What’s a Nice Evangelical Like Me Doing In a Place Like This?

What's a nice evangelical like me doing in a place like this?

In recent days, I have been hanging out on the Tumblr. I was trying to get a finger on the pulse of the autistic community, so to speak. I also wanted to see what is going on in my children’s world. Turns out, a lot of the neuro-diverse are also…gender diverse and sexually diverse. They are trans men and women. They are asexual. They are aromantic. They are non-binary (which means they do not identify their gender according to the binary system of male and female, at least not in the traditional sense. They identify as some combination of the two, or something else or as one of those but not defined by traditional ideas of male and female.) Basically, they are whatever they feel they are. And they are willing to step outside of the boundaries that society and culture and history have put on gender. They are working to redefine gender as a spectrum or a web, where male and female are somewhere on the end of two of the arms and there are any number of things on the ends of the other arms and you can place yourself wherever you feel comfortable in that web. It’s a lot like the neuro-diversity spectrum.

On the one hand, I feel a bit uncomfortable there. Kind of the way I feel out in the world. I am a cis-gendered, heterosexual, complementarian, fundamentalist Christian. I know that many of these people have been hurt by people like me. And some of them hate people like me. When I read their posts, I feel like I am on the outside looking in. Like I can’t quite get in with them. Like I am at a…remove. As I said, the same way I feel in the rest of the world. So maybe, it’s more me than them.

On the other hand, I get it. I’m other things, too. I’m an autistic, Native American, Filipina woman. I know what it means to be hated, sexualized, marginalized, underestimated. I know what it means to feel set apart – not in a good way – from a world that doesn’t seem to be meant for you. Really, I have never felt part of a community, except maybe a community of two or my family. Maybe it’s the autism. Maybe it’s me. Anyway, I feel that way here, too. Buffered. External. I don’t know that many people who are non-traditionally gendered. But I have two gay siblings, a stepson who wears what are traditionally considered women’s clothes (at least, part of the time), an asexual daughter, a transgender son. I think I need to get used to this community. It seems that I am smack dab in it.

That being said, I don’t want to hurt people. And I don’t want to be hurt. I don’t want to be rejected by people who assume that I hate them because people like me hate them, any more than I want them to feel hated by me because people like me have hated them in the past. I’ve done that already with my own kids and other community relationships. We’ve all had too much of that.

More than anything, I want to love them because Jesus commands it. To love my neighbor as I love myself. As God loves them. But what does that mean? How do I do that? I know that some of my fellow evangelicals exclude them. Some ignore them. More liberal Christians say that it doesn’t matter, the Bible doesn’t speak to gender and that Jesus would have totally supported gay marriage. Honestly, I don’t believe that. I believe that Biblical marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe that God made us male and female and that he meant our bodies to be what he made them. No one is an accident and no one is in the “wrong body.” God made every one of us with personal, specific intention and God doesn’t make mistakes. If I were faced with one of these issues I would approach it from that place. If someone came to me, wondering about their different gender and sin, I would talk to them about what’s in the Bible and salvation. And I would try to stay humble and keep in mind that none of us can know God’s real plan until we get to eternity. We are all doing the best we can with what we have.

And for the record, even if you are saved, I don’t believe that having a non-traditional gender or sexuality is a sin that will keep you out of heaven. If you are saved, nothing will keep you out of heaven. If you are not saved, nothing will get you into heaven. So what gender you are is not really a factor. I talked about this here. But that’s not the issue here.

The issue is not people who are trying to reconcile their feelings about their own gender and identity with God’s idea about them. These are people who know who they are and are trying to get the world to treat them like the human beings they are. They just want the world to acknowledge that they deserve respect, dignity, security, opportunity on a level equal with everyone else. They want the world to acknowledge that their identity or way of life doesn’t excuse oppressing them, hating them, committing crimes against them. When members of their community are victimized or murdered, they want to see public outrage and appropriate punishment, not excuses for the perpetrators. Just like autistics. Just like women. Just like black people. Just like everyone.

Living Room Wall FBAs Christians, I believe it is our duty to help them with that. I believe bringing the Gospel to the world means helping the downtrodden and the outsiders. Visiting widows and orphans in their affliction. That doesn’t mean telling them they are going to hell. That doesn’t mean making them act like believers when they are not. I know some people will disagree with me on this, but I think the Bible tells us that we have two standards. With our fellow Christians, we love them by sharpening their iron with our iron. Holding them accountable, reminding them of the truth that we have all believed and the reasonable response to it: trust and obedience, whatever that means for each of us. And doing it all with love. With nonbelievers, we show them the Gospel and we be Jesus to them, because that is what they need. We do not treat them like we are better then they are because we are saved. We are not better, we are the same: fallen people in need of redemption. When it comes to the unsaved, we love them, we serve them, we care for them. We lay down our lives for them. If necessary, we – literally – die for them while praying for their redemption. Because that is what Jesus would do. That is, in fact, what he already did.

