are in the halls of your schools. You befriend us, love us, and marry us.

We are different from you, but in many ways, we are also people just like you. We can be hurt emotionally, physically, verbally, mentally, and in every other way. Rejection can hit very hard for us. We really do know what it’s like to be on the outside.

Like you, deep down, we all want to be loved. We want to matter to someone else. We want to have friends. I even consider myself more of a loner, but I would not want to go through life without having friends.

The difference is that we do not have our disability out there for everyone to see. If you see someone in a wheelchair, you don’t challenge them to a footrace. Nothing in us explicitly screams “Autism” even if you can tell something is different. Today, I do wear an autism awareness bracelet. Part of it is my hope that someone will notice and at least ask me about the bracelet.

Seek to understand first. I know sometimes when I do something people don’t understand in a public place, I can hear people talking about me and thinking I can’t hear. I can. It doesn’t bother me like it used to, but that’s only after years of studying and learning all that I can. Many others on the spectrum could be less equipped.

Then, show some kindness. Be gentle. We want to know if we are doing something wrong and we don’t like it if we receive mixed messages on that. Life is confusing for all of us and we have an extra layer of that confusion.

However, if you come to know us, we are people who want to be a blessing in your life and we can be. We can be your friend and if you marry us, we can even be a lover to you. Of course, there are varying degrees of capability, but many of us strive to be all that we can be. Personally, that is my own philosophy. Life is a gift and I want to live it and appreciate all that I can of what God gave.

When the month ends, you may not be aware of people on the spectrum that same way. I am aware of it all year long. I am thankful there is a month that people can recognize us, but I wish society would take it more seriously. We are special people as well who can contribute to our world just as much as anyone else can.

Thank you for reading this month. Please be aware.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness: A Cure

What would happen if there was a cure for Autism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This one will be my opinion in many ways. There are many fine organizations researching Autism and looking for a cure. I have no problem with this. However, I have for years now had the same opinion about the matter.

I don’t doubt there are plenty of people that have extremely difficult cases of Autism such that it is hard if not impossible for them to function. For such people, it would be a great thing if a cure came along. For me, I don’t go that route. If there was a cure today, I would not take it.

I compare it to when the third movie of the original X-Men trilogy came out. Some mutants wanted a cure for their mutation, like Rogue, who wanted to be able to experience human contact without worrying about killing someone. Others would not want it at all because they saw their mutation as helpful.

I would be in the latter group. If someone came up with a cure for Aspergers, I would not be interested in getting it. I consider the benefits that I experience greater than the costs, and there very much are real costs. When I go to a social gathering at someone’s home involving food, it can be a reminder of how I am different in a way I don’t care for.

Despite that, I prefer the benefits. I regularly use multi-tasking and memorization and traits like that. I like the way my mind works. I have even gone so far as to speculate that even in eternity, I could still be an Aspie. I am sure there won’t be any negatives at that point, but I do consider it an important part of my identity. If God takes it from me, then He knows what is best, but I would understand if He didn’t.

Now if you are on the spectrum or know someone who is and want a cure, this is nothing against you. This is just my opinion on my personal situation. If you want that cure and you are sure you will be better for it, God bless you, and I am not at all telling those in research to stop looking. I am also open to anything that improves my life overall.

Whatever side we are on with regards to a cure, whether we want one personally or not, we can all do something to raise awareness about Autism and make life better for those of us on the spectrum.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness: Love

Can someone on the spectrum love? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What does it mean to love? Sadly, love is one of the most meaningless words we have in our society today. This is not to downgrade love, but love is something that everyone says and very few people bother to define. The other word that comes to mind like that is God, and I’m certainly not one who disbelieves in God so consider the parallel.

The problem is we have so many different ideas all contained in one word of love. We can say we love pizza, a TV show, a video game, a sports team, a neighbor, a spouse, and God, and we use the same word for all of them. I certainly hope that you don’t love your family the same way you love pizza.

