December 19, 2007

Reposting Autism in God's Economy

Last spring I wrote a series called Autism in God's Economy that I had wonderful responses to. I thought that I would repost it again for the holiday season, this time in reverse order so that you can read from the top and scroll down through all six entries.

Merry Christmas from the Taylors

Autism in God’s Economy: The Least of These

Autism Awareness month 2007 has been one like we have never seen before. It has seen Oprah do a show on Autism, for the first time after decades on the air. It has seen the CDC announce that Autism now affects 1 in 150 in this country. It has seen controversial Senate hearings to decide where the hundreds of millions of CAA money will go. It has seen a prominent autistic come out of the closet. Finally, and most heartbreaking, it has seen the worst shooting in US history perpetrated by Cho Seung-Hui who was reportedly autistic but never received the help he needed to live in a neurotypical world; and the irony of trying to cover up his autism during Autism Awareness month.

Because so much is at stake, the autism discussion and debate grows louder and more fevered, often making it difficult for those involved to really take in various perspectives. Even when we do, they are all still flawed human perspectives. Even the best, brightest, wisest and most experienced of us do not have the whole story.

But God does.

So in “Autism in God’s Economy” over the next six days I will discuss a few things that the Bible tells us about God’s perspective on those with Autism and on the rest of us. This series is predicated on the deity of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture, which may be controversial ideas to some of my regular visitors. If they are to you, I invite you to read on none the less, and take a look at what God of the Bible says. If you are a professing Christian, then this is an important series for you to read no matter how autism affects you.

The Least of These

God’s economy turns the world’s economy upside down. Jesus brought with Him the radical message that the last shall be first, the meek shall inherit the earth and the poor will get the Kingdom of Heaven. We tend to hear these verses and think of them as nice thoughts, but Jesus did not intend them to be taken so lightly. He intended them as a window into His mind and a look into the future. And to prove it, he lived it out.

Jesus was God. He was the very same God that created the world and all of us that roam it. Everything belongs to Him. Yet when He put on a mortal body and came to walk in His creation, He didn’t come as a king, but a servant. He owned no property but the cloths He wore, He held no office, and He did not show up and order the governments to start doing His bidding. He had the right to all of it, but He laid claim to none of it.

Instead He chose lowly fishermen as his friends, socialized with social outcasts, spent His time touching lepers, gave relief to demon possessed psychotics and cleared out hospitals.

He did not ‘climb the ladder of success’. He lived a life that was oriented toward the broken and excoriated those in power who would not do their duty to serve them.

In God’s economy, the weak, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the overlooked, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the sick, the oppressed, the grieving, the bullied, the exhausted, and those at the end of their rope are the ones who get into the VIP section. They are the ones who gain the attention and compassion of the God of the Universe.

If you have any doubt of this, and even if you don’t, read Matthew 25:31-46. It is one of the most important passages of scripture that any of us in the Autism community will ever read, and now that 1 in 150 are being diagnosed with it, almost all of us are in the Autism community.

Take a moment to read it.

It tells us that what we do in the lives of “The Least of These”, we do to Jesus Christ Himself.

If those of us who claim to be Christians want to know if we really are, and be clear, just saying you are a Christian don’t make it so, then examine what you have done in the lives of the most vulnerable people in your world.

In God’s economy, they are to be our highest priority. He has chosen them to represent Him for the purposes of His judgment in this world.

Matthew 25 is not an empty metaphor, it is one of the very difficult truths that our destiny hinges on, and it was the last thing that Jesus stressed before He started His walk to the cross.

If you know anything about autism and you are not of the belief that those with autism who cannot advocate well for themselves are among The Least of These in this society, then pay closer attention.

Next: Those With Autism

Autism in God’s Economy: Those with Autism

One of the wonderful things that the internet has done is that it has given a voice to those with autism. Those who once were a complete enigma to those of us who just could not understand them, now have a platform to share their gifts and frustrations with a world that did not know how to listen to them.

What we have come to hear now is all too often surprisingly sad. Story after story of misunderstanding, mistreatment and abuse is told by those who were only able to advocate for themselves after the fact.

What Matthew 25 means to you whose autism has allowed you to be mistreated is profound. It means that not only does The God of the Universe see what happens to you, He stands behind you at all times taking careful note of all your interactions with others. He records who victimizes you, who ignores you and who works their butt off to get to know you give you what you need.

He does not stop there; He actually steps into your place. Jesus literally takes on your burden and shares it equally with you. ‘If you ignore him, you ignore Me. If you bully him, you bully Me. If you violate her rights, you violate My rights. But if you love her, then you love Me. One day, you will answer for it all.’

God could not take what is done to you or for you any more personally!

Imagine if every time 5th grader Teddy Willis was bullied on the playground, that George Bush stepped out from behind the slide flanked by the Secret Service and said, “Hey Jimmy. Com’mere. You know that name you just called my boy Teddy? Well as far as I am concerned, you just called me that name. You can either tell him you shoudn’t a dunnit, say you are sorry and give him one of your Sweet Tarts and I will forget this ever happened, or you can keep it up and see if I don’t make your life as miserable as an armadillo in a twister starting a 12:01 A.M. on your 18th birthday. Now what is it gonna be?”

