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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One Faith, Many Paths Follow-up: Arri Lemons

arri

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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One Faith, Many Paths: Clay Gilbert

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This month for my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I’m interviewing Clay Gilbert, a friend of mine who writes science fiction for PDMI. Among his books are Annah, (part of his “Children of Evohe” series) and Dark Road to Paradise. He is a recent convert to Christianity from Wicca.

What was your childhood like? I’m an only child, and in many ways, through much of my childhood, my life was the stereotypical suburban family story–the “Beaver Cleaver” family stereotype, as my mom has said on a few occasions. Dad worked, and Mom stayed home and took care of me. Later on, when I was a little older, Mom periodically worked, but our family was pretty traditional.  It really was a great time. My parents encouraged me to read, and encouraged my passion for writing.  They taught me good values–including raising me in a knowledge of Christianity, and the Bible, which we read a lot in our house. I also went to church every Sunday.  But for certain reasons, which were my own, I didn’t claim Christianity as my own faith until January of 2016. It was the “faith of my fathers”, as the old hymn says, but I had to take my own long road to reach it for myself.

What kind of instruction did you receive in Christianity? Tons, man. My family wasn’t one of those ‘check off the box’, go to church on Sunday and forget it kind of Christian families.  The Bible and the teaches of Christ, and the perspectives of Christian figures in the larger culture, were a constant presence in my life.  I attended Sunday School as well as Sunday Services, and I read the Bible for myself. I’d estimate that by the time I was thirteen–the age of Confirmation class in the Methodist branch of the Protestant Church–I’d read it all the way through at least four times. There are some Christians who seem to feel that those who aren’t Christians just haven’t been exposed to the Gospel. In my case, that wasn’t so.

What is your favorite biblical passage? Easy. It’s Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We try to do stuff on our own, so much in this world; in this culture.  But I know for myself that I am much stronger with the Lord Jesus in my life than I ever was when I was wondering around trying to get things done without Him.  And I know He was there all along, knocking on the door and waiting for me to be ready to open it.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Kyle Maximilian Sweeney

This month, I’m interviewing a fellow Catholic named Kyle Maximilian Sweeney, a fellow Catholic I met through Geeks Under Grace.

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  1. How long have you been a Christian? 22 years
  2. What was your childhood like? It was good. My parents were very supportive, pushing me to do my best: not to do my best, but to do my best, which is a very important distinction. They sent me to good Catholic schools for both a good religious and secular education.
  3. What evidence can you give for God’s existence? The teleological argument works well for me. The simplicity of the laws of physics which then produce all of these amazing reactions.  It’s strong proof of a creator.
  4. Do you have a favorite Bible verse? Why? Don’t have one. Though I like “Be still, and know that I am God” as it can be very reassuring. Also it can be challenging.
  5. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus? Moses is pretty rad and bad ass, but I don’t have a favorite biblical figure.

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