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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What’s an Amino?

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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.

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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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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.

 

Jason’s Jukebox: Primus

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If you stop Primus’s lead vocalist and bassist Les Claypool after a gig and tell him that Primus rocks, the usual gag is that he’ll say “no, we suck.” This isn’t because Les has no self-esteem, it’s because he’s that kind of person.  Primus is a hard band to describe. It’s got a very surreal feel to it. For this reason, the joke actually makes sense–it’s not the kind of music that the average rock fan would understand. And that’s why I enjoy them. So for this edition of Jason’s Jukebox, I’m ranking all of Primus’s albums so far.

The current line-up is

  • Les Claypool: bass, vocals
  • Larry LaLonde: lead guitar, keyboards, banjo, sythesizer
  • Bryan “Brain” Mantia: drums (originally Tim Alexander)

frizzle Frizzle Fry **1/2 (1989)

Singles: “John the Fisherman”, “Too Many Puppies”

This was a decent start, but many of the songs lack the polish that would come later. It’s a good effort for what it is.

Best Tracks: “To Defy the Laws of Tradition”, “John the Fisherman”

sailing  Sailing the Seas of Cheese **** (1991)

Single: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”

1991 was the year alternative rock really exploded. We had great albums from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and U2. Primus falls into this too.  The sophomore album was and still is one of their best, and gave us one of their most signature songs, “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.”

Best Tracks: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”, “Sgt. Baker”, “Is It Luck”, “Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers”

pork-soda Pork Soda ***** (1993)

Singles: “My Name Is Mud”, “Mr. Krinkle”

This is my favorite Primus album. I fell it’s their most definitive and the best example of how Les Claypool’s surreal humor makes them as great as they are.  The video for “Mr. Krinkle” is still one of my favorite music videos. Surprisingly, it was all done in one take.

Best tracks: “My Name Is Mud”, “Welcome to this World”, “Mr. Krinkle”, “Hamburger Train”

punchbowl  Tales From the Punchbowl (1995) ***

Punchbowl gave us the third signature song, “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”. This was their second-highest seller, right behind Pork Soda. It was also the last album to go gold. To me, it’s just average. It feels like Les and his boys are just coasting by and not trying anything different. I didn’t hate it, but it just wasn’t as great as Pork Soda or Sailing on the Seas of Cheese.

Best tracks: “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”, “Southbound Pachyderm”, “Hellbound 17 1/2”

brownalbum Brown Album (1997) **

Singles: “Shake Hands With Beef”, “Puddin Taine”

This was the first album for new drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia, who replaced Tim Alexander. I think this one is Ok at best. I like that the name “Brown Album” was actually official, as most of the time when an album is given a color for its name, that’s done by the fans. It’s just an example of Les’s unique sense of humor.

Best Tracks: “Fisticuffs”, “Puddin Taine”

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Good Things That Happened in 2016

I’ve been hearing this whole year about how bad 2016 was. Musicians like David Bowie, Prince, Fife Dawg, and Leonard Cohen died. The 2016 election got Donald Trump in, and plenty of people didn’t like that. (Not getting into that because I don’t talk politics on this blog.) But didn’t anything good happen? Well yes, and just to end this year on a positive note, here’s some of the good things that happened this year:

  • DC Comics ended the “New 52”: The New 52 was a mixed bag at best. Batman was good, but Superman was stripped of everything that made him what people love. Man fans were disappointed with the new direction, and DC eventually realized this. With their event “Rebirth”, they hit the reset button. Wally West came back to the DCU. Oh and Superman has a kid now? Suddenly comics are interesting again!
  • Great New Music: As a music lover, this is always a good thing. Four of my favorite bands released great albums this year: Sting, Cheap Trick, Bon Jovi, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Soul Asylum (with the Chili Peppers’s newest album being the best of them). I enjoyed The Getaway much better than Me Without You. While Bon Jovi seemed incomplete without Richie Sambora, This House Is Not For Sale wasn’t bad. Sting’s album 57th and 9th seemed like a return to the music he recorded when he was still in The Police. And as I’m posting this, the Rolling Stones have released their first album in a decade, Blue Lonesome!