That pales in comparison to what is going on in God’s economy.

With your ‘disability’ to function like the neurotypical do in this world, you are given a special position and a peek into who gets God’s pleasure and who will ultimately exhaust God’s patience and earn His judgment. It all happens right in front of your eyes.

Yours is a high honor. Take care to receive it with humility.

There is another important truth that has to be explored here, and that is the much discussed identity of the autistic individual. In this broken worldly economy, those with autism and those around them spend a lot of time and energy trying to define autism and autistics, and trying to make value judgments; because as we are all coming out of the dark, we are trying to give meaning to this autistic life that is so difficult and has been so devalued.

Allow me for the moment to sweep all those volumes of debate to the side and tell you who God says you are and who you are not.

You are not your autism, even if you want to be.

You are not your hair color, your eye color, your height, your weight, your race, your gender; you are not what you look like. You are not your personality, your education, your verbal ability, your popularity, your intelligence, your math skills, your DSM diagnosis, your addiction to chocolate, your favorite hobby, your blog hit count, your family history, your genetic code, your physical ills, your highest accomplishment or your worst failure.

None of these things add anything to your value, none of these things take away the slightest bit from your value.

You are not what you seem to be compared to the next guy.

You are not who your parents say you are, you are not who your school mates say you are, you are not who your friends say you are, you are not who your love interest says you are, you are not who you say you are, and you are not who I say you are.

You are who God says you are. He made you and He is the one who gets to defines you.

Here is who He says you are:

You are someone whose whole life was planned out by God long before you were born.

You are someone who God put together with delicate precision in your mother’s womb.

God says you are, “wonderful”.

You are someone that God thinks about constantly and preciously.

You are God’s “workmanship” created for a very specific job. There are tasks that only you can do.

You are someone that God is jealous over. He hates it when other things distract your attention away from Him.

You are so valuable to God that you were worth dying for. Have you seen The Passion? He did that for you.

Max Lucado describes Jesus’ decision leave the quiet life of a carpenter and begin his public ministry, knowing that it would lead to his death so that he could get you back, like this:

…”If there was hesitation on His part of humanity, it was overcome by the compassion of His divinity. His divinity heard the voices. His divinity heard the hopeless cries of the poor, the bitter accusations of the abandoned, the dangling despair of those who are trying to save themselves.

And His divinity saw the faces. Some wrinkled. Some weeping. Some hidden behind veils. Some obscured by fear. Some earnest with searching. Some blank with boredom. From the face of Adam to the face of the infant born somewhere in the world as you read these words, He saw them all.

And you can be sure of one thing. Among the voices that found their way into that carpentry shop in Nazareth was your voice. Your silent prayers uttered on tear-stained pillows were heard before they were said. Your deepest questions about death and eternity were answered before they were asked. And your direst need, your need for a Savior, was met before you ever sinned.

And not only did He hear you, He saw you. He saw your face aglow the hour you first knew Him. He saw your face in shame the hour you first fell. The same face that looked back at you from this mornings mirror, looked at Him. And it was enough to kill Him.

He left because of you. He laid his security down with His hammer. He hung tranquility on the peg with His nail apron. He closed the window shutters on the sunshine of His youth and locked the door on the comfort and ease of anonymity.

Since He could bear your sins more easily than He could bear the thought of your hopelessness, He chose to leave. It wasn't easy. Leaving the carpentry shop never has been.”


God loves you. He does not love you for what you can do, He loves you because He made you, and you are His child. Because you are His child, and I can attest to this as the mother of an autistic child, He absolutely LONGS to know you and be known by you.

And what ever your language is, He speaks it.

Additionally, you can know God in a way that I can’t while I am on this earth. My beautiful husband Scott is on the spectrum, while I am no where near it. I have found that when we talk about God he has a perspective on Him that I just don’t have. While I see and relate to the part of God’s personality that is the Father, Scott most appreciates His role as the creator and feels closest to Him when he is creating and building.

Who ever you are reading this right now, you can understand God and worship a part of Him that other people can’t. He is vast and infinite and each of us only gets to see a little part of Him while we are in this life.

I figure it this way, if the neurotypical mind has such trouble understanding the autistic mind, because you see the world from such a different vantage point, then I probably could only faintly guess at the part of God that can appreciated by you.

Who ever you are is the you that God is in love with. It does not matter if you are a high functioning Aspie or if your autism is so severe that no one in your life even believes that you are cognizant of the world around you. The world might value you for your contributions, but God values you for you.

God does not need you to be anything, except His.

The bottom line is this: You are valuable because He says you are valuable and He is the one, the only one, who sets the standard for absolute value.

No ability or disability that you have can touch that.


Next: Parents of Autistic Children

Autism in God’s Economy: Parents of Autistic Children

“Disabled children are a blessing”.