Meanwhile, when two people have sex, we often say that they are “making love.” I find this terminology strange, but not totally false since for a married couple definitely, the marital act is to build up love. Unfortunately, in our society, we also think that sex equals love, a trap especially young girls fall into thinking if a boy has sex with them, it means he loves them. No. The boy could really just be wanting to have sex.

But today, we’re asking if someone on the spectrum is capable of love. The answer to this is an unequivocal yes. Those on the spectrum can love, but it might look different from other people.

For me, love can have emotional highs, but those are the exception. I have more of a reality in my mind about the importance of the person. For a spouse, it’s a covenant relationship with them. For friends, it’s my willingness to do what I can to help them when they are in need.

Sometimes, this is difficult still as being on the spectrum, to a degree that could be higher than for others, it is often difficult to step outside of myself and see things from the perspective of the other. I don’t think we’re alone in that, but I think the degree for us is far more intense.

However, for many of us, loyalty remains something very special. I often think I would fit in wonderfully in the biblical world with honor and shame as this is how I examine my relationships with others. If someone betrays me or wrongs me in a great way, it is hard for me to ever trust them again. By contrast, if someone treats me right, I always want to honor my personal debt to them and show loyalty to them.

To return to love, something to keep in mind is that love is not an emotion. It can result in strong emotions, but it is not that. Just because someone has strong emotions does not mean that they have strong love. Love is shown in the actions someone does. I think it was Lewis who said it is your reactions that will show who you are more than your actions.

Love is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other and if you truly love someone, you have to ask yourself regularly if you are seeking their good or not. There are times that letting go can be for someone else’s good. If you base it on an emotion, the emotion by nature cannot last forever and it will fade.

If you are in a relationship with someone on the spectrum, be it family, friendship, or romantic, be assured that they can love. Someone on the spectrum can also be hurt so watch how you treat them as well. We may not respond the same way as you, but the ways that we are similar are greater than the ways that we are different.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness: Emotions

How do we handle emotions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s really difficult on the spectrum to make sense of emotions. When I am debating with an atheist who tells me I am a Christian for emotional reasons, I know not to take them seriously. If anything, when I get really emotional, that is when I am most often wrestling with emotional doubt.

Emotions are difficult for someone like me to understand. I wonder what I am supposed to feel in such and such a circumstance. I have heard also that if there is any emotion that a man can really understand and most often experiences, it’s anger. I do not consider myself an outsider on this.

I think it’s also common for men on the spectrum. In the movie Adam, when the main character, an aspie, finds out that he has been tricked by the girl he is dating, he explodes in a barrage of anger and hostility. I have been told that as a small child, if my Mom moved one of my matchbox cars during the night, I would be angry until things were put back.

I suspect this might be because we on the spectrum tend to live in a world of order. We want things to be as close to orderly as possible and fit into their place. When something goes against that, we have a hard time processing it. This is one reason small talk irritates me so much. When you call and engage in small talk, that means that time we could be spending on dealing with what we are meant to dealt with is wasted going through this routine behavior.

Consider this especially with when I have to call a place of business for technical service and have to hear the script that they read. I’m sitting there telling them I know all of this already and could quote it to me. Can we please just move on and deal with the problem?

Sometimes however, we can be very unemotional. This is especially important in a religious context. If you are trying to get someone on the spectrum to the point of feeling in religious discussion, then you could be wasting your time.

This is also why I struggle when I hear people telling me when I am struggling with something to do what you feel like God is leading you to do or what God is telling you. First off, I don’t see that kind of language in Scripture. Second, how can anyone tell what feelings come from God and what feelings don’t?

I have seen this go on at many churches. I have heard Protestant Churches talk about what God has done in their fundraising drives and I have seen an Orthodox Church do the same. I always wonder “How do you know God is behind this?” Suppose the fundraising drive didn’t work out well. Would that mean God was against you? I don’t think this is really a denominational thing. I think it’s more of an American thing.

When I am talking with someone about something, it’s really hard to see something from their perspective. I can know someone is in a lot of pain, and yet feeling it is extremely difficult for me. If you come to me for a counseling situation and expect me to resonate with your feelings, you’ll likely be disappointed. I will stick to talking about the problem at hand and what to do about it.

