Misfit?

Ever since I was a kid I had this sense that I wasn’t quite like other people that I knew. The things that drove me weren’t like the things that seemed to drive others, the things that were important to the world weren’t always in line with what I held as valuable. For entirely too long this distinction made me feel less than human, it made me deeply regret who I was and it made me hate what I saw in the mirror.

I believe that a lot of this comes from the fact that I am autistic, and like it or not autism has shaped who I am and how I view the world.

The other day I was watching Mercury Rising which is a fun romp of a movie if you’ve never seen it. That’s not the only reason I like it though, I like it because it has a kid that reminds me a lot of myself. It has a kid who has autism as the focal point of the picture. At one point the Bruce Willis character asks if autism means that “nothing gets in” to which a nurse corrects that in fact “EVERYTHING gets in” and that we(those of us who are autistic) have issues processing all of it.

I would say that Autism is really issues in two key areas, processing and expression. How we process the stimuli that comes in and how we react and express ourselves in reaction to that stimuli. I can remember during my first marriage that in the home we were staying in someone would be listening to an internet radio station at the very same time that someone else was watching a TV that was too loud. All while the two of them were having a conversation and even attempting to have a conversation with me. You can imagine that this would be overwhelming to anyone but to someone like me who has issues processing and expressing myself it was a living hell.

I remember when I had my job at McDonald’s when I was 18. I rarely was put back into the kitchen area for good reason, there were too many tasks for me to do at once. I was never very fast but if you had me doing too many things at once I was useless. I remember trying to accomplish so much during that job and getting so overwhelmed by it all I wanted to do was escape and go outside so I could cry. Being on Fry duty was the absolute worse because I couldn’t keep enough boxes of fries ready to go during a rush.

For these and many other reasons I have always felt like a misfit, someone who doesn’t fit, a square peg, an anomaly. You know when they say that 9 out of 10 people usually do this? Guess who the 10th guy is. I’m the exception, the cast out, the ostracized… you get the picture.

If I have always felt like that in life it’s only natural that that feeling would play out in my faith as well.

3 years ago I became a Christian again. It was a strange thing to happen, I’d never thought I’d ever have faith again even though part of me always wanted it. I found myself trying to figure out just what it was that I believed, how much of cultural Christianity was I going to adopt as mine and how much was I going to dump? Who was it that I was following? I was sure about Jesus but there were other things that I wasn’t so sure about it. Much of what I would consider my faith was in flux, I was wrestling with a lot of ideas and thoughts and beliefs. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t sure about a lot of stuff so I started searching. Some of what I found and latched onto was in the vein of more liberal progressive Christianity. Idea’s about uncertainty especially with the nature of The Bible and where it came from. I said some things that I regret and I came off as arrogant and hurt some folks along the way but I was searching.

As I drew nearer to Christ I could see some of my worldview shifting. Teachers like Brian Mclaren and even Rob Bell whom I still have great respect for weren’t feeding me like I thought they did in the past. I started to search for deeper and richer idea’s and studied scripture a lot more exclusively. Still though I had a hard time with the hard line of fundamentalism, the ultra right wing sect of Christianity which has hijacked the faith that I love so dearly and turned it into a political war cry around an “us vs them” mentality that I just couldn’t get on board with. So instead of aligning myself with either a progressive slant of Christianity which can’t get Jesus or his resurrection right  or with a right wing fundamentalist mentality who refuses to see that the world they are warring against is the exact same world that Jesus came to redeem I’ve continued to just be on my own. Partnering with whom I can when I can but realizing that no single worldview will have it all correct, not even(and especially not) mine.

The one thing that has remained is that I have no desire to get it all right, I already know that;s impossible. My biggest aim is to know God, to love him and to be loved and enjoyed by him. I find that most of my study as of late whether in the bible itself or by other authors is chasing after that aim. My questions have less to do about what can Christianity do for me, can it solve my issues, can it take away my pain, can it bring me joy? My questions are more about what Christ can do THROUGH me. Perhaps that is why I feel such a strong call into the pastorate, if he would have me. I have a broken heart for hurting people and I wan t for them the same thing that I have discovered. The furious and absolute love of God through Christ. If that makes me a Misfit than I will wear that badge with honor.