It is something that we have all heard, even long before we were parents of disabled children. It usually is offered in a way that makes it seem like if you have a disabled child, you also have some indefinable, magical fairy dust kind of ‘blessing’ where an angel waves his hand and, poof, you are blessed.

Once you become the parent of a disabled child, you begin to see what that ‘blessing’ really means in concrete terms, because one of the first things that happens to you, in your early grief, is that you become grounded. All of the trivial distractions, the petty rivalries, the BS ego trips, the vain ambitions and the frivolities of life suddenly become very unimportant. The crap in your life starts to fall away and it is replaced by seriousness about things of true value.

Diagnosis brings with it a choice, to continue to serve yourself, or to take a hard look at your life and begin making greater and greater sacrifices for the wellbeing of your child. Because we love our children, very few of us choose the former.

In light of Matthew 25, this is the blessing of the autistic child. God eases you into falling in love with the Least of These, just like He is, so that when diagnosis comes, the choice to serve them is automatic.

For our children’s welfare, parents in our community give up their careers, their houses, their retirement, their health, their relationships, their free time, their dreams, their pride and a hundred other things that typical parents ‘get’ to hold on to. When we discuss the sacrifices that parents make, it is usually from the perspective that parents are loosing out on the better life that should have been theirs.

Making this even more painful, some of these families will turn their lives upside down for children who may not ever ‘get better’ or live independent lives or even be able to acknowledge their parents at all. Some fathers will never be greeted with excitement by their child when they come home from work. Some mothers will never hear, “I love you, Mom.”

But Matthew 25 puts this phenomenon in a whole different light. What Jesus is telling his followers, just as He is about to leave them, is that whatever they sacrifice for the vulnerable in their world, they sacrifice for Him.

In the Bible, God asks believers to give just 10% of their income to Him. What do you think it means to God when a family who has lived all their lives in one place, tear up their roots and move across the country to a state that has better services for their disabled child?

Read Matthew 25:31-46 again and pay particular attention to verses 35 and 36.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;
We don’t just feed our children, many of us feed them gluten free, casein free, organic, hormone free, dye free, non-allergen, supplement enhanced diets that cost more money and take more effort than we would ever dream of spending on ourselves.
I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
Our children are strangers to us in so many ways, yet many of us spent much of our time working hard to draw our them out; to know them and to be know by them. The invitation is constantly being extended.
…naked, and you clothed Me;
If the time and energy that we spend clothing and diapering our children were invested in the space program, we could have colonized Mars by now.
I was sick, and you visited Me;
How many hours have you spent in doctor’s offices, at conferences, in training seminars, listening to lectures, and reading books so that you could attend to your autistic child's health? How many nights have you stayed up trying to comfort your little one who could not sleep?
I was in prison, and you came to Me.
How many times have you looked at your child who would not or could not respond to you and longed for him to be free enough to tell you what was going on inside his mind? How many times have you held your little one and cried because you just missed him?

All the love, all the acts of service, all the sacrifices, all of the other plates that you have let go of so that you could keep just this one spinning… He sees it all, and He says:
“You did it to Me”.
Remember that night that you were up cleaning poop off the wall in tears at 3 AM after eight consecutive months of broken sleep? That injury you sustained trying to save your child’s life for the third time that week? That beloved thing that you gave up because you needed those resources for your child? He was right there, He saw it all, and as far as He is concerned, you did it all for Him.

When your child was diagnosed with autism, or with any disability, God put you on a new road. It is rocky and dangerous and to journey on it is hard. It humbles you and strips away pride that would have been yours had you not gotten the diagnosis. But Jesus said that He can only use broken people. People whose egos have melted away, people who have been brought to the end of themselves and had the love of the world’s economy squeezed out of them. People who are dieing to themselves. It is only then that they can begin to see, and to love, God’s economy.

Your child’s autism lays the ground work for God to be able to make you into a person who really knows Him and understands the world the way that He does.

The Corps has to strip away much of the man that showed up on their door step before they can build a Marine. My first three years as the parent of an autistic child have been a spiritual Paris Island. I am having the crap in my life stripped away by trying things based on the old paradigm, failing and having to go back and relearn the basics.

It has brought me back to a faith in God that I have not known in 15 years. A more child like faith that was less concerned with how I appeared and more concerned with just trying to learn from God how to get it right. His ‘Right’, not the world’s right. It is a faith that is removing my independence and accomplishments and taking me back to the dependency and instability that I knew when I first met Jesus. As I am pushing forty, I am learning how little I really know, how weak I really am, and how much the smallest thing that I give to God really counts.

And God has used Chandler to do it.

THAT is the blessing of the disabled child.


Next: Friends and Family

Autism in God’s Economy: Friends and Family

“Congratulations! Some one you love has autism!

You have just been given a chance to serve The Creator God, up close and personally! Run… do not walk… to your loved one and seize the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the little life that is on the fast track to stardom in God’s Universe!”


If we lived in God’s economy, this is how we would get the word that someone in our lives has been given an autism diagnosis. As it stands we live in the world’s economy and an autism diagnosis is typically met with fallen hopes, grief and mourning for the things that could have been and will probably never be. It was for Scott and me, and sometimes it still is.

