One Faith, Many Paths: Lamar Hardwick

lamar hardwick

For my latest interview as part of my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I’m interviewing Lamar Hardwick, an autistic pastor in Lagrange, Georgia at New Community Church. Their website can be reached here: http://www.ncclagrange.com/contact-us

1. What was your childhood like?

My father was in the military so I grew up traveling around the world. We moved every 3 years and sometimes we lived outside the country. I spent a few years living in Germany when I was in elementary school. My father was also a minister, so we grew up going to church every Sunday. As a child, I rarely understood my peers. While I had a few friends, I don’t remember having really strong friendships because we moved so often.  I have three siblings, but I was always the quiet one and spent most of my time alone reading books.

2. When were you diagnosed autistic?

I was diagnosed in 2014, when I was 36 years old.

3. What made you decide to become a preacher?

In 2001, after graduating college I began to sense a calling from God to dedicate my life to serving the church.  At that time, I was becoming regularly involved in my church and I had a sense of fulfillment in the work that I was doing.  It took me nearly a year to understand exactly what my calling was, but by that time I was sure that God had called me to become a preacher.

4. Does being autistic present a challenge in your profession and in interacting in your congregation?

In some ways being autistic does present challenges for me because I have to spend extended amounts of time around larger crowds and it can sometimes become overwhelming to me.  Autism can also present a challenge when communicating with people because I often don’t read social cues and body language very well.  There have been times when people misinterpret things I say or vice versa.  Now that everyone in my church understands me better, they know that the best way to communicate with me is to be direct and to expect me to be direct as well.

5. I’ve often seen autistics who are either disdainful of Christianity or atheist. What reason do you think may cause this?

I think there are many reasons for this and most of the reasons that non-autistics are atheist is the same reasons that many autistics are atheists.  I think that most people who are atheist base their beliefs on a negative life experience that they believe cannot be reconciled with the existence of God.  Autistics tend to be very literal, so this can even provoke a stronger resistance to the idea of God. The problem with most people who come to the conclusion that God does not exist is that they are basing their rationale on very limited existence as well as a very subjective point of view. Most people don’t believe in God or have a disdain for Christianity because God doesn’t cooperate with them, but lack of cooperation doesn’t necessarily disprove that someone does not exist.

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Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back

empire

For many Star Wars fans, The Empire Strikes Back is the definitive movie of the franchise. Although the franchise debuted in 1977, Star Wars really feels more like a byproduct of the 80’s than the 70’s. That’s how ahead of its time the original movie was. It not only secured the franchise as a permanent part of our culture, but also secured George Lucas’s place as a filmmaker. For better or worse, Star Wars defined him. Even when he tried to do a different movie later in the 80’s, Willow, it paled in comparison to Star Wars. Yes, he also helped make the Indiana Jones franchise. but that was a collaboration with Steven Spielberg. Star Wars was the more definitive movie.

Although I enjoy the series as a whole, Empire is not my favorite of the series. Which one is? You’ll find that out next time. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the movie, far from it. I just don’t enjoy it as much as everyone else does.

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What’s an Amino?

amino

There are many internet community apps out there, and I’ve found a great one called Amino. Amino is basically what would happen if you combined Facebook and Tumblr into one big app. There are different ones, for all different kinds of interests.

amino icon

How do you get on it? It’s a mobile app. You can download specific communities on the app store of your choice, or you can just do what I do and get the app, and then you have a whole bunch of the aminos in a menu. I’m currently on the Autistic and Aspie, Catholic, DC, Doctor Who, Equestria, Nostalgia Critic, Rock, and Wrestling Aminos. You can either use your real name or make up a username. (I’m Rock Lobster.)

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Jason’s Jukebox: The Who

the-who

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song–“Won’t Get Fooled Again”

In the 1960’s, the British Invasion of Rock was in full swing. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and The Who changed the landscape. The Who even paved the way for punk rock, according to frontmen for The Ramones and The Clash, two of the most influential bands of the genre. For this edition of Jason’s Jukebox, I am focusing on this pivotal band.

The members are:

  • Roger Daltry– lead vocals, guitar
  • Pete Townshend–lead guitar, backing vocals
  • John Entwhistele–bass, piano (deceased, 2002)
  • Keith Moon–drums (deceased, 1978)

my-generation

My Generation (1965) ***1/2

Singles: “My Generation”, “The Kids Are All Right”

The Who’s debut is a strong start. It’s not as polished as their later albums (especially their 5th and 6th albums), but what it lacks in production it makes up for in energy. The title track blasts its defiance in a mood that would be echoed by punk rockers everywhere. The harmonies of Daltry and Townshend are on point.

Best tracks: “I Don’t Mind”, “My Generation”, “The Kids Are All Right”

quick

A Quick One (1966) **1/2

Singles: “Happy Jack”, “Boris the Spider”

This album is aptly named, as it’s the shortest one in the discography.  It’s the odd one out, as Pete Townshend’s songwriting is the least prominent on this album. It’s got a decent cover of “Heat Wave”. The nine-minute closing song, “A Quick One, While He’s Away” could be considered foreshadowing of Tommy.

Best Tracks: “Boris the Spider”, “Heat Wave”, “A Quick One, While He’s Away”

sell-out

The Who Sell Out (1966) *****

Singles: “I Can See For Miles”, “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand”

This is the first of three concept albums by the Who. The idea behind the album is that they’ve taken over a radio station to broadcast the album. Even the album cover evokes the “sell-out” theme, with each member hocking a different product. Roger Daltry advertises Heinz Baked Beans, Pete Townshend sells Odorono deordant, Keith Moon sells sports cream, and John Entwhistle parodies Charles Atlas’s exercise program. There are even commercial breaks and songs that could be jingles.