 

 

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Hellbound? A review and some thoughts

I finally had the chance to sit down and watch Hellbound? Today. I’ve been waiting about 2 years to see this film which began filming in the aftermath of Rob Bell‘s Love Wins book. It’s a movie that delves into some deep theological areas all surrounding around ideas about where we will go after we die. There is a lot to unpack about this film but first things first, if the subject matter is interesting to you you should go and watch it.

The thing that I love best about this movie is it gets rid of the notion that there are black and white answers to any of these questions. There just aren’t. There are answers that are more widely accepted than other ones but those answers suffer the same handicaps as the othger questions. They require a certainty that no on on  earth has. There are scriptures that seem to point to the fact that there is an eternal hell awaiting some of us when we die but there are also scriptures that seem to speak of the salvation of everyone. I think Kevin Miller did a good job of handling the subject matter pretty evenly, there is a slight advantage to the universalist viewpoint but Jerry Walls, Mark Driscoll and Greg Boyd all got quite a bit of screen time and none of them are universalists.

I would have liked to have seen someone like NT Wright interviewed for this thought I am sure he;d be reluctant to participate. He offers a strikingly different viewpoint on this whole matter that I think adds to the complexity of the debate.

Entirely too much screen time was dedicated to Westboro Baptist, I think at this point of time everyone knows what they believe and everyone agrees they are as far from Christianity as one can get. To keep going back to them again and again  really didn’t push the conversation forward.

I also think continuing to include Chad Holtz without any kind of edit or allowing him the opportunity to express his new views on the subject was a bit sloppy. For those that don’t know Chad is a pastor who lost his job after defending Love Wins in a letter to his congregation, he has since changed his view on Hell and has expressed this change publicly. I don’t agree with many of Chad’s current conclusions but his interview should have been removed or he should have had a chance to share his new thoughts.

Overall I am happy with the questions that the film was asking, I am very happy with the sense of uncertainty that the film leaves, these are important questions, not ones to be taken lightly but ultimately they aren’t questions that any one of us can ever know for sure. Perhaps the uncertainty about what happens after we die should lead us to another set of what I think are more important and more pressing questions. What are we going to do with the gospel today? What else might have Jesus been saving us from if not just from hell?

Very little time is spent on the life to come in the bible, most of what we find there has to do with this life, the here and now.  I think it is safe to assume that most of our focus should also be on how we are living this life, not so much where we will spend eternity, but more about how we can serve God and others here.

That is not to say that healthy debate and speculation isn’t good for us but we need to be careful as to how we frame that debate. Humility and respect is of the utmost importance. I’d personally like to see more of that in many of the areas that we discuss. Creation vs evolution, whether or not gifts of the spirit still exist, even the very nature and existence of God. If both sides of any topic would learn to respect the other side I think our conversations could become a lot deeper than they are currently.

I am not at all certain about what happens when we die. I tend to lean towards something that I guess could be called universalism but there is a hefty amount of “I don’t know” in almost all of my theological ideas. This allows me to explore things and keep an open mind about what God is doing and where he is leading me. The Bible is not a black and white book so it does not allow me to have a black and white theology. I am certainly never going to assume that I know for sure the final destination of any individual or even any one group. I think our lives DO matter here as do our choices. I am not one to believe in some get out of jail free card for anyone, including Christians, we will ALL give an account of what we have done here and we will all need to work out our OWN salvation with fear and trembling.

Jesus doesn’t want to get you out of hell, he wants you to pick up your cross and follow him into death. Death to ego, death to self, death to making this life about how much you can get out of it, death to idols of money and toys and sex and power. Those are the things I believe will be burned up in hell and that process will be painful. Many of us are already going through that process right now while we are still living. I have seen things that I thought were important getting burned up right before my very eyes.

I am very glad that Hellbound is around for people to watch and to spark conversations like this. Maybe we’ll find that when we are talking about final destinations we’re missing the whole point of who Jesus was and what he did on the cross. Maybe we’ll understand what it means to follow him. Watch this movie alone and in groups of people and have conversations about it. You’ll be glad you did.