But those friends and extended family who can clearly see through God’s eyes, see the chance they have been given to do good in the life of someone who is as close to an actual “innocent” as they will see in this world.

I was in an autism parenting course, and my friend Robin who was sitting next to me made an interesting comment. She had been thinking about the why of the autism epidemic. Not the mechanical ‘how’ so many children have become sick and delayed, but the ontological “why” that seeks the purpose behind it. She decided that it is because, through their uber-focused brain power, they are going to save the world.

I think she might be right about them saving the world, but I don’t think it will be through their brain power, I think it will be through their innocence. It is their innocence and vulnerability that God stands behinds and uses to judge those who come into their sphere of influence. It is precisely because they are so easy to dismiss and mistreat, that God watches closely to see which of us have extracted ourselves from our own self-centeredness and selfish ambitions to notice someone who is need and to bear their burden with them.

I think that God may be sprinkling them all around the world to give many of us a chance to show Him who we really are. Do we really serve Him, or do we serve ourselves?

The first question asked of God in the Bible was asked by Cain. He had just murdered his brother, and God came looking for him. God asked Cain where his brother was. Cain replied:

“Am I my brother’s keeper”?

It has been said that God spent the rest of the Bible answering that question. For the sake of brevity, I will sum it up for you.

Yes. You are your brother’s keeper.

You are responsible for holding up the weakest people in your world. You are responsible for grieving with the saddest people in your world. You are responsible for providing for the financially struggling people in your world. You are responsible for protecting the most innocent and vulnerable people in your world.

And every time you either live up to or shirk that responsibility, God says, “what you have done unto the Least of These, you have done unto Me”.

Let me tell you what my beloved friend Julia Fikse did for Jesus.

In January of 2004, I knew something was up with my 23 month old Chandler. The world ‘autism’ had passed through my head, but I decided I was being paranoid and that I should set it aside for now and consider it again after his 2nd birthday.

One day my friend, and Chandler’s God Mother, Julia, was over in my kitchen just hanging out and she asked about how Chandler was doing. She told me that she wanted to be able to get to know her God Son better and she was having trouble. She said, “you know… I have a friend whose son had some issues going on with him, and she got him some extra help and he is doing great now.” When she said that I felt like I an elephant had just sat on my chest. I thought, “Damn, someone else sees it too”.

I asked her if she meant autism, and told her that I had considered it, and that I would discuss it with my pediatrician at our next appointment in a few weeks. I spent those weeks reading and evaluating and by the time the appointment rolled around I didn’t have to ask him anything. I already knew. And so did he. Within a few minutes of examining Chandler he started asking me the autism screening questions, with out me mentioning anything about it.

The morning we got the diagnosis, I called Julia to let her know. By dinner time she was at my house with copy of “Facing Autism”. She had not bought it for me to read, she had gone out to the store that morning as soon as she got my phone call, and bought it for HER to read.

She was going to read the whole book and digest it in one day so could help me with what I was going through.

She had gotten through two thirds of the book when she came to something that she knew I needed to hear immediately, so she drove over and showed it to me. And let me know all the other stuff she had been learning. It turns out that before she had mentioned it to me in my kitchen that day, she had been doing her own research, and even called CARD to solicit their input and advice on whether or not her concerns were valid and how to approach me.

A few weeks later I got a call from her letting me know that she had decided that she was supposed to get people together to have a yard sale for us to raise some money so we could start Chandler’s treatment. She got 15 families to fill our entire back yard with stuff on a Friday night, and on Saturday morning the yard sale stretched across four front lawns (we had nice neighbors). She raised $3000 and we used it to start Chandler’s DAN! protocol and Sensory Integration Therapy.

She didn’t just do big things, she did lots of things. She sat with me and cried. She took me out when I needed a break. She spent a couple hundred dollars on Tomas Trains for HER house so that Chandler would enjoy being there. One morning I opened my curtains to find her pruning my roses that were a wreck because I never even noticed them any more.

This is how I know Julia loves Jesus:

When she thought Jesus might be sick, she looked into it and let his care givers know so that they could tend to him properly; she researched his illness and how to support him and his caregivers; she bugged all her friends to give up their stuff so that his care could be paid for; she cried with him when he was sad; she celebrated with him when he started to get better; she took him to dinner when he was hungry and lonely; she comforted him when he was scared; she entertained him when he was discouraged; she bought him toys and clothes; she made her home a welcome place for him; and she even tended Jesus’ garden when the regular gardener lost her marbles.

Is this how you have treated the autistic family in your life?

The reason that she was lead to do any of this is because she was paying such close attention to a very quiet boy in the first place. She was paying closer attention than even his own mother was. She wanted to get to know him better. She was paying attention to Jesus.

Who knows how much more time would have been lost in Chandler’s life if not for Julia paying attention.

Are you paying attention to the least of these in your life?

Or are you distracted by your own problems, pleasures and ambitions?

