One Faith, Many Paths: Amanda Thames

 

10153737_10203879692941130_2380239318857327597_n

For my latest One Faith Many Paths post, I’ve interviewed a fellow Christian aspie named Amanda Thames. Here’s what she had to say.

1. When were you diagnosed with autism/Aspergers?

Only just recently. For the longest time, my parents suspected I have it. They even brought it up a few times in my school days to teachers and counselors. However, they were always dismissed with being overly worried parents. My current therapist ran me through a few tests for it, and has changed my past diagnosis of schizophrenia to Autism. I fit the symptoms of Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome much more than any Schizophrenia types.

2. How long have you been a Christian?

My parents and extended family have always strived to give me, my brothers, and cousins a safe and Christian environment. They would never insist I had to be Christian and they always wanted my happiness. Without the idea that they had to make us Christian, they instead gave us a choice to choose God of our own accord. We all always chose God relatively quick compared to the rest of our friends. I myself had a falling out from God but have since come to serve him again.

3. What “evidence” would you give for God’s existence?
It’s kinda hard to give just one example in this question, but I’ll try to keep it simple. We as human beings are given free will but within that are designed to follow him. This is where faith comes from. Without faith in the most basic things, life could not be possible. To ask for ‘proof’ of God is like asking for proof of gravity or oxygen. You cannot see gravity or but it keeps your feet on the ground. You cannot see oxygen, but you know if it goes missing. Same with God. We can neither see him, hear him or any of that sort of sensing him. But in situations where you might be asked to say rob a bank, there is a discerning force inside you telling you it wouldn’t be a good plan. Not because you might be caught or it’ll come back to get you eventually, but because you simply know you can’t bring yourself to knowingly do another harm. That force is the Holy Spirit putting us on the right track again.

4. Who is your favorite Biblical character besides Jesus?

I would likely go with Elijah or Elisha. While they performed their roles admirably and in the face of a hopeless situation, they had the courage to do what needed done to tend to God’s sheep in the face of false gods such as Baal. They were often depressed and the situation hopeless, but they proved it’s always possible with God on your side.

5. What was your childhood like?

 My family is largely Christian and a great deal conservative. So while we had an average upbringing despite our close knit family, my brothers and I were often singled out in school or in the neighborhood because everyone knew we were conservative, even more everyone knew we were Christians. We’d defend our cousins in school and they defended us.  I myself often wouldn’t care about popular trends or things and was thus immediately labeled a nerd. On top of that label, I had a near impossible time making friends because of that image or because of my own inability to converse with other kids on a ‘normal’ level. As a result of not knowing how to socialize I had almost no friends and was left to entertain myself or with my brothers or cousins.

6. Favorite Biblical passage and why?

I really can’t hone in on any one story or passage. But the books 1 Samuel through 2 Kings is some of my all time favorite lessons from David’s challenge of Goliath to when Elijah stood alone against Jezebel. To prove God is real. I also am partial to the books of 1 and 2 Timothy especially when I am feeling broken and unable to be saved by anything or anyone. There are also a few great verses in Ephesians I love.

7. What is your current profession?

I’m a pencil and Copic artist which I often do whether by commission or amusement. I also have a few story ideas not only itching to be written but drawn in manga form. I would ultimately love to come out with my own hot-selling manga.

8. Is there anyone in your life who inspires you to be a better person? Why?
 I can without a doubt say my parents and the rest of my family are for various reasons. My brothers inspire me that no matter what I want in life, it’s not out of my reach as they both are achieving their dreams as a bible philosopher and a nurse. Both have won awards for their efforts which tells me my own dreams aren’t so out of reach to be won. My parents have shown me a good nature backed by hard work are rewarded in some very unexpected ways. True, we are by no means a ‘rich family’ but we get by with what we earn ourselves and always take a portion to give back to God wether through church donations or simply buying a sandwich for the homeless on the streets. My family also has a long lineage of military service which a few of my cousins still actively serve. This kind of upbringing has lead me to stand up for myself and my rights as well as fight for the security of others. As a result, I am well rounded in self-defense and a strong resolve to always help those in need.

