Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Autism Reality

Alex Plank is the founder of a website called Wrong Planet, a gathering place for persons on the autistic spectrum. He has produced a short documentary about his living with Aspergers and he also talks to Temple Grandin, who also has autism and is also a leading researcher with animals. Maybe the ending for me is the best part as it shows a young Alex listening to a song and as it finishes, he walks away and starts flapping his hands only to walk back and listen to the song again. I remember flapping my hands as a kid, and I also remember having a bit of Obessive Compulsive Disorder well into my 30s when drugs were able to control it.

Watch the video and learn.

Monday, December 21, 2009

....It's For You

I'm not a big fan of phones. In fact, it would be safe to say, I have a phobia when it comes to phones.

At work, I can have a message on my phone that takes forever for me to check. I love my parents, but loathe having to make a phone call. In fact, I've tried to get my dear mother to use email to no avail.

If it comes down to talking to someone on the phone or by email, I would chose email all the time.

It's a wonder that I was a customer phone representative for four years. I wasn't a good one, but I was one.

For persons with Aspergers, dealing with what might seem to be a regular social interaction can seem like trying to climb Mount Everest. I know that it's quite common for aspies to have a fear of phones for the same reason some aspies hate being in crowds or going to parties: it means social interaction, something we are not good at.

Of course, I can't use autism as an excuse. Most people use the phone for communication and I have to learn to control my fear. For me, it might mean writing down what I want to say and even learning to only be on the phone for short bursts of time. But since I can't control the world, I have to learn to live with it as it is.

Just another one of my quirks...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Goodbye, DisciplesWorld

DisciplesWorld, which has been the denominational magazine for my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), announced today that it is ceasing publication. It was in operation for seven years, shortly after the denomination shut down The Disciple, the denomination's own in house magazine.

To say that I'm a little sad, would be an understatement. I think this is bad for the denomination and will hurt us all in the long run.

As I said, DisciplesWorld, which was an independent magazine, came into being because of the closure of The Disciple. Now the Disciple was not much a magazine. But what it did was keep us informed of what was going on throughout Discipledom.

I know that there are many of my fellow Disciples out there that look at the end of DisciplesWorld and will shrug. Magazines are so 20th century, they will say. We can get all our info from the web, others will say. All are valid reasons. But I also think all of them are a croc of...well, this is family blog.

Listen, when it comes to the web and social media, I am all over that. I've been blogging since 2002. I love Twitter and Facebook and I want to find ways to use them to foster better communication.

But despite all my love for modern communication, it will not replace what I think was worthwhile journalism. Maybe it's the old ink-stained wretch in me (I did get my bacheor's degree in jounralism), but the reason blogs exist is because of the traditional media that we so casually ignore. It's because there are people that make the work of reporting and writing their jobs, that we bloggers have anything to say. Now that DisciplesWorld is gone, does anyone really think that some blogger in Minneapolis is going to write about what some Disciples congregation is doing? Most bloggers don't have the staying power do the real live jounralism. We blog occasionally, but we have to tend to the rest of our lives.

Which is why I think the loss of DisciplesWorld is such a bad thing. We are losing a unifying voice, a place where we could come and learn from each other. We are losing a way to find out what is going on the wider church. We are losing a way to be challenged with thoughts and opinions that we may not agree with. We are losing some damn good reporting. I will forever be thankful for their stories on the Jonestown massacre, which helped a new generation understand what happened in the jungle in South America all those years ago.

One would hope this would be a case for Disciples News Service to kick it up a notch and come up with something new. It could be web-based. I don't care what it is, but something needs to happen to keep the tradition of Disciple publications going. From the times of the Millenial Harbinger to now, Disciples have used media to express thoughts and ideas.

I will miss DisciplesWorld. I am thankful for Verity Jones, Rebecca Woods and Sherri Emmons for all of their hard work, especially for Rebecca who interviewed me for an article earlier this year. You fought the good fight.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Grace, Judgement and Tiger Woods

I was checking out Rod Dreher's blog and he happened to have this to say about the recent transgressions of Tiger Woods:

He had the world -- fame, fortune, worldwide admiration, a wife and children -- and he blew it on extramarital affairs with floozies. I never could have imagined writing words like this about Tiger Woods (Tiger Woods!), but he is a contemptible human being. God help his poor wife and children. I thought he might still escape this morass with his endorsement deals intact, but that's looking increasingly unlikely. Good. Having betrayed his wife and children so grotesquely, he needs to suffer. He needs to hurt like the mother of his children is hurting. If that is possible.