What have you done for the autistic family in your life? Have merely wished them well and told you would say a prayer for them, and then back to life as usual? If so, take a look at James 2:15-16:

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?


Are you a Julia Fikse who tangibly bears the burdens of your disabled friends? Or are you a ‘be warm and filled” person who ultimately does nothing to lighten their load?

If you are taking a good hard look at yourself and are just now deciding that you are the latter:

“Congratulations! Some one you love has autism!

You have just been given a chance to serve The Creator God, up close and personally! Run… do not walk… to your loved one and seize the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the little life that is on the fast track to stardom in God’s Universe!”


Welcome to God’s Economy!

Autism is expensive. Go tell that family that you want to pay the cost of their B12 shots for their son for the rest of the year. Get ten friends to split up the cost of their groceries and supplements.

Autism is exhausting. Take a Saturday and care for an autistic child so that their family can just rest.

Autism is isolating. Figure out how to connect with the autistic person in your life. What do they love? Do it with them! Learn their language! Ask their family for help.

Autistic people are fascinating. Take some time, just sit with them and see what there is to see.

Autism wrecks marriages. Get the support system together to make sure those parents have free child care and dates paid for every Friday night.

Autism takes diligence. The autistic child in your world not getting all the services he should? Hit the pavement. Find out about what resources are out there and start making appointments for her parents. They spent the day cleaning up the 12 rolls of toilet paper that their daughter used to decorate her room while mom was making lunch and didn’t have the chance to get on the internet. Read the school system’s disability rights policy and go to IEP meetings to make sure that they are not being violated. Advocate for the autistic person in your life.

Autism makes people vulnerable. Protect them. Run into traffic to keep them from being hit by a car. Let it be known that, “If you mess with my boy Teddy, then you mess with me”. Put yourself in harms way for them. Be like Jesus.

You will never regret it.

Next: Those in Power Over Those With Autism

Autism in God’s Economy: Those in Power over Those with Autism

Pilate, Pharisee, Jesus.

For those who hold positions of authority over those with autism and autistic families, Matthew 25 is a wake up call as loud as a siren. I want to take care to re-emphasize this again, it is not empty metaphor. It means the difference between heaven and hell. It is the litmus test of our salvation. It is one of a very small number of questions on our final exam, and getting one answer wrong is enough to fail the test.

If you have taken responsibility for any part of the life of someone with autism, or even if that responsibility has been thrust upon you, take this time to measure yourself. Have you lived up to the responsibilities that you have been given to the innocent and vulnerable lives that Jesus has chosen to represent Him for the purposes of His judgment in his absence?

This is one of the last questions any of us wants to spend much time considering, because if we think long enough about it, we will stumble onto something that we just don’t want to remember that we did or didn’t do. For many, taking any time to ask this question is too upsetting, and some who begin this won’t read this past the first paragraph. But you have made it this far, so decide whether or not you believe Socrates to be right when he said that, “An unexamined life is not worth living,” and take the next step.

If you have decided to examine your life in light of Matthew 25 then, congratulations, you have cleared a hurdle that few people do.

So… if you hold power over an autistic person have you fed, clothed, housed, visited, comforted, educated, and healed them?

If you have power over a family with an autistic child, have you mourned and rejoiced with them? Have you made sure they had everything they need to raise that child to the best of their ability?

Have you advocated for them?

Proverbs 31 was written by King Lemuel. He was not a King of Israel, but believed to be either Egyptian or Babylonian. In it God gives us instructions on how to live, and how to lead. These instructions apply to anyone who considers himself a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and are more stringently applied to those in leadership. The higher up in leadership you go, the more strictly you will be judged on this command.

Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.


These verses are meant to apply to the voiceless in society, but they literally and specifically apply to autistic people. People who are literally mute and cannot advocate for themselves, they are afflicted with physical illness and developmental delay, and are needy. “Special Needs” means that they REQUIRE more than the rest of us do in order to get along in this world. In the U.S. and elsewhere, they are given legal rights that the rest of us don’t have.

If you are in a position to dispense services and justice to someone with autism or to their families, do you open your mouth for them, or do you give them the shaft? Because, from your position, there is no middle ground. In this fallen, worldly economy, either you advocate for them, or they will get the shaft.

There was no middle ground for Pontius Pilate. He was the man who had to make the decision as to the life or death of Jesus. Pilate knew that He was not guilty; he knew that Jesus’ rights were being violated, but he did not want to deal with the political pressure being put on him by those who wanted Jesus dead, so he just went with the flow.

If you are in authority over someone with autism, and you just do what is easy, you will end up failing them, because doing the right thing in the life of an autistic person usually difficult in this worldly economy.

They take up too much time and resources and you don’t get a lot for your money, right? The cost-benefit analysis on these people and their families is wholly unfavorable so wouldn’t your resources be better spent elsewhere?

Unless, of course, you love them.

