One Faith, Many Paths: Chris Cairns

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This week, I interview fellow autistic Catholic Chris Cairns, who also happens to be a member of the Knights of Columbus!

  1. How long have you been a Christian? I have been a Christian my whole life. I was baptized Lutheran as an infant, and was an Evangelical from the ages of 8-14, Lutheran from the age of 14-19. Then I joined RCIA.
  2. What was your childhood like? My childhood was fairly normal until my Dad died. He had brain cancer. I had to go through life without a Dad. I did have a good mom though. 
  3. Why did you join the Knights of Columbus? I joined the Knights of Columbus because I wanted to surround myself with good Catholic men and be able to promote Catholicism through my counsel.
  4. Can you explain what the Knights of Columbus do? The Knights of Columbus are the world’s largest charitable and fraternal in the Catholic Church. They help provide life insurance in case anything happens and your family needs support, and they help with pro-life and pro-family causes. The Knights were behind the persecution of Christians by ISIS being labelled a genocide. In Iraq, the Knights have pledged to help rebuild a village that was majority Christian.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Kasey Smith

kaseyThis time around, I interviewed Kasey Smith, a good friend of mine who also participates in Special Olympics!

1. What was your childhood like? My childhood was sheltered. Living in a small town, of course everybody’s life is sheltered in some form or another. I was a premature baby. I had fever seizures, brain bleeder, and a deflated right lung. I started going to school in my little not long after we moved in March of 1990. By the grace of God and with the support of many people, I graduated in 2007 after nearly 20 years.

2. When were you diagnosed as autistic? I was diagnosed as autistic in my 6th grade year in 2001. This just happened to fall not long before September 11, and I honestly believe that if it had waited, it would have been a disaster for me.

3. How did you become a Christian? Let’s backtrack 4 years to April of 1998. It was  a small town Sunday…it was a lazy laid-back slow Sunday. Our family got ready to go to Church that Sunday morning, and I personally had no idea that what I was going to do that day would change my life. We went to church and I don’t exactly remember what our pastor was talking about that day, but when it came time for the response, I walked forward with my older brother. (Funny side note: This was just about a year after our original Church building burned to the ground, we had just moved into our new building, which wasn’t completed yet.  So we ended up being baptized in another church. We were bigger than the baptism tank!) Our family was excited. That was 20 years ago! God has blessed me with so much it’s not even funny.

4. What is your favorite Bible passage? My favorite passage is Psalm 139 because in it, the Psalmist clearly says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and that we should rejoice in that fact.

5. Who is your favorite Biblical character besides Jesus? It would have to be Paul because of what he had to go through–all of the persecution and the problems that he had to go through but he persevered and was very influential in the Bible.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Lizzie Storm

This month’s interview is with a very interesting woman named Lizzie Storm, who is a member of my Autistic Christians group.

1. What was your childhood like?

Very tough growing up. I had loving and supportive parents but I felt I didn’t before among my peers. When I was about 11 and started getting called weird for the first time, I used to think what was wrong with me, then I ended up severely bullied. I never want to go back and look towards the future. I know Jesus can do anything, so I hope to do things again and have a second chance at making friendships with a renewed life in Heaven.

2. What is your favorite biblical passage?

Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

3. How did you become a Christian?

I wanted to go to Heaven and my teacher at my Christian school, Mrs. Blakeman, told me how to get saved. Then I was happy. I was like “Oh, that’s how you get to Heaven.” So I gave my life to God in 1999 at 9 years old.

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

I have seen him. I think it’s something you have to experience yourself.  God will always find a way to reveal himself to you. Also how unique we are. That couldn’t have happened just by chance.

5. Who are your favorite biblical figures besides Jesus?

Gabriel, The Virgin Mary, and St. Michael

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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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Bookworm: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman

boycotttosiriMy mom gets Reader’s Digest each month. In the October 2017 issue, they published an excerpt from Judith Newman’s book To Siri With Love. The excerpt piqued my interest, so I borrowed it from the library. On the exact day I started reading it, I saw a campaign on Facebook using the hashtag “#BoycotttoSiri” I read the articles about the book and was heartbroken.  This mother can’t be this bad, can she? Spoiler alert–she is.

There is a type of mother in the autism community called the “autism mom.” This is a mother who sees herself as a martyr because of the “suffering” she goes through for her child. She will complain endlessly about how terrible it is to raise a child. They rarely, if ever, celebrate the joys of motherhood because they don’t see it as joyful. They see it as a burden.  That is my first problem with this book. She even has the audacity to ask if her child is thinking and say she is unsure if autism should be cured. (The correct answer to that question that should never even be asked is NO! Not yes, or maybe, or unsure–NO!) The reason this is a problem is that these parents don’t seem to realize that EVERY parent has difficulty raising children, even the ones who aren’t autistic can be difficult! This does NOT make you a martyr.

My second problem is how she treats autism advocates. She is very condescending about them, almost as if she doesn’t value their opinion. In fact, when autistic YouTube personality Amythest Schaber called her out for calling her a “manic pixie dream girl” (a derogatory term for overtly cheerful women. Because autistic women can’t possibly be cheerful), Newman didn’t apologize–she gaslighted her! She made it seem as if, by not asking for her permission to be quoted, she was doing her a favor. A “nice surprise”, she called it. She then called her a brat because Schaber still persisted to criticize her dehumanizing book. In short, if you don’t share her POV, you’re not worth her time.

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The Fictional Spectrum: Dr. Shaun Murphy

shaun murphyABC has a TV series that I think will be a force for good in autism advocacy: The Good Doctor. Based on the Korean TV series of the same name, its main character is Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore. Dr. Shaun Murphy is an autistic doctor who is working at St. Bonaventure Hospital.

Now I want to stress a few things. First, I have no knowledge of the Korean version of this show.  Second, medial dramas are not something I normally watch. I tend to watch science fiction, superhero, action, and fantasy programs.

I’ve heard this show has been accused of being “inspiration porn”, or at least a borderline example of it. I’m not sure if I agree. When I think of “inspiration porn”, I think of something that presents a disability as an obstacle, as if to say “If only the main character was normal, his/her life would be better.” Or “Look how cool this person is because of his special disability!” I don’t see either of these.

Dr. Murphy got his position because of Dr. Glassman, the president of St. Bonaventure Hospital. Dr. Glassman has been a mentor for Shaun since his teen years.  Shaun did not have an easy childhood. He was often bullied or ridiculed by both his peers and adults.  Glassman, however, saw potential and nurtured that potential into the man Dr. Murphy is today. In the pilot, the other staff members are unsure if they should let him work there, but Glassman reminds them that there was a time when black people and women also had difficulty getting medical careers. To him, Shaun is no different.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah

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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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