(Note: I know this may be controversial and I know lots of people will disagree with me. And I acknowledge that I may be wrong. I probably am about some things and there are probably things I haven’t thought of or am mistaken about. I don’t mind if you want to tell me that. I don’t mind if you disagree with me. I do mind if you are a jerk. If you comment, please be decent. Humane. Respectful. You don’t have to be nice, but you do have to be civil. Otherwise, your comment won’t show up. My blog, my rules. Thank you!) 

In Autism: Vacation=Stress

Here's how weird Arizona is. This is the view from my bedroom window. Yeah. that's a 14 ft stag.
This is the view from my bedroom window. Yeah. that’s a 14 ft stag.

So I am in Arizona with Eli. He is working and I am on a vacation, of sorts. It’s nice that I don’t have to take care of the kids or cook. I am pretty stressy because of the strange people in the house. There’s now, like 7 strangers in this giant house. But there are always 3 strangers in my regular house and these strangers are better behaved. =) The unusual surroundings are tripping me out big time.

I go on vacation periodically and it’s usually stressful from the activity and weird surroundings. But I usually have my favorite comfort object (That Weird Kid from the Gas Station) with me constantly which totally out weighs all that. Now he’s working most of the day and I really can’t sit out there with him. So I’m sitting in front of the tv in our room most of the day. It’s a very nice room and we do have cable, but it’s still different. And the food is different. So I’ve got all the usual stress symptoms that I always have daily from my in-laws being in our house, plus stressy new surroundings, plus probably lots of allergy responses taxing the system.

It’s kind of interesting to me as my life has gotten so much more stressful over the last year or so. When I first started reading about autism, for Joseph, I read Temple Grandin’s book. When I read about how she thinks in pictures, I thought, “Hey, that’s how I think, too.” That was kind of the first thing. Then I read about autistic selective mutism and I realized that was a much better description of what we all thought was a painful level of shyness I had when I was a kid. It kept going from there, as it does for lots of autism parents who realize they are also autistic parents. But I thought I really only had “shadowy traits” even after numerous online tests and much research, because most of my “symptoms” were not that bothersome. I thought a few times about how low-functioning I was when my first marriage was falling apart and I wondered if maybe I am not as high functioning as I think. Maybe I just had had the incredible luxury of being able to tailor my life to my own needs and had been doing it unconsciously for years. I know Joseph is functions far better than he might otherwise because he is so well-accommodated.

Turns out I was righter than I knew. (I also didn’t know that “righter” was a word, but my spell check is not reacting. Go figure.) I have spent the last year with the brain in some form of headache or fatigue almost every day because of our less than pleasant houseguests. I spend almost every night and some of many days with a tight chest and pounding heart. There are many days when I barely get done the things I absolutely must get done. I find myself needing to compensate in ways that I have never had to before (planned isolating, stimming, constant buffering with either the tv or my darling husband). The last couple days in Arizona are giving me more insight into what it feels like when my system is overwhelmed, overloaded, overtaxed.

I almost got physically ill in the airport from the bright lights and some lady’s perfume. That continued on the plane from all the scents being recirculated around the cabin and the cold air blowing on me from the circulation system. Then, today and yesterday, I seem to have lost the ability to maintain my own body temperature. I am usually comfortable at 65 to 68 degrees. At about 69 or 70, it starts to feel uncomfortable and at 72 I am too hot. Both today and yesterday, I have sat in a house with the air conditioner set at 72 and the outside temp somewhere around 75 and I was wanting to open the window to let in the warm and then get under the covers. I was almost shivering, I was so cold. I have basically felt like I have a fever or the flu, except without the actual fever. Headachey, weak, lightheaded at times. Like my hands are shaking but they’re not actually. My skin is crawling and tingly almost all the time. I’m having a hard time carrying on a conversation about anything but what is going on right in front of me and the only thing I can think of to write about are my own symptoms.

I think I used up all my brain function doing my Bible study homework today, which took twice as long as it should. I had a lot of ideas for posts today, but I can’t actually coagulate them into actual writing.

These last two years have really revealed to me that my idol is my own competence. I really feel like my autistic brain makes many things about following Jesus easier rather than harder. Lately, God has been using that autistic brain to tear down that idol of my own competence. If I am not that girl that can overcome any obstacle or deficiency just by thinking about it, who am I? How can I think my way out of the problem when the problem is that my brain is overwhelmed and can’t think? I don’t know, but I know that this week I still have to come up with a lesson plan based on Exodus 35-40. Then I have to go to a meeting at a church I’ve never been to and with people I’ve never met. I have never been in this situation, especially not at this level of dysfunctionality. I don’t know what will happen. People are counting on me, so I know I have to at least try.

So who am I if I can’t think my way out of any problem? I am a child of the  Risen King and the only way to get through this is by letting him lead me. Or carry me, if need be. I know that I am only here because of God’s calling and God’s empowering me for that calling. I know that God wants me to go there, so I know he will go there with me. And, whatever happens, that will all still be true.