Unless seeing them make an inch of progress thrills you. If him saying a new word, hugging his mom, eating a new food, asking for something, making a friend, going to prom, getting a job, or living on his own brings tears to your eyes and makes your heart burst; if you believe it was worth all the grief and energy it took to bring it to fruition and you can’t wait to be a part of a miracle in another disabled person’s life, then you have the heart of Jesus! You are following the leadership model of Christ.

You live in God’s economy!

Are you a parent that is not living up to your responsibilities to your child? Are you a teacher who just wants the mainstreamed autistic kid out of your class so you can teach the way you want to teach? Are you the head of the PTA that does not want your normal child to have to deal with that needy one? Are you popular middle management who blamed your mistake on the weird guy in the IT department because you knew you could get away with it? Are you the school superintendent who forces families to spend their limited resources on lawyers to sue you for the services that the law says it is their right to have? Are you the head of a government health agency who is not making public all you know about the causes and treatments of autism?

Are you Jimmy?

If you are, be afraid.

God sees it all, even the thing that you think that no one knows. Even the thing you think you got away with. He looks into your heart and knows what motivated you to do it. There is no way to put this nicely… for you, Matthew 25 is a death sentence.

And God does not accept excuses. “But I did the best I could under the circumstances. I was under tremendous pressure. I just didn’t have enough resources to go around. I had to make a judgment call.” does not fly.

You either did the right thing in the life of The Least of These, not matter what it cost you, or you didn’t.

Leaders who go with the flow and lead the way Pilate did have a grim fate awaiting them.

But there are those who face an even worse fate.

When Jesus walked on this earth, there were very few people who had anything to fear from Him. He healed the sick, dined with the humble, taught the unlearned, and forgave the adulterous. But Jesus was not kind to everyone.

Jesus excoriated the Pharisees.

These were men who didn’t just hold social, political and legal authority, these where men who held God’s Authority. They were entrusted with God’s Word and God’s Power and told to use it to serve God’s people.

But instead they used it to serve themselves.

They traded on God’s Authority to serve their fame, their fortune, their desire for control, their ease, their appetites and their pride. They had signed up to carry out the command to “Open their mouths for the mute”, but instead of advocating for the powerless, they ignored their needs and even stole from them.

And the consequences for them were dire. Matthew 23 is the passage of scripture where Jesus lays out most clearly their offenses and the consequences. It ends with Jesus placing the blood of all the martyrs, going back to the first murder of Able by Cain, on their heads. 2 Peter 2 discusses false teachers who claim to serve God, but serve themselves. It tells us that they earn a worse hell than the one they would have gotten if they had never known God at all. The bible is filled with frightening warnings to ministers tread very lightly in the exercise of their duties.

If you are a pastor or priest reading this, it may be one of the most important moments in your life. Taking time to think about how you have treated the most vulnerable lives that God has entrusted to your care, is imperative to the rest of your life here, and to the next life.

If you are a pastor who has ignored or taken advantage of the most vulnerable of God’s sheep, the crippled lambs, then don’t just be afraid of God.

Be terrified.

In your ordination, you took on the mantle of Jesus and told Him that you would be His hands in this world. That you would walk in his steps, speak his words, heal the way he healed, love the way he loved, and sacrifice yourself for the least of these, the way that He sacrificed Himself for the Least of these. You have told God that you will die for his children. Die to your wants, needs and desires. Die to your flesh.

You have committed to consider ALL things in your life loss for the sake of knowing Jesus and doing his will. Your money, your career, your popularity, your reputation, your pride in your accomplishments, everything.

And the proof of your fulfillment of that commitment is what you do in the lives of the Least of These.

In the flock that God has entrusted to you who are “The Least of These.” Do you even know?

It does not matter if you shepherd a church of twenty or twenty thousand. You have taken responsibility for, and will give an account for every single life in it.

Do you have autistic families that you are to be serving? Are you serving them? When is the last time you talked to them? What do they need right now? What are they struggling with? Do you even know?

Couples with an autistic child face an estimated 80% divorce rate. Teens with Asperger‘s Syndrome are a higher risk for suicide. Did you know that?

Here is a test for you.

Go get a piece of paper, right now, and draw a line down the center. First, on the left side, write down the names of the ten most wealthy, powerful, influential, popular people in your care. Next, on the right, list the names of the ten Least of These in your care.

Which list was harder for you to write? Which took longer? Did you have to stop and look up names? Who do you know more about? Make those notes on the page. Which people to you spend more time talking to or thinking about? Which do you spend more money on reaching? Which of these people do you hold the most affection for?

Are you oriented toward the poor like Jesus?

In this exercise, you have just told yourself whose economy you live in. If there are more words on the left side of the paper, be afraid; be terrified, you live in the world’s economy and you just might be a goat.

If there are more words on the right side of the page, if you are loving and defending the least of these, mourning and celebrating with them, then you are likely a sheep who has been given the heart of Jesus Himself.

So how do you pass this leadership test?

Are you a Pilate, who just goes with the flow and does what he wants?

Are you a Pharisees, who trades on the power in the name of Jesus to serve himself?

Or

Are you a Jesus, who serves and defends the autistic, even if it costs you your whole life?