Advertisements

The Fictional Spectrum: Raymond Babbitt from Rain Man

thTD6W7NPS

If there is one fictional character who has influenced our perception of autism the most, it would be Raymond Babbitt, the character portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie, Rain Man, which also had Tom Cruise playing his brother, Charlie.  Barry Morrow, who wrote the screenplay, based Raymond on his autistic friend Bill Sackter, who was the subject of an earlier film called Bill. (He also based him on Kim Peek, who was  a savant)

I suppose I should give my thoughts on the movie as a whole.  Bear in mind that I have only watched this movie once, so my memory isn’t 100% good.  For the most part, I really enjoyed the relationship between Raymond and Charlie.  Charlie is attempting to learn more and connect with Raymond because his father has give $3 million of his estate over to a brother he knows nothing about and doesn’t even remember.  It’s easy to understand his frustration.  While I’m not the biggest fan of Tom Cruise, I did like the way he and Hoffman played off each other.  Cruise plays Charlie’s confusion and anger quiet well. There’s even a point in the movie where he becomes so frustrated with Raymond that he says “You know what I think, Ray? I think this autism is a bunch of shit! Because you can’t tell me that you’re not in there somewhere!” But he soon realizes his mistakes and learns to accept and love his brother for who he is, flaws and all.

By far, however, the star of the movie is Dustin Hoffman.  Raymond has all the classic fallacies of autism–he’s afraid of change and shows little emotion, except for bouts of distress when things go against the routine he is used to.  He is unable to cope in any social situation, although part of this could also be attributed to having been placed in a mental institution, where he is unable to truly interact with others. He is naïve and doesn’t realize his brother is using him for a get-rich scheme at a casino when Charlie learns that Raymond can predict which card will be dealt based on probability, revealing that Raymond is also a savant.

Do I see some of Raymond in me?  To some extent, yes.  I do not adjust well to change.  There are some changes to routine I can adjust to, but drastic changes to my routine can bother me. I’m such a slave to my routine that sometimes if I want to do something different, I may forget that I wanted to do it.  One good example of a change that frustrated me occurred a few months ago. For those who haven’t read every article on this blog, my father is a bricklayer and I assist at his jobs.  A few months ago, we’d gotten a job so far out of town that my family and a co-worker had to stay at a rental house that had satellite TV (which we don’t, thankfully!) and no computer, meaning no wi-fi.  I have become very obsessed with the Internet, so I did not enjoy myself when I was not needed at work.  I was glad that I had prepared for this by saving some podcasts to my iPod beforehand and I had a book to read. But I was still unhappy because I was unable to watch the anime I was watching online for reviewing on my anime review blog, Lobster Quadrille.  (if you’re interested in this blog, you can access it at this address. And yes, that’s a plug)

The movie has caused people to assume that autism and being a savant are coinciding, meaning that all autistic people are savants. This is not so. I certainly am not a savant, and one can be a savant without even being autistic.  It’s a positive stereotype, in a way, but a positive stereotype can be just as damaging as a negative one.  It can cause one to wonder why they aren’t as gifted and be unhappy.

However, I will say that I appreciate the impact that the movie has had on our culture.  For better or worse, Raymond Babbitt is a character who has helped us to understand autism. I would certainly recommend this movie, despite its flaws.

Debunking Lies: Religion vs. Science

î250px-Lemaitre

Some months ago, Ken Ham, a scientist who supports the biblical model of creation, and Bill Nye, an atheist, had a debate on whether religion and science can co-exist.  I watched the debate and while I thought both sides presented their views well, I had disagreements, even with Ham.

The main problem I had with the debate is hat neither side considered the idea of compromise.  To hear Nye, accepting those who accept Christianity would mean taking us back to the Dark Ages.  I strongly disagree. Christianity is still just as relevant today as it has always been.

What Nye and others like him fail to acknowledge is that many scientists throughout history have accepted God and used that to drive their studies.  Christianity has played a great role in science’s history.  Georges Lemaitre, the physicist who first proposed the Big Bang Theory, was actually a monsignor (high ranking Catholic priest). Interestingly, Nye actually mentioned the Big Bang as part of his side of the debate. Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics, was a Catholic monk. Louis Pasteur was a Christian, and his name is the root for the word pasteurization.  Blaise Pascal was a Catholic mathematician, physicist, and writer (ever heard of Pascal’s Wager?).  Nye’s dismissal of Christianity’s place in scientific discovery negates those and all other scientists who believe in God as well.  Heck, even Pope Francis has a degree in chemisty.