That brought out some reaction from commenters who thought Dreher was being too rough on Tiger. Rod's response was rather blunt:

Nope -- not before he feels the full weight of what his sin meant to the lives of his wife and children. Anything else is false repentance. For me, the most moving scene of any film, ever, is in "The Mission," when Robert De Niro, the repentant slave trader, drags a heavy weight behind him as he climbs the jungle mountain to the mission where the Indians live. At the top, as he's covered with mud and filth, and exhausted, one of the Indians -- the same people he has persecuted -- severs the rope binding De Niro to his sins. He is free. He sobs in gratitude. If he hadn't felt the full weight of his sins, his repentance wouldn't have carried much weight.

I get so sick and tired of the cheap grace in our culture, especially attending celebrities. Tiger's publicists are no doubt already planning the Oprah interview to rehabilitate his image, and to repair his brand. How about let's remember that there are real people torn to bits by his infidelity? If I were ever to do that to my wife and kids, I hope none of you will let me off the hook so easily.

Dreher has always been an interesting blogger for me because he can get into this mode where he is calling this person or that "contemptible." His remarks have me wondering: what sort of punishments should Tiger go through? Does a Christian community have to be a place where we have people dragg heavy weights until they are "truly sorry?" And who decides that?

I don't have any easy answers, but I do worry that such a viewpoint would have us go back to the days of "shunning" and "scarlet letters" that might do more harm than good.

I dunno. I'd like to know what you all think. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Things of Heaven...Stuff of Earth

The whole sorry tale of Maurice Clemmons and his life of destruction has led me to think a lot about Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor is getting his share of blame for allowing Clemmons to walk free. Most of the political bloggers that I follow tend to view his road to the presidency as kaput.

Now I don't really like Huckabee's views on various issues. But right now, I feel sorry for man. Because while he made a big mistake in releasing an animal like Clemmons into the public, I think he did it for the right reasons.

What is interesting right now is how some tend think that relying on religious beliefs while in office is somehow dangerous. While one should rely on all aspects of knowledge, to say that a politician must not be informed by their faith is ludicrious. Christianity, and any other religion for that matter, is a worldview that informs all parts of an adherent's life. It is impossible to say that religious views be kept somewhere on the coat rack of life while we live our lives. For any adherent, it is the fabric of life.

Religion informs people's choices on all sorts of matters. Many of my liberal friends who support universal health care do so for religious reasons. Same goes for those who oppose abortion or war. The problem isn't that we have these views, the problem lies in how they are used.

The case of Clemmons poses hard questions because it strikes at the heart of something that both Huckabee and I strongly believe in: redemption. The belief that people can change their ways and live right, to turn away from wrong is at the heart of Christianity. We are taught of a loving God who cared for us even when we did wrong and compels us to live righteous lives. For a Christian, it is not enough that the we believe this, it is something that must be lived out, just as we believe Jesus did when on earth.

When Huckabee pardoned Clemmons, I have to believe he did it because he truly believed Clemmons' sob story of having changed. He wanted to live out his faith and he believed this man had been redeemed.

That's of course, the danger here. We try to live as followers of Christ in an imperfect world. We try to show love and mercy to a fellow human being and he in turn kills four cops who were just trying to get some paperwork done.

So what do we do? Some bloggers say simply that Huckabee should have simply thrown away the key. He should have known better. Once a skunk, always a skunk.

Maybe a future politician will do what many politicians do and ignore their religious beliefs and keep more felons in prison and maybe even execute a few to show the public he/she means business.

The citizen in me says just that: lock 'em up. But the pastor in me, the one who wants to try to live as Jesus did, wonders if doing that is the right thing. The pastor wonders if everyone that asks for mercy is a snake, or if some really are wanting to make a change for the better.

Joe Carter, in his excellent post about Huckabee muses that the governor was naieve. Maybe so, but isn't Christianity at its root somewhat naieve? It preaches love in a world filled with hate. It's hardly a rational faith.

The problem for all Christians, and maybe for everyone who has a faith is knowing when to as the Bible says, be wise as serpents and when to be innocent as doves. When can we allow for heaven to break through on earth, and when to realize that heaven is not here yet.

It's a problem I wish pastors dealt with more. Because while we want to have some heaven here on earth, we live in this world filled with grays. How do we strive to be a loving a forgiving people in a world of Maurice Clemmonses?

What has been frustrating to me is that few if any religious blogs are talking about this issue. I have searched and searched and found none at all. I find that amazing. Maybe we don't want to admit that this is hard issue. But it would be honest.

Mike Huckabee made the moral choice in wanting to give someone a second chance. But in this case, it was not the right choice and four dead police offers are the result.

Crossposted at NeoMugwump