Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday ~~ Thoughts from the Autism Spectrum

April 4th, 2010 --- Happy Easter!

Holidays with a religious connection have been a challenge for me since I became a parent.  As one who believes in God, I want to teach my children that Christmas isn't just about Santa Claus and presents and Easter isn't just about the Easter Bunny, peeps and coloring eggs.

When I grew up, I don't remember going to church very often.  I had one Grandma from Colorado who was Catholic and another from Illinois / Indiana who was Protestant.  They often took turns visiting us for the Christmas holiday and I remember going to Catholic church when Grandma A. was in town and a Protestant church when Grandma P. came into town.  Occasionally my parents would take me to a church.  I remember trying out an Episcopalian one for a few weeks and then doing trick-or-treat for Unicef.  I remember as a teenager visiting a Baptist church a few times with the family of the kids that I babysat.

I don't know why we didn't go to church growing up but for as long as I can remember, I've always believed in God.  I've always felt that I had a personal relationship with Him and even though our family did not belong to one particular church, I always felt confident that my Mom, Dad and I would definitely go to heaven someday.

My first long-term boyfriend was raised Catholic and although he didn't go to church every Sunday, his family was involved in the church and we would always go every Easter and Christmas Eve.  The turnout at church for Easter and Christmas always seems high, doesn't it? 

My husband grew up in the Catholic faith. He went to Catholic school and when we got married, he wanted it to be in the Catholic Church.  Out of respect to him and his faith, I went along with this and agreed to take marital counseling classes through the church.  The church we got married at accepted me even though I had never been baptized in a church setting and although there were some practices of the church I did not particularly agree with, it was again my personal relationship with God and my personal relationship with my husband that was what I prioritized.

Personally I believe that God is with me wherever I go and if I don't happen to physically be in a church, I can still worship, I can still talk to God, I can still pray.  In our household, we pray every day.  I want to teach my boys first and foremost to develop their own personal relationship with God and to remember in this life to be inclusive.

As a person with Asperger's Syndrome, I have a tendency to want to take things literally and if I cannot see proof, I question it.  It doesn't mean that I don't have faith and that I can not think creatively or outside the box.  It's just that I place a VERY high premium on honesty and integrity and when it comes to religion, that can often make things quite confusing because in so many religions, so much is based on faith versus scientific evidence. It's not that I'm questioning God so much as I am questioning the interpretation of man and woman.

Both my sons on the autism spectrum have a tendency toward literal thinking as well.  My oldest son asked at the dinner table tonight if we were supposed to feel different or act differently after we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior.  In his case, he said he believed in God and he believed that Jesus died on the cross for our sins but he didn't FEEL anything and wasn't sure that was right.  Shouldn't he be feeling something?

Wow...  heavy question from a 10 year old.  My husband immediately answered that there are some things we just take on faith.  For me, that wasn't the question.  He was asking why he didn't FEEL anything?  This got me to contemplating my own feelings and when I was perfectly honest with myself, I realized and shared with him that I didn't always feel anything either.  Like a memorized social script, I knew what I thought I should say, what I thought I should feel but I would be doing my son a disservice if I didn't tell him the truth. Faith can be complicated.  Sometimes I FEEL God and sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I am very confused.

I have never talked extensively about religion with others on the autism spectrum.  I tried talking with my neurotypical (for what that's worth, LOL) husband tonight but God bless him and love him, we were talking on two completely different planes of existence.  One was not better than the other.  They were just different.  I was getting extremely frustrated that he could not get where I was coming from.  I was trying to question when he had found faith.  I was trying to find out if / when he knew that he FELT something. 

I am now interested in finding out more about how adults and children on the autism spectrum deal with faith and religion.  I truly believe that my children believe in God.  In fact, I often think that they have a closer and stronger bond and connection than most adults I know.  When I see Ryan's face light up after Sunday school each week sharing that he "talked about God" and when I hear Justin talk about how he helped out on Sunday school worship team when he normally is not one to get involved, it fills my heart with joy.

If you are on the spectrum or are related to someone who is, how do you deal with faith and religion?  I'd love to know.  You can post anonymously if you'd like. 

Happy Easter!
With love and blessings,
Karen

2 comments:

  1. Growing up, my feelings on religion waxed and waned all the time. On the one hand, I was ready to do anything for God. I had complete belief. I was an altar boy for years and I knew every part of the church services.

    On the other hand, I never once thought that they weren't boring and I struggled, usually unsuccessfully, to be good in church.

    As I got older, I noticed that things weren't as black and white as I'd expected. Priests weren't always good people, I didn't always believe that what the pope said was right and sometimes brothers and nuns were considerably less than Christian.

    I lost my faith and became anti-Christian. I started looking at other religions while still furiously reading the bible. Of course, my reason for reading was to have a contradiction for every occasion. I must have been a little terror to teach religion to and my books were full of seriously disturbing iconography.

    Eventually, after school, my religion began to settle. It started out as "I believe in God but I'm not quite sure that he's friendly" and it hasn't moved a huge distance from there.

    These days, I have a good relationship with God. I believe in Jesus, though I'm not 100% convinced that he was who WE say he was. I'm also very tolerant of other religions and give them the same level of validity as Christianity.

    If I'm intolerant of anything, it's the church itself. God is a personal thing and I don't feel that you need anyone to intercede on your behalf.

    We celebrate the religious part of Easter by watching something with a tenuous link to easter. Some years, it's the Passion, sometimes it's Jesus Christ Superstar. Perhaps one year, it will be Life of Brian.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Gavin,
    Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog. I truly appreciated reading about your experiences and feelings with religion.

    I think we have a lot of things in common in our present views although the way we got there was through different paths.

    Being very tolerant of other religions is extremely important to me and is something I definitely convey to my family.

    I do often find challenges with the church and agree that a relationship with God is a personal thing. I attend church with my family as I think the one we go to by and large has more good influence than not but I'm not afraid afterwards to have heart to hearts and express my views with my husband and children even when they may be differing.

    Thanks so much again for your input! :)

    ReplyDelete