My point is that science shouldn’t rule out Christianity.  God cannot be objectively observed, but let’s not leave him out of the picture altogether.

One Faith, Many Paths: Deborah Benjamin

 

 

Here’s another interview with another person I met through Fans For Christ, Deborah Benjamin.

1. What was your childhood like?

I was raised in a small Midwestern town. My father was a factory worker and my mom was a housekeeper at a local nursing home. We attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. If there was a special service or a tent meeting or a revival, we were there. The only time you missed church was because of serious illness. My father was abusive and had a terrible temper. He also had learning difficulties and was almost illiterate. My mother was a high school dropout but went back to receive her GED after I was born. I have a brother with learning difficulties and a sister with emotional problems and some physical issues as a result of a car accident several years ago. My father passed away when I was 12, leaving my mom with three children. We were very poor and my mother struggled to make ends meet. Church was very important. I spent a lot of time helping lead song service and singing specials for the congregation. I also taught Sunday school and felt called to be a youth minister when I was a sophomore in high school. She remarried when I was 15 and I acquired two more brothers and a sister.

2. I’ve seen your posts about the ministry. Can you tell me about that?

My husband and I attended two different bible colleges and we have done ministry off and on over our almost 20 years of marriage. We are both licensed ministers with the Assemblies of God. I have over 10 years of youth ministry experience. We currently pastor a very small church in rural Iowa. Our congregation runs about 20 on Sunday. I lead worship and sometimes preach when my husband is sick.

3. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

I believe that the evidence I have for the existence of God can be seen in the miraculous things I have experienced. My husband was miraculously healed of scoliosis. He had had it for most of his life and was told that eventually he would have to have surgery and probably be confined to a wheelchair. When my son was almost 2 years old, Todd was prayed for and was instantly healed. He no longer has pain and is able to do things he was not able to do before. I have seen our niece healed of Stage 4 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I have witnessed a juvenile delinquent surrender his life to Christ and have a total transformation and change his ways. I have felt His presence. Even though I was abused by my earthly father, I have felt the love of my Heavenly Father. He has encouraged me and corrected me and loved me in spite of myself.

4. Tell me about your kid.

We have a 8 year old wonderfully compassionate boy named Lucian. Todd and I were married almost 11 years when he was born. He is in the second grade. He loves video games, art, music, Power Rangers, Super Heroes, Science, Animals, etc. He wants to be a zookeeper when he grows up. He also loves to go to church and read his Action Bible.

5. What’s your favorite bible verse?

My favorite Scripture is Psalm 13. When I am feeling alone or depressed or feel that the world is against me I can read this Scripture and know that I can trust in His unfailing love.

6. Who’s your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?

I think that I really relate to Deborah. When everyone else was doing what was right in their own eyes, she had the determination to stand for what was right. She lead the people into battle and proclaimed that the Lord would be victorious. Because Barak would not take charge of the army and would not go into battle without Deborah, she prophesied that a woman would go down in history as the one who would lead the people to victory. She was right! Jael drove the tent spike into the enemy’s temple! She was a strong woman during a time when women customarily were not seen in powerful positions. She was wise and she heard from the Lord.

7. Who inspires you to be a better person?

My son inspires me to be a better person. I watch him watch me. I want Him to see Jesus in me. I want Him to see an example of how to live an upright life. I watch how compassionate and caring he is and how insightful he is and want to be the best example of a Godly woman that I can be.

8. What made you decide your profession?

I am currently looking for a high school teaching position. I think I have always been drawn to teaching in some form or fashion. In fact, I believe that I am more of a teacher than a preacher. When we took our current pastorate position I applied for a job at the local high school as a paraeducator in an English and Reading classroom. I instantly fell in love. I went back to school and received a post baccalaureate degree and obtained my teaching license. I love to teach kids to read and to express themselves through writing. I believe that every student has a voice that needs to be and should be heard.