Letting Your Autism Light Shine

To the Christian friend whose last straw was when I listened to a podcast hosted by a known atheist:

A Christian chooses to respond to unbelievers with kindness, or with distance. You are either a soul who possesses love and empathy for others, or you spend your life misinterpreting that bible verse about not yoking with unbelievers. And you ARE misinterpreting it; in fact, you are using it as an excuse to ignore people who are not exactly like you.

Right now you believe that I am a vessel for Satan to make his move against you. I’m pretty sure that’s not happening. But believing that it could be happening gives you an excuse to turn off all empathy for me and forget that if it were true- I would be the one needing protection, not you. No hard feelings. Truthfully, weren’t we both a little surprised when we survived that marriage equality debate a while back? When you find yourself hating people for their religion, politics, or lifestyle choices you tell yourself you hate the sin not the sinner. But that isn’t true, is it?

If you have compassion for people outside of your comfort zone, I have never seen evidence of it. Even when you come close, you keep yourself on a pedestal just above them. And this belief I have about you means more than you think it does. Being a light in the darkness is not about drawing attention to yourself as a believer. It is not about proving you are not ashamed of your faith. It’s about being an example that makes others want to go where you are going. A light to the lost.

You, my friend, are doing it all wrong. You have never been in danger of being yoked with unbelievers. They would never have you. You are also not in danger of saving unbelievers. Or of being anything like Jesus. If that is the light you are shining on the world, it is truly heartbreaking for you.

This is my 100th post here on Daydreams from the Spectrum. I have talked about religion, culture, love, work, politics, parenting- and autism. Mostly I write about life as I see it on any given day. How I see things will affect how my daughter sees things, and I screw that up sometimes. I’m not alone.

Some of us are teaching our kids some pretty scary stuff, with good intentions, and there will be no end to it. We will be forced to encounter each other and each others offspring throughout life. We are constantly balancing our expectations of others against our need to protect ourselves from foolishness. Which is more important; changing ridiculous viewpoints, or learning to wade through them effectively? A little of both is clearly necessary. But how do we do it?

The above speech is how I feel about a number of people. Does it matter that this is my interpretation of their actions? Does it affect my view on Christianity overall? It could, but luckily I know enough Christians with stronger moral character and faith who actually seem to understand what Jesus was all about. It would be unfair to let one misguided follower of Christ represent the whole flock- but we know that happens. And not just in the world of religion.

In the autism community we spend a lot of time educating and advocating. We want people to understand autism better, and we are often effective in changing belief systems and attitudes. We want to make it easier for us and for future generations to exist as we are. It is as if we are on our own mission to convert those who simply do not know. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes we get sidetracked with issues like treatments and vaccines. Sometimes we are hesitant to connect because of these issues. Sometimes we are hated over these issues. Does it mean we are being persecuted for our autism activism? I doubt it. It probably means we are acting like self-righteous fools.

The autism community has enemies, too. Trolls. People who spread the worst kind of misinformation, or refuse to recognize a large part of our community as even existing. Perhaps it is best to just cut those people out of our world. After all, every time we step into our pulpit we are usually preaching only to the choir (and annoying some first time visitor into never coming back). We are hardly ever making a dent in the theories of those who aren’t listening, especially if we go into it already thinking we are smarter. The problem is that we all think we are the smarter one.

Without a personal connection to autism, why should anyone care? And truthfully, because people spend more time talking than listening, our arguments almost always miss the mark. Unlike God, autism’s existence is pretty easy to prove. Why get stuck on side arguments? It won’t mean much to everyone, of course. And there will always be people who believe the earth is flat.

It doesn’t matter if I can’t make everyone think the way I do. It doesn’t affect my world when others disagree with me, any more than it changes my friend’s world whether or not I still have faith in God. It can affect my world if I want it to. I could be a serious self-righteous jerk about my beliefs and drive all critical thought from my life. I could walk around in fear that people with different autism viewpoints are secret aliens attempting to manipulate my thoughts and actions. I could waste time starting a whole new movement, and pretend as if we were in constant battle against an increasingly anti-autism society.

I only need the right meme to get started.

If I weren’t so lazy I always thought I could make a great cult leader; but something tells me that if I spend too much time condemning certain groups of people, they probably aren’t going to come to any of my retreats. And if I am going to go down in history as a great leader, I’m going to need as many recruits as possible. Jesus seemed to know how to get people to like him. I wonder if it’s possible to be more like that guy? There is clear evidence that with the right approach, people can actually influence each other without propaganda.

I don’t need to go down in history. And it’s weird how people always think they deserve immortality. I just need to make the tiniest impact in my little corner, in this small time I am given. To be a little less narrow-minded and a little less stubborn. We recognize how ugly these behaviors are in other people, but recognizing it in ourselves is trickier. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone to think the light I shine is heartbreaking.


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