Best Tracks: “Armenia City in the Sky”, “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand”, “Odorono”, “I Can See For Miles”, “I Can’t Reach You”

tommy

Tommy (1969) *****

Singles: “Pinball Wizard”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me”

Of the three concept albums The Who recorded, Tommy is the most legendary. It does seem a bit pretentious by some, but I enjoy it. It paved the way for many other bands to create concept albums of their own, such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Green Day.

Best Tracks: “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Smash the Mirror”

whos-next

Who’s Next (1971) *****

Singles: “Bargain”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Baba O’Reilly”

Pete Townshend considers this The Who’s best album. For me, it’s a toss-up between this and Tommy. It’s just straight-up rock, and contains many of their most famous songs. “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” may be a bit overplayed these days (especially considering how the latter has become a meme), but that doesn’t diminish their impact. Glynn John’s production is excellent.

Best Tracks: “Bargain”, “Getting in Tune”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

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The Child Behind the Glass

autism-kid-behind-glass

As someone who uses Facebook, I see many articles about autism shared around, and often from an ableist perspective. One way to tell if the article you’re reading is going to be full of misinformation is if you see the image above. I hate it. HATE IT! Allow me to explain why.

First off, it conveys the image that autistic people are isolated from society. They are not. Yes, many are extremely introverted, or in some cases they may even be non-verbal. But neither should be a barrier to communication. There are more ways to communicate than with words: hugs, handshakes, giving someone a “high-five”, waving, etc.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Messina Lyle

I’ve been kind of slacking off with these interviews, but now I’m bringing them back. And to start off a new year of interviews, here’s my interview with my Facebook friend, Messina Lyle.

  1. What was your childhood like? Basically good. I grew up in and still live in my father’s childhood home.  It used to be a small farm before I was born, but at some point they expanded the city limits and so my family had to sell their livestock. When I was a small child my parents continued to grow vegetables.  Even when they stopped doing that, we kept all of our land–roughly five acres–so I’ve always been surrounded by nature. My childhood years weren’t always easy, though. Since I was an undiagnosed autistic, I struggled to find my niche within the public school system.
  2. Were you diagnosed with autism as a child or an adult? As an adult, less than a month after my 30th birthday. A friend from my church referred to a speech pathologist friend of hers who asked me some questions to get a picture of whether a diagnosis would be worth pursuing. She then referred me to the psychiatrist who officially diagnosed me.
  3. What is your denomination? Episcopalian. After having been unchurched in my mid-twenties, I started out by attending my mother’s boss’s Presbyterian church for a couple of years with my mother. For a good while after that I was active in several different faith communities at the same time and identified as “denominationally confused/challenged/indifferent.” These communities included my current home church (Episcopalian) as well as the aforementioned Presbyterian church, occasionally. The Episcopalian church was the first one I ever officially joined.  It was where I was baptized and confirmed.
  4. What is your favorite Bible passage and why? Probably Micah 6:8–“Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” It was foundational in forming one of the Facebook groups I run.  A friend who helped me form the theological statement of the group suggested we use it. Later I asked another friend to create a graphic based on that verse to use as a pinned post and occasional cover photo for the group.
  5. Who is your favorite biblical feature besides Jesus? Probably Mary. She was His mother, after all.
  6. What evidence would you give for God’s existence? The way that different aspects of science and nature seem to work together.
  7. Who in your life has helped you grow in your faith? My mother’s boss’s wife, who has been a close friend for two decades, as well as my campus minister from when I was active in campus ministry in graduate school, and a few ministers that I have worked especially closely with over the years. I haven’t always shared all of these beliefs, but they have all stretched me and facilitated my growth in one way or another, and all of these relationships have helped to form an important part of who I am.

 

Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars: A New Hope

new-hopeThis year marks the 40th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise. It’s been through a lot of changes, some good and bad. I’ve decided to look at both the original and the Disney versions as a way of showing how much it’s changed, and whether or not the Disney version is good or not. Let’s start where it all began.

George Lucas has been getting a lot of flack since the prequels. Frankly, I think it needs to be toned down. The man was a genius, even if all his ideas didn’t pan out. To me, Star Wars was at its best when it wasn’t the top of the mountain that it is today. That might be its biggest problem: it can’t die no matter what happens.

It’s hard to believe, but Lucas had a lot of trouble getting A New Hope off the ground. His first movie, THX 1138, was a huge flop. (To be honest, I’ve never even seen it.) But one thing helped immensely: American Graffiti. American Graffiti was an unexpected hit. It resonated with audiences both young and old and presented an America people missed. It was a new hope for an America that was still dealing with the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Lucas was good friends with Francis Ford Coppola, who at the time was making Apocalypse Now, the epic commentary on the Vietnam War inspired by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. He actually wanted Lucas to help out, and Lucas was interested, but he still had visions to turn The Star Wars (which was the working title for A New Hope) into something great. And the popularity of American Graffiti was enough to encourage him to take this chance. But Lucas was also nervous. Star Wars was expensive to make. He needed to film it outside of America for the Tatooine scenes (which were filmed in Tunisia). That, and the effects seemed like they might stop the film from making even enough money to recover from the cost of making the film itself. Lucas was even concerned that he had borrowed too much from Akira Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress and even wanted to buy the rights to it just in case he should ever be accused of plagiarizing it. Eventually, he realized there was no need. It was a homage, not a remake.

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