30 Days of Autism, Day 24: A Letter to the Church 

To the Church of Christ Universal,

It is Sunday once again. In some parts of the world, it is the day that the church celebrates Easter and the resurrection of Christ. In others, it is Low Sunday and a day that the church typically hears the story of Thomas.

I’ve always thought Thomas and I could be friends. We both have deep and abiding faith in Christ but are open about our struggles and difficulties in life and the church. When the other disciples approached Thomas to say they had seen the Lord, Thomas was quick to essentially say, “I need to see it for myself.” Thomas didn’t deny their reality. He just expressed his need for clarity, understanding, and the experience of others to be his own.

For Thomas to be expressive of his needs to the church, we have called him, unfortunately, Doubting Thomas. 

Am I, today, a doubter simply because I do not accept the reality handed to me by others as it relates to the lack of welcome and embrace the church universal shares with individuals like my son? Am I considered a doubter because I raise my concerns and needs to the church desiring a crumb of grace and a morsel of hope from people called to love God and their neighbor?

Am I a doubter simply because I refuse to be quiet about our needs?

My heart breaks for the church. I love the church. I love the church, and yet I am frustrated with the church. I’m frustrated by how we routinely tell families like my own that making accommodations for them hinders the experience of others. This perspective is painful. It shows how we only give attention to our own desires and needs.

God calls the church to be a witness of God’s justice, which makes all things new and right. Justice does not mean that we give everyone the same tools or resources. It means that we give people the resources and accommodations so that everyone has a fair shake.

It should not be hard for the church to build sensory rooms, have understanding and compassion, recognize the issue with noise levels, or even be kind to those with disabilities. Instead, we vote on whether a child can receive accommodations. We decry that there is not enough money in the budget. We say we don’t understand why it is a problem.

We fail to be the church when we cannot express the same love of God to those on the autism spectrum as we would expect for ourselves. 

Some churches are attempting to do a good work of building relationships and making connections with those society marginalizes. Yet, there are too many more examples of the church failing to be compassionate to those with special needs. There are too many stories of churches turning a blind eye to an individual with a mental or emotional disability. There are too many stories that have been shared of refusal to even consider it as a worthy cause for the people of Christ.

My own heartbreaking experience in the church is what led me to be passionate about the inclusion of autistic people and others with a disability. It is why I passionately talk about autism in the church. I have experienced the feeling of rejection when the church has turned its back on my own family. And, yes, I have even been made to feel like I should apologize for my son. 

Yes, church, we have a problem. Are we listening?

We cannot say we love everyone when our actions show something else to be true. How can we say we love when we do not talk or include? When we make assumptions about a family’s needs? When we do not attempt to be friends with the person?

Please, church, tell me what: what will it take for you to take notice of children on the spectrum? What will it take for you to see them as God sees them?

What must we do for you to care?

I love you, church, but I’m tired of being hurt by you.

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