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Film Freak: God’s Not Dead

godsnotdead

Ever since Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ, there’s been a growth of Christian films in the market, with movies like Fireproof, War Room, and a remake of Left Behind starring Nicholas Cage. Most rarely are released theatrically, but instead make money through direct-to-video sales and rentals, as those more easily lead to impulse purchases. One notable exception is the movie God’s Not Dead and its sequel. The first movie boasts a cast consisting of Kevin Sorbo (who you may remember from the Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess TV series), Dean Cain (of Lois and Clark fame, and William Robertson and his wife from the AMC Duck Dynasty reality show. I have several problems with this movie, so let’s get started.

Problem 1: Too many subplots: The main plot concerns Josh Wheaton, a college student taking a Philosophy class taught by Professor Jeffrey Raddison, a stereotypical atheist. On the first day of class, Raddison has all the students write on index cards the famous Nietsche quote “God is dead.” Josh is defiant and writes “God’s not dead instead. Rather than fail him outright, (as he had promised) Raddison proposes to debate him on God’s existence, letting the class decide the winner. In addition to the main plot, the movie pads out its run-time with the following subplots:

  • Two priests try to go on vacation at a water park, but keep getting cars that break down.
  • A female Muslim student wishes to convert to Christianity, but has to contend with her abusive father.
  • An agnostic Japanese student (or at least it’s implied that he’s agnostic) is attending Josh’s class, and may or may not be convinced. He talks to his father via cell phone, but is pressured to focus on his studies.
  • Raddison’s Christian fiancée, who he is trying to convert to atheism by ridiculing her faith and forbidding her from practicing it in her presence.
  • An atheist liberal blogger hounds William Robertson and Christian rock band Newsboys about their faith. She then discovers she has cancer. The Newsboys, being the “good Christians” they are, pray over her before their next concert. (I happen to be a fan of the Newsboys, but I was still disappointed with this scene.)

Most of these subplots have little to do with the main story. In fact, I’m sure you could throw some of them out and nothing of value would be lost.

Problem 2: Almost all of the “bad people” are non-Christian: the professor, the abusive father, the defiant son, and the liberal blogger. All the “good people” are either Christian or at least agnostic. Folks, this is unrealistic finger-pointing. Raddison is an embodiment of the strawman fallacy. Yes, I am well aware that many Christian students are facing the same situation as Josh on both high school and college campuses and having atheism beaten into their heads. They are being forced to renounce their faith in order to get a passing grade. But not all colleges are doing this. My alma mater, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana allowed Christians to practice their faith. We even had a Baptist church and a Catholic church on the campus grounds. (The fact that I live in the “bible belt” is irrelevant, by the way, so don’t bring that up) I’m well aware that atheists are ridiculing and bullying Christians online, as I’ve been the victim in groups on Facebook and in message boards. But I’ve also met atheists and other non-Christians on Facebook who are willing to at least tolerate my faith, if not ignore it. Some have even defended my right to express my faith in the Facebook groups. In the movie, there is only one Christian who isn’t good, Josh’s girlfriend, who pressures him into dropping the class.

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Worst Star Trek Episodes: Plato’s Stepchildren

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Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to be an inspiration to the future. In fact, it’s one of the few optimistic visions in science fiction. It is a future in which all colors and creeds of the human race come together to explore the final frontier.

“Plato’s Stepchildren” is probably Star Trek’s most controversial episode. It features TV’s first interracial kiss. So, why do I place it here? Because I cannot let controversy make me give it a pass. I have nothing against the scene personally. But how we got to it is a path I did not like.

The story begins with Kirk, McCoy, and Spock beaming down to a planet, investigating a distress call. They are greeted by a friendly dwarf named Alexander. They meet the planet’s inhabitants, (called Platonians) who have created a society based on the ideals of the Greek philosopher Plato. These Platonians are ageless, and with the exception of Alexander, all are telekinetic.

The Platonians have actually lured the crew because their leader, Parmen, is ill. Parmen isn’t alone, but Kirk objects. The Platonians demonstrate their abilities on Kirk and McCoy, making them dance like jesters and imitate horses, with Alexander riding Kirk. This was the moment that made me hate the episode.

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