Next: For All of Us Who Have Failed in Our Duty

Autism in God’s Economy: For All of Us Who Have Failed in Our Duty

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

Again:

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

When those of us with autistic people in our lives take a hard, honest look at ourselves, we realize the question is not have we failed them, it is how often and how big have we failed them.

I am in love with Chandler. It is difficult to describe well the feelings that I have for him because they are so powerful. I have changed my whole life around to make his better. Yet I fail him on a daily basis. Ten times a day he asks me for things that I don’t give him because I can’t understand him. Ten times a week he needs something that I don’t give him because I am fried from the 90 things I did give him. At least ten times since his regression I have completely lost my mind and collapsed into a pile of sobs or screams in front of him because I just couldn’t take it any more. Once I even locked myself in the bathroom to get away from him because I knew I was close to loosing it.

What was it that you did, that you know was wrong?

Are you short tempered with your child? Are you a parent who has mentally and emotionally checked out from their child because trying to connect is too painful and too hard? Are you a caregiver who ignores the autistic person entrusted to your care when no one is looking? Have you lied about someone with autism because you knew they couldn’t set the record straight? Are you an employer who is taking advantage of your autistic employee because you know you can get away with it? Are you a private school director who has gotten rid of an autistic student illegally because you knew their family wouldn’t have the resources to sue you? Are you a priest who has sexually assaulted a child who you knew could not tell?

God has seen it all.

What you have done to them, you have done to Jesus Christ himself.

What you have done was not just an offense against that autistic person, that was an offense against God and has earned you a death sentence.

But…

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

So then, in this black and white issue, where is the line? If failing the Least of These results in goathood, and if even the most well intentioned of us have failed them, then how in the world are any of us ever considered sheep? What is it that will allow those of us who have failed in our duty to gain forgiveness for it?

Repentance.

Good old fashioned repentance.

It is the only thing that stands between receiving God’s mercy and earning God’s justice.

So just what is repentance exactly? You don’t often hear a good definition of what God actually means for us to do in his command for us to “repent”. Is it feeling bad about what you did or didn’t do? Saying you are sorry? Both of those things are part of it, but that is not really what repentance is.

Here is how God defines repentance:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

"Speak to the sons of Israel, 'When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty,

then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged.

'But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the LORD for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which atonement is made for him.”


Repentance requires three things:

1. Guilt.

Internal conviction of legitimate wrong doing. In this, “I’m OK, Your OK” world, guilt has become a bad word. In God’s economy, guilt is a GOOD thing. It means your conscience works correctly. It motivates you to govern yourself appropriately. Guilt over the things you have done wrong is a gift granted to you by God.

If you did something wrong, and you don’t feel bad about it, worry. How did you get to the place that you can mistreat people, shirk your responsibility and feel fine about it? Once you ignore your feelings of guilt long enough, without addressing what you have done wrong, you begin to sere your conscience, and you can commit bigger and bigger offenses and feel no guilt at all.

2. Confession.

Saying out loud, to the person whom you have wronged, “I have wronged you and what I did wrong was _______________. What I should have done was ________________.”

One of the reasons that God requires this is because confession heals. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”... Confession heals all involved.

Remember a time when someone came to you in humility and finally admitted to treating you badly. Remember how much better you felt when they did?

Remember a time when you went to someone in humility and admitted to treating them badly. Remember how much lighter you felt afterward?

Speaking the truth heals. It frees you from secrets and lies.

3. Restitution.

Clean up your mess.

True conviction brings the desire to set things right. To tell the truth to the people you lied to. To give back the thing you stole. To heal the person that you hurt. To advocate for the person you have ignored.

It changes you from a taker into a giver. It turns you into someone who wants to serve the person you have wronged. It drives you to invest in them.

And restitution done right does not only bring things back for that person to the way they were before you made that selfish decision, it makes it 20% better. It is going over and above what you took!

Repentance that does not cost you, is not repentance.

Repentance that is forced on you is not repentance.

Repentance that requires conditions from the person that was wronged is not repentance.

Repentance that does not free you from guilt is not repentance.

Saying, “If I did anything to upset you, I am sorry,” or ,”Sorry if you are angry”, is not repentance.

If it does not include confession of sin and restitution and it does not heal, it is not repentance.

Repentance will cost you your pride. For some it will also cost you your social standing, your reputation and your friends. For some it will cost a lot of money. For some it will cost you your jobs and even your careers. For some it will cost you your family. For some it will cost you your freedom. For a few it will cost you your lives.

But what does a man profit if he gains the whole world but looses his soul?

So everything in this series leads up to this question:

Will you repent of what you have done to the Least of These... of what you have done to Jesus?

Some of you will not, because you don’t really believe Matthew 25 is true.

But for those of you who do believe:

Go back into the other room to your autistic child, who you don’t even believe can hear you, confess to him how you have wronged him and start to set things right. It does not matter if you think he understands the apology or even the offense.

