“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, March 17, 2014

Embracing "asociality"

In thinking through the social structures of the church, the Mark 7:8 & 13 passages become crucial in decision making. What are the commands of God relative to church social structures and what are the traditions of men in regard to these same structures? If we opened the flood gates of inclusion, for example, would the result for the church socially, be something outside of the commands of God? If so, those results would be clearly wrong. However, if they were not, they would lead us to alternatives which have been somewhat unexplored because we have equated tradition with the commands of God. Must the Word of God be shared in a silent room? Does noise in a room indicate a lack of respect for what is being shared? Or, does silence indicate a lack of respect for what is being shared? Do the practices that lead us to being able to achieve the silent room during worship show a lack of respect for what is being shared? Does sitting still and doing nothing indicate a lack of respect for what is being shared? It seems many of our social assumptions need to be revisited.

It is obvious, but must be stated, that we are not talking about questions of morality when we speak of social openness. To illustrate, we are referring to someone talking or talking too loud or standing too close. We are not talking about what might be called “sins” by persons that we now say are no longer sins and then celebrate them.  This is a critical distinction to be made in our current social climate where amorality is equated with morality because either is determined by the social consensus of the moment. For example, racism is wrong in our society... at the moment. But I don't trust our society because it could change because of prevailing events, and people suddenly think that what used to be wrong is no longer wrong. It is not like this has not occurred in the past. Think of the language that has been used to describe our enemies in war. In spite of the fact that there were and are Americans from ethnic groups representing the countries we fought, our language became racist. When there is no immutable moral position based upon truth, one does morality by consensus and consensus changes. Amorality is not what I am talking about.

In contrast, perhaps asociality (as contrasted with amorality) is acceptable, particularly when expressed by someone who hasn’t the ability to know the difference and/act on the difference even when shown to them. Asociality can be annoying because we are conditioned to experience social interactions in a particular way. I can tell you, however, when you spend significant time with people who do not understand typical social behavior, you come to not only find it not particularly disturbing, but actually at times quite refreshing. I recall that the thing that got me interested in disability in the first place was actually that.  In my first interactions with adults with intellectual disabilities there was an openness, a lack of guile, which I found totally engaging. It would be considered inappropriate or strange for me to meet you and instantly tell you “I love you!” or “I hate you!” or even, “You have a big pimple on your nose!” Each of those statements are socially inappropriate according to typical standards and they are entirely wonderful and engaging in their honesty. Honesty, particularly when expressed, is not really socially acceptable behavior, but I love the brutal honesty I receive from my friends with various mental and intellectual impairments. I have grown to enjoy their form of inappropriate social skills over the "appropriate" social skills of others not impacted by disability.

Could the kinds of changes that inclusiveness would bring to the church cause us to develop alternative traditions that would be much more reflective of the commands of God than our current traditions are? I don't know but I am willing to try to find out.


Prophet said...

A church in revival where people do manifest and their behaviour is form an encounter with God is alos disturbing to some members of the congregation, but my question is" Do we have a template for what church services should be ?"
Prophetic utterances and speaking in tongues is relevant today as it was in the books of Acts

Prophet said...

Doea church always have a template for it to operate? In this modern times why not do away with sermons and have bible studies allowing worship to be creative and expressive .

Michael De Rosa said...

To better embrace inclusion, we would need to develop, perhaps not -initially- alternative traditions, but different mindsets. We would need to, I think, see people with disabilities as people first and foremost, as people whom God has graced with gifts, as people who are created on purpose and for a purpose, as people from whom we can learn something and from whom we must learn something about life itself, about God's grace intersecting with man's brokenness.

We need to help others recognize the artificial grouping we have unfortunately accepted by way of seeing 'the disabled' and the 'non-disabled.

I recently went to a Beyond Suffering workshop and heard that those working in disability ministries are pioneers in this area. I had never really thought of myself as a pioneer, as I have been engaged in such ministry for a number of years, but as I considered the low percentage of churches that have a ministry to the disabled (about 5%), and when I consider the enormous amount of stigma and steretyping towards those with disabilities, I realized -again- that all this ministry is, pretty much, virgin territory. But, I press on because God is calling me and has called me to stay engaged with a people who have unlimited potential in the hands of our God.

I want to see that more and more.

Anonymous said...

As an elder in the ASDian community , ( Autism ), and speaker (ASD) , i would like to extend my congratulations and thanks to Jeff for his public acknowledgement that asociality hasoften been much maligned along with its hosts ( myself included ) ,. It ought not in itself to be singled out for extermination by the world .. or by christians, in such an automatic/ unintelligent/ socially engineered manner .

We ( ASD people ) are all subjected to the hypocritical rhetoric and weazel words of people attempting to " socialise " and " socially equip " us , in the unthinking assumption that 1, We would WANT to be more appropriate and 2 . the best one can be is a" socially " appropriate one ( as contrasted with a GOOD person, with GOD "appropiate actions and intents ).
We are reminded in the scriptures that we are NOT to be conformed to the world , yet in a mindless kind of mass.. well mind ? , we often assume the worlds standards are in fact Gods too , without fully engaging our brains / using discernment that would go through the individual characteristics of " asociality " and put each into a camp of Gods and a camp of the worlds ... or a neutral place.

I know God made me to be an Autistic person , NOT a person who is considered to HAVE a thing called Autism .
God made female and male people and Italian people also , not people WITH these things , to be made less so ... but more like you .
God does not make mistakes .
If you refuse us as God made us , you refuse an aspect of God, and we are shut in , out up and down , not able to do our work in God that he allocated for us to do ( To His Glory ) .
I would not be me without BEING Autistic and i feel so blessed to be a part of Gods creation as a uniquely worked thing . No doubt at times Jesus may have been sent off to the "behaviourists "for moderation of some of his "asocial" behaviours, had their been behaviourists then .
There is no automatic Godliness in the word " Social " .

If anyone wants to know more about any of this ,or Ive just confused you more i can be contacted at ASDians_Au@yahoo.com.au
Cheers , Leigh

Spencer said...

I partially agree with the anonymous commenter. I have Asperger's Syndrome, but I've never had people tell me I was "un-Christian" for not being social enough. I feel that way all the time, though. Plenty of churches have basically turned into these stupid social clubs, and the sinners, the broken, the people who NEED Christ more than ever--they feel like they don't belong in the church. Technically, NO ONE deserves to be in God's presence, but God's grace, mercy and love extends to everyone. And yes, that includes sex offenders, LGBT people, transgendered people, psychopaths, drug addicts, convicted felons, murderers, terrorists, and of course, anyone with any sort of disability. And me! :P Not trying to equate anyone with anybody, though.

I think learning social skills and social interaction would be a good thing, but perhaps a voluntary choice of the autism-spectrum person. I think it would be much easier for an ASD person to serve Christ if they were able to manage a conversation with them. This isn't to say that ASD people should just "act like normal people", though.

The anonymous commenter is right, though. Most Christians get social norms and sins confused, and I still wonder how much of my Asperger's-attributed behavior is sinful or not. No one can really tell me except for myself, so I guess I have to take it as a case by case basis.

But mainly, what I want to do is 1) Get churches to find out what AS is (so many people don't even know about it) 2) Realize that Aspies process things differently, so help them through the Bible, and 3) Love them and give them the acceptance they've been craving. This doesn't mean tolerate temper tantrums or non-stop discussions about obsessions, but just let them realize that God has a purpose for them.