I even remember in the past a friend told me that they thought the world of me, but if they had a problem, Allie was better at helping them with it because of her better listening skills. I wouldn’t dispute that. I don’t claim to be a therapist. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it, but it does mean that I will not be what you expect.

Now you might be specifically wondering about love. Is an Aspie capable of love? I think unless something comes up, I will tackle that tomorrow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness Month: Evangelism

How do we do at evangelism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Evangelism is one of those more difficult areas for me. After all, you’re supposed to go up to complete strangers and talk to them about Jesus. Going up to a complete stranger is awkward enough for us on most anything. I can go up to a stranger, but I have to mentally prepare myself. This includes even a stranger at the grocery store who works there that I need to ask where an item is.

Now if I was teamed up with someone and they got the ball rolling, I could handle it just fine. If I am at home and the Mormons or JWs come by, I can also handle that just fine. I could do the same if you came up and engaged me, although there would be some suspicion at first as I always wonder about people who I don’t know engaging me in conversation out of the blue.

Fortunately, this is the age of the internet and there is more than one way to do evangelism. The internet is a great gift to me in this in that I can easily talk to people I don’t know. There is no need of having them face to face. Be it on Facebook or TheologyWeb.com or even the comments section on a blog or media article, I can engage.

This is important because there are some people who will say the only way to do evangelism is face to face. Maybe in the past, that would have been more likely, but even in the distant past, it wasn’t. Some people in the ancient world were prolific writers. Think about how blessed we are today that Paul was a writer.

What began the Protestant Reformation? Was it a speech that was given by Luther? Nope. It was the written word. There are many cases with writing that the pen is mightier than the sword. Today, writing is all the easier. If Paul had written something like this, it could have taken him an hour or two, maybe longer. For me, I can do this in a few minutes.

None of this is to say that this way is superior. It’s good that some people can do face to face evangelism and there is still a place for that. There is also a place for evangelism on the internet and not everyone is capable of studying apologetics in-depth. Many people don’t care for arguments about their faith and fewer still would like to do live debate.

This really means we balance each other out. I happen to enjoy doing evangelism on the internet. It’s my hopes my writing will be helpful to those who go out and do the face-to-face evangelism or for those who also engage on the internet.

Keep in mind, this is not at all to say I don’t realize the importance of the mission. It’s just that there are some ways I am more capable and other ways other people are more capable, and that’s okay. Part of wise living is realizing you can’t do everything well.

If you can do face-to-face, God bless you and thank you. Please remember those of us who do this on the internet. Those of us on the spectrum who do this find it much easier to do as well. I plan on writing soon on the internet in general, but I am thankful the internet has made evangelism much more doable for someone like myself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness Month: Prayer

How do you talk to God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the difficult things for a Christian on the spectrum like myself in Christianity is prayer. I can understand evangelism. I can grasp hard doctrines like the Trinity and other such ideas. I can understand Bible study and giving to those in need.

Prayer is something that I find much more of a struggle.

Now why would that be? Picture that if you’re on the spectrum, when you’re talking to someone right in front of you, that can be difficult enough. This is someone in front of you who is actively sending social cues to you and actively responding at times. Your mind is trying to study everything and know what they are telling you and trying to understand any cues that you may be missing.

Now carry this over to prayer. When you pray, you are talking to someone who you cannot see and you’re not talking to just another person, but you’re talking to a divine person. You don’t want to treat them casually just like any other person, but you don’t want to go in acting all high and holy entirely because that can just seem fake and like you’re putting on a show.

How long do you pray? People can often talk about prayer for a long time being a struggle, but then we read about saints in the past who spend hours praying. I think of Martin Luther who said tomorrow, he would be extra busy and he would have to spend an extra hour in prayer. For someone like myself, I don’t understand being able to spend hours in prayer let alone one hour.

I understand all the formulas for prayer which are often problematic for me because they make it, well, formulaic. It can seem like you’re just going through the motions. Again, I struggle here.