Find that weird guy from high school that you picked on in the early 1960’s and tell him what you did was wrong and ask how you can make it right. If he can’t figure out a way, you think of something to make restitution. What did you take from him (friends, dignity, self-esteem) and how can you give it back to him?

Stand up in the staff meeting and admit to everyone that the mistake was yours, not the mistake of the geek in the IT department.

Publicly apologize for the rumors that you started to cover your ass.

Call the family that you denied services to and tell them that they had a right to things that you didn’t want to give them. Give them 20% more than they were legally entitled to.

Walk into the school board meeting and tell them that you lied about that child to get them out of that class, and send a written apology to the family. Give that child extra help that they didn’t have before you lied.

Call Child Protective Services, tell them what you did, tell them that you are at the end of your rope and demand help.

When the family in your church is ready to tell everyone about their child's diagnosis, stand in the pulpit and preach Matthew 25 to the flock that God has entrusted to you. Apologize to them failing them in letting them ignore the disabled family in their community. Congratulate them on the chance they have to serve God directly and DARE them to out do each other in serving that family. Challenge the teachers in your congregation to offer them educational services, the lawyers to give them free advocacy, the wealthy to pay for their child's treatment, the patient mothers to give respite care, the neat freaks to clean their house, those with culinary talents to deliver GFCF/SCD meals to them, the woman with the green thumb to cultivate their gardens, the book worm to research treatments for them, and on and on and on... Create competition to serve that child. Don't stop until the families tell you that they don't want any more help. Show up at their house every week, put your hands on that family and pray for them. Bring that church into God's Economy.

Hold a press conference and give the media and the medical community the information that you have been withholding on the environmental causes and possible treatments of autism. No matter the fall out. Announce your plan to properly investigate those avenues, and then raise that budget by 20%.

Walk into a police station, tell them what you have done to disabled children, and tell them you don’t want to do it any more. Tell them who your victims are and demand that they get help.

If you can't find the person that you have wronged to pay it back, repent to God by paying it forward. Find someone like them and give to them what you owe to the person you have wronged.

Repent. Do it no matter how big or how small the offense. Do it no matter how long ago the offense. Do it no matter what it costs you.

And repentance WILL cost you. It is hard. Confession of sin does not free us from the consequences of sin in this world. Often it sets them into high gear.

But true repentance to Christ always results in forgiveness. As a matter of fact repentance and forgiveness are inseparable in God’s economy. They are two sides of the same coin, and you will never find one with out the other.

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

December 2, 2007

Kirby on HuffPo: Vaccine Debate Rages On

David Kirby: The Autism-Vaccine Debate: Anything But Over

Exactly five years ago I began research for my book Evidence of Harm, which looked into the possible link between mercury, vaccines and the tsunami of autism that now overwhelms our education system.

Along the way I have encountered many people -- in the government, in medical circles, in the media, on the Internet - who are furious at my attempts to shed light on this controversy and utterly contemptuous of parents, doctors, and anyone else who supports research into the hypothesized link between autism and vaccines.

Many of these people, incredibly, still insist that autism is purely a genetic disorder with no known "cause" and probably no cure. They blithely claim that autism has always been with us in the same epidemic numbers we see today, (If you're the parent of a young boy in New Jersey, by the way, you now face 1-in-60 odds of a diagnosis), we just never noticed or else counted those kids as "quirky" or possibly retarded.

Even officials at the CDC, who traced an e-coli outbreak to a single patch of California spinach within months cannot say if autism is actually on the increase or not.

Some experts, however, are beginning to understand that autism is clearly on the rise and thus must have an environmental component coupled with a genetic underpinning. But they insist that vaccines or their ingredients (ie, mercury, live measles virus, aluminum) have nothing to do with the epidemic.

They really really want this vexing vaccine chatter to cease. But it won't.

Buried beneath the usual tumultuous headlines of recent days were three tidbits of news that clearly underscore why this raging, sometimes vitriolic debate is not ending any time soon. In fact, all three reveal significant cracks in the federal government's hitherto impenetrable fortress of denial of any vaccine-autism link whatsoever:

1) The CDC granted nearly $6 million for investigators at five major research centers to study 2700 children over the next five years in what the Contra Costa Times called "the largest-ever U.S. study aimed at solving one of the most perplexing mysteries of modern times: the cause of autism."

Lisa Croen, the study's principal investigator in California, told the paper that, "What's become very clear is that autism results from a combination of having a genetic predisposition or genetic susceptibility, plus the added extra exposures from environmental factors or other kinds of lifestyle factors."

Among the "factors" to be studied are family history, events during pregnancy, maternal medications, parental occupation, ambient pollution around the houseand "a child's vaccination history" the paper reported.

Oddly the study will not look at the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. According to the FDA and the Institute of Medicine the last batches of thimerosal containing vaccines for infants and immune-globulin given to pregnant women expired in late 2003 (except for the flu shot, which is still given to infants and pregnant women).

The new study will only study children born from September 2003 to August2005. But the question remains and I think it's legitimate: If an association between vaccines and autism has been completely "ruled out" then why are we spending taxpayer dollars to