One Faith, Many Paths: Jane Lebak

This month’s interview is with Catholic writer Jane Lebak!

1) What was your childhood like?

I grew up in New York City, so it was a strange distortion of too many crowds and too much isolation, but I think it was just right for making me who I am.  I went to high school in a different borough (the local public high school wasn’t a great place; I remember three high school girls attacking a cop in the hallway) and getting there required an hour and fifteen minutes on the subway in each direction. Because of the distance, I got a subway pass.

That was freedom. It was amazing to have complete freedom to wander Manhattan with my allowance and my bookbag. After school, I’d walk from 83rd Street and head down to wherever I wanted. Forbidden Planet (both of them!) or Strand Bookstore or St. Francis Bookstore…I found so many amazing little shops and awesome little stores with ethnic food, and I could go all over the place to explore and learn and experience. I loved that so much!

Contrast that with early release days, where if I bolted out of school the moment the bell rang, and if all the trains and buses were right there to connect, I could get home in time to watch the last fifteen minutes of Transformers. 

2) What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

My personal reason is that I’ve had personal experiences that lead me to no other conclusion. When you reach out and something reaches back for you, you have no more doubt.  When you fall and something catches you, you feel secure in what you felt. That’s not data for anyone else of course, but it holds me fast.

Overall though, and even before I had that kind of one-on-one experience, I knew order doesn’t arise from chaos.  Things fall apart on their own.  They don’t become more ordered or more complex.  So the tremendous complexity we see inside a cell or the way galaxies are constructed, for example, tells me something must have created and sorted, and organized everything that went into that.

3. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?

That’s hard to pick. I like the Archangel Raphael in the book of Tobit. I used to have the worst crush on the Archangel Gabriel.  But on the human side of things, I really like the apostle Thomas because he seems to have this sarcastic and pragmatic edge that really speaks to me.

4. Favorite biblical passage and why?

“Kindness and truth shall meet. Justice and peace shall kiss.” I love the sense of completion.  In some ways, these things could be opposites (think of the answer to “does this make me look fat?”), but with grace, they become complementary.  In the end, all our differences are harmonized so they retain their character but all work together to show the many facets of God’s glory.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Steve Condrey

condreyThis time, I’m interviewing the Moderator for my Autistic Christians Facebook group, Steve Condrey.

1. What is your denomination? How long have you been a Christian?

I am officially a Baptist (my baptism was through a Southern Baptist-affiliated church), but I see myself as a nondenominational progressive.  I first professed Christ as my Savior in October 1982, and while I may not have been the most faithful of believers, I have never once stopped believing and acknowledging Christ’s lordship.

2. What was your childhood like? 

My parents were believers, but for the most part not actively churchgoing.  They stopped going to church regularly once the church started getting heavily involved in politics.  My parents were tough-minded, no-nonsense people.  Dad was a Marine and mom was a floor nurse–two professions notorious for not taking nonsense from anyone.  They were however, very fair-minded and even though they didn’t know any more about autism spectrum issues in the 1970’s and 1980’s they did their best. Frequently they did much better than the professionals recommended!

3. How did you meet your wife?

I met my wife offline in 2003 when Yahoo Personals was still in business. It is the first marriage for both of us after a lot of very dysfunctional relationships.

4. When were you diagnosed? Have your children been diagnosed as well?

I was diagnosed in April 2008, shortly after being placed with our son. The challenges of marriage were more than enough to stress my usual coping mechanisms beyond the limit; parenthood only made the situation more stressful. After a series of referrals, I ended up with an excellent neuropsychologist who pinned the problem down in a single office visit! My son (adopted and no genetic relation to me at all) was formally diagnosed this year; we had suspected he was on the spectrum, and some of the people who worked with him back in California thought so as well but the diagnosis was always considered of secondary or lower importance compared to his severe ADHD. My daughter is so far as we know neurotypical but still very bright.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Nicholas Tieman


This month, I interview an old friend of mine from my days at Christian Anime Alliance, just like Arri Lemons. Here’s Nicholas Tieman!

1) How did you become a Christian?

I was claimed by Christ in baptism in the first month of my life. I’ve been growing into it ever since.

2. What denomination are you?

I am a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. My family has been a member of this church body as long as it’s been around, and it’s a spiritual heritage I’m very happy for.  Here in the South, the dominant paradigm is Baptist, which is prone to legalism. Many people overcorrect into antinominianism, or by rejecting faith entirely. The Lutheran emphasis on ongoing repentance is particularly helpful to people in churches who feel like they can never be good enough but still want to follow God.

3. What is your current job?

I help Hilton Hotels maintain websites. I mainly work on a collection of foreign language web sites, like this one: hotel

My job is interesting and not too stressful. I’m constantly having to learn something new. I love it.

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

I went through a time where I felt severely challenged in my faith, to the point where I wondered if I was just fooling myself. One day I got my butt handed to me in a forum argument (this was in the olden times, before all the social interaction was consumed by the Book of Faces) and concluded that I should just give it up.  I was at the office that day and happened to mention it to a coworker. Before I then I never knew he was a Christian. I only knew him as a hard partying loudmouth, and I don’t remember him saying anything particularly insightful before or after that.  But he managed to say exactly what I needed to hear.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah


This is my first interview with an Eastern Orthodox Catholic. Thank you, Jannah Leah.

1) How was your childhood?

Fairly average, I guess. About the biggest thing that impacted me was my parents’ divorce when I was six. I was also bullied all throughout school, which affected my self-esteem. To this day, I still suffer from self-esteem issues.

2) How did you become a Christian?

Really it was a combination of a few factors. I have suffered from depression for most of my life and in some ways faith has aided with that.  I also have an interest in history, theology, etc.  Religion is a subject that I’ve always found quite fascinating despite my family’s own irreligious background.

To give the short answer, I chose to become Christian because the messages were appealing to me.  I also found the historical evidence for Christianity, particularly Orthodoxy, to be overwhelming. No other religion can claim their historical figures performed public miracles.

3) How has your family taken your conversion to Christianity, given that they do not share your beliefs?

It’s been mixed. My mother is of the mindset that it’s a good thing if it’s what makes me happy. Others still don’t really know since they’re not particularly fond of religion.

4) You said that you used to be somewhat of a troll. What led to the change?

I guess the easiest answer would be that I simply grew bored of it and matured.  It also got rather tedious to have to constantly create new Facebook accounts.

5. When were you diagnosed as autistic?

I was fourteen I believe. Somewhere in my early teens.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Trevor Justin Gawthorne


This month for my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I decided to interview one of the members of my Autistic Christians group on FB. Here’s Trevor Gawthorne from Down Under!

1. How old were you when you became Christian? When I was 16. I got bullied a lot over it.

2. What was your childhood like? It was all right. Most of it was decent. Eight years old was the last time I remember it being good.

3.When were you diagnosed with autism? Did you receive any help? I was diagnosed at 6 with autism and ADHD.

4. What is your current job? Unemployed.

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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:

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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One Faith, Many Paths Follow-up: Arri Lemons


My Facebook Friend Arri was my first interviewee for my “One Faith, Many Paths” series. You can read her first interview here. She asked for a follow-up interview, so I sent her some new questions. Arri had a troubled past to say the least, and she’s since risen above it. Here’s what she had to say.

  1. When you decided to become a Christian after being a Buddhist, did anyone help you in your conversion? Yes and no, maybe? It’s hard to say. Thinking back on it I was a kid that was angry, grieving, and depressed. At the time, my grandmother and best friend had passed away close to the same time. My thought was what many others tend to think when losing a loved one: if God was kind then why did He take them away? I turned to Buddhism when my biological father mocked about being one, and so I began to study it and several other religions. Buddhism is a philosophy, and so I gravitated towards that aspect.  My path to being a believer in Christ happened one evening when I was home alone; I was hurt and angry and over all of it and grabbed a knife. Before I could go further, I felt a great presence wash over me which I still cannot adequately describe. It felt as if someone was there to tell me I wasn’t alone. I broke down and had my first real talk with God. Since then, I have done my own study of Christianity through the lens of artwork. Mostly, if anything has helped me continue my religious path, it has been the people I have become close to–you, being one. It has given me a new perspective to look at God, which to me has helped immensely. Religion isn’t a fixed thing; it’s also about the journey, not just the destination.
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