Going to length, minute prayers as I call them I can sometimes understand. When I am driving and I hear sirens from a first responder going by, I say a minute prayer as I drive that all will work out well. Naturally, I don’t close my eyes or kneel down for that. I can see that as making sense, but I don’t understand the long time spent in prayer. What are the rules? How long do you go? How short is too short? How long is too long?

It’s interesting that when we look at the Lord’s Prayer, it is actually a short prayer. You can say it in under a minute. This we see in Scripture, but we also look at Scripture and see again, hours of prayer.

So keep this in mind when talking to someone on the spectrum. If normal persons are hard to relate to, divine persons can be so much harder. Give some guidance on this to your friend on the spectrum and help them out. It will be something difficult for them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness Month: Friends

What do they mean to us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

On the spectrum, I do tend to be anti-social. If anything, I usually find people more annoying than anything else. I can relate a lot to the great theologian Linus Van Pelt. I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.

I realize that’s not necessarily the Christian way, but I think it’s something we all struggle with. How many of us are bustling with love of people when we’re behind someone going very slowly in traffic or the grocery store? Fortunately, in this world, there are still bright spots.

Friends.

I have said before that in a support group I am a part of, I was asked what I can’t live without. This is a Christian support group so naturally, I gave the Jesus answer. However, I also added in something else. Friends. If I didn’t have friends, I think life would be unbearable.

I also think this is biblical. Even Jesus in His earthly ministry had His friends with Him. Friendship is a virtue Aristotle wrote a lot on. It is one of the ones that it’s not necessary for happiness really, but it’s sure a sign of an empty life without it.

Plato’s dialogue Lysis was all about what friends are. Normally, Socrates ends the dialogue with no one knowing what the item in question is and that’s that. In this one, it’s a different ending. No one knows what friendship is, but Socrates says he hopes that we will all leave as friends still.

For me, my life is greatly enriched by them and I tend to stay loyal to my friends. I hope to always be there to help them, but as my pastor told me recently, I am in a time where I need to really lean on them for now.

It has been an invaluable help for me when I can call a friend and talk to them about what’s going on and get the blessing of having them in my life. For me, I view life much like a game still and one great line I have is from Final Fantasy IV. In this, one villain tells the heroes after he beats them that weak people can join forces. Seemingly by doing this, even the weak can overcome great circumstances.

At the same time also, friends make fun a whole lot better. I can enjoy going through a dungeon in the MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV, but what makes it even better is if I have even one friend going through it with me. If I have even more, that makes it all the better. A multiplicity of friends makes life better.

In the age of Facebook, friendship seems to have been sadly downgraded. I do have true friends I have never met through Facebook, but I have over 3,500 Facebook friends. It’s ridiculous to think that I really know all of them. Many of our friends in this case are acquaintances.

To all my friends then, thank you. You make the journey a lot easier when it’s hard, and a lot more fun when it’s not. I am happy to fight alongside you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness Month: Logic

What do we stick to? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In my discussion with Erin Burnett, something we talked about was how autism affects faith. For her end, she said it was harder because her autism made her more logical and empirical. For me, I said it was easier because my autism made me more logical and empirical.

So we have differing opinions on the matter of God. Burnett came with an approach that logic makes it harder. I came with the approach that logic makes it easier. For her, it would seem to mean then that emotion is the main help in finding God. I find it’s just the opposite. Emotion is the main hindrance for reaching God.

One reason I state that is I think the problem of evil is largely an emotional argument when it’s raised. I find plenty of emotion when I am dialoguing with internet atheists. Why is it that issues come down to what one feels about something, say sexual matters, instead of whether we should discuss if it is really right or wrong?

However, what we agreed on was logic. Those of us on the spectrum due tend to be more logical. I did bring up a distinction with this that Western Christianity could be more difficult since we are so individualistic and go by experiences. If we went to another culture, it could actually be easier on that end to be a Christian. It could be harder on others, such as persecution in a Muslim or Communist culture.

