Monday, February 21, 2011

Thoughts on "Being Human"

It's been a long time since I've really followed a scripted television series. Most folks I know have raved about shows like Glee, Lost and Battlestar Galactica, but none of those have really held my attention. Over the last few years, I've basically stuck to HGTV and reality shows like Top Chef.

But I now love to get in front of the TV on Mondays to watch "Being Human" on SyFy. This is actually the American version of a British series that's been on since 2009. The premise in both series is that a vampire, werewolf and ghost live together and try to be...well, human.

I really have enjoyed the episodes as each tries to deal with what they are and also try to hold to some humanity.  They all face temptations to give into their darker sides which is what gives the series its edge.

I've always had a fascination with werewolves (and wolves in general) so the character I've had the most interest in is Josh (George in the British version) the geeky "Jewish kid from Ithaca" who leaves everything behind once he becomes a werewolf.  He's basically the heart of the threesome and an emotional mix of every emotion.  He's fun to watch as he tries so hard to fit in.

In some way, the series is an allegory to me of trying to fit in and make the best of what life hands you.  In being both gay and being autistic, I've had to find ways to learn to accept myself and find ways to fit in, so I connect with the three as they try to just live.

It's a great show in both versions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Social Network

Via Scott McKnight, I came upon this blog post by Richard Beck about how Facebook is killing the church. Yes, you heard me: Facebook is killing the church.
The difference between Generations X and Y isn't in their views of the church. It's about those cellphones. It's about relationships and connectivity. Most Gen X'ers didn't have cell phones, text messaging or Facebook. These things were creeping in during their college years but the explosive onset of mobile devices and social computing had yet to truly take off.

So why has mobile social computing affected church attendance? Well, if church has always been kind of lame and irritating why did people go in the first place? Easy, social relationships. Church has always been about social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week, talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local politics, got the scoop, and made social plans ("Let's get together for dinner this week!"). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely without it. Particularly with the loss of "third places" in America.

But Millennials are in a different social situation. They don't need physical locations for social affiliation. They can make dinner plans via text, cell phone call or Facebook. In short, the thing that kept young people going to church, despite their irritations, has been effectively replaced. You don't need to go to church to stay connected or in touch. You have an iPhone.

Sure, Millennials will report that the "reason" they are leaving the church is due to its perceived hypocrisy or shallowness. My argument is that while this might be the proximate cause the more distal cause is social computing. Already connected Millennials have the luxury to kick the church to the curb. This is the position of strength that other generations did not have. We fussed about the church but, at the end of the day, you went to stay connected. For us, church was Facebook!

I think this post exposes one of the weaknesses of the modern-day church, and reminds us what church is all about. Churches are of course made up of humans, so they are social communities, places where people connect with one another. Friendships are made at church. People find their future husband or wife at church.

The problem isn't that churches are social communities; the problem is when that's all they are. In the heyday of mainline churches, congregations could get away with being a religious Elks Club. But what happens when new communal spaces like Facebook come around? Well, people don't need to go to a church to meet other people when they can do that on Facebook or Twitter or someplace else.

Churches have to be places where we can connect with each other, but also remind us of the holy. They have to be places where we are formed into the likeness of Christ. Yes, they need to be places of social connection, but that can't be the main thing anymore. It never was supposed to be.

This Is Our Hope

First Christian had its annual Anniversary Dinner yesterday, celebrating 134 years of ministry.  I decided to make a video outlining what missions and ministries took place in the last year at church.  Below is the result.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Possibilities of a Disability

A few days ago, a fellow pastor asked me if I wanted be a senior pastor.  When I first heard it, I was a bit taken aback.  Ever since I had my diagnosis of Aspergers, I had decided that maybe being a solo or even senior pastor was out of the questions.  I knew that they way my brain worked and some past experiences made me think that I could never be a the only pastor at a church.  Indeed, someone in small group who also has Aspergers wondered aloud how I could be a pastor at all.

But now I'm starting to wonder if maybe I have limited myself too quickly.  Maybe I could be a solo pastor somewhere.

What has me thinking differently is this video by John Elder Robison for his second book, Be Different.  I enjoyed his first book, Look Me In the Eye, so I'm really looking forward to this new one.  The main point of his trailer is that even though those of us who are autistic might have roadblocks in our lives, we shouldn't sell ourselves short.  There is a lot that we can do, it's just that we do it differently.

Since my diagnosis, I've focused on my limits. In some ways, this is a good thing to point: I mean, you need to realize that you aren't going to be good at everything.

But the thing is, I still can be a pastor and a damn good one at that- it's just that I tend to do things a bit differently than other pastors.

What's so good about being a pastor who has trouble with executive function or social skills?  Well, it's still a question I'm trying to answer, but I think that my time at First has taught me I can do a hell of a lot.  I've been able to use my creativity to the benefit of the wider community.  I've learned how to be able to simply let people talk ( for some reason, people like to talk to pastors).  I've also just learned how to be able to engage in small talk.  I also think I'm able to see ideas no one else can see. 

I could say that my time at First has helped me become more "human," but I would like to think that I've also helped others at the church get in touch with their humanity as well.

Of course from the standpoint of faith, I am reminded that God constantly used people who on the outside didn't seem up to the job.  Moses supposedly had a speech problem and still led his people out of Egypt.  Gideon was a scaredy cat and led an army that defeated an enemy exponentially bigger than his army, the disciples of Jesus included people who weren't very smart and yet they were the ones that established the church. 

I've known all this for years, but I haven't yet let it sink into me.  Partly its because of my history, where I was always making mistakes and running around like a bull in a china shop.  I allowed myself to think I wasn't of any value, that I was a bit of a mess.

And I still am a bit of a mess, but I'm getting better.  I know I have skills and talents.  My autism can be a gift, it can be something that is an asset and not simply a demerit.

I'm still on a journey to learn about the gifts of an autistic pastor.  I don't have all the answers, but let's just say I'm a lot more open these days to a future solo pastorate than I was even a week ago.