If anything, I find the experience of Christianity difficult at times, seeing as so much of the language we have is emotionally based. What do you feel like God is leading you to do? What do you think God is telling you at this time? Most of these are supposed to be determined by our emotions. I find no Biblical precedent for any of this whatsoever which makes me an outsider to many of my fellow Christians. When they start talking this way, I just tend to tune out.

This is also the kind of thing I turn to other people in my life for. How do I make sense of my own personal experiences? It is also why I have mentors in my own life that I turn to when I need to make an important decision.

I also find it amusing then when atheists tell me that my emotions are clouding my judgment on Christianity. If anything, it’s the opposite. When I get in a state of high emotion, that’s when I can have some periods of doubt. When I return to a normal emotional level and look at the facts, it gets much easier.

This is also something to keep in mind when you’re wanting to share Christ with someone on the spectrum. If you go and try to get them to an emotional experience, it probably won’t work, which also includes using guilt as a technique, something sadly many Christians do. Apologetics is something much more likely to be effective on someone on the spectrum.

If you’re discipling, keep in mind their experience won’t be like yours. Actually, no one else’s will be, but theirs will be much more difficult. If they don’t “feel” their faith, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. For me, my greatest times of joy in Christianity and reveling in who God is come with some new intellectual insight in theology, history, or philosophy.

Keep this in mind. It’s worth it to reach those on the spectrum.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness Month: How Autism Affects Faith

How did a conversation on this go? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What happens if you take two people on the spectrum with differing opinions on faith as it relates to autism? I found out when I got to have a delightful conversation with Erin Burnett from the UK, who calls herself a Christian agnostic. It was a delightful conversation with some slight pushback, but I wouldn’t call it a debate.

Erin herself has autism as well which led to some different perspectives. What was interesting was our reasons for being in the faith and struggling with the faith were the exact same. When Erin talked about it being difficult because she is more logic-oriented and empirical, I replied that I find believing Christianity easier for me because I am so logic-oriented and empirical. If anything, it’s when I am highly emotional that I enter a state of doubt.

On practical terms, we also talked about what life is like on the spectrum and how the church can relate to us and for this, we had nearly 100% agreement on issues. This was definitely one area where we could easily combine forces and agree on how the church should handle Autism. If you wanted a fierce debate at this point, or at any point in the show, you would be disappointed. If you wanted a good discussion, you got one.

But enough about that. The best way to find out what was said is to watch it yourself. The discussion can be viewed here. If you want to see Erin’s work on your own, her site can be found here.

Feedback appreciated!

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness: Sensory Issues

What are some issues that just bother us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I heard a story about the police called onto a school bus in D.C. because an autistic boy kept taking off his mask. A lot of people are quite angry about this, and understandably so. Even if one thinks one should always wear a mask, surely we should have some grace for a boy who knowingly has autism.

I could relate to this guy as even when I do wear one, and I only do if I absolutely have to, I don’t put mine over my nose even because it makes it very difficult to breathe and it is extremely irritating. Many people on the spectrum have various issues with this. There are certain sounds, sights, smells, etc. that have a problem.

In the movie Mozart and the Whale, a clanging sound like the sound of the clanging of bells gets a character to react in an extremely negative way. Now we all have sounds and sensations that we don’t like, but for those of us on the spectrum, we can often be extreme in how we react. It’s one thing to not like the sounds of claws on a chalkboard. It’s another thing to practically assume the fetal position when it happens.

For some of us, this can interfere with day to day practices. It takes a heap of effort for me to look in the area of a dirty dish. If I was carrying a used paper plate that had even a crumb on it, I would carry it like I am carrying something radioactive. This is one reason why it’s so awkward for me to be in a social situation involving food.

Coming back to the mask situation, there should be grace given. Calling the police in is definitely overkill. For those of us who struggle with the rules of society already, this is adding a whole new layer to it. Also, if you’re not on the spectrum and see this happening to someone who is, they’re sure not going to hesitate to do this to you.

If you are interacting with someone on the spectrum, try to find out if they have any sensory issues that could be problematic. I stated before I don’t really like to be touched, even by some people that I know. You could have a serious negative impact on a person on the spectrum without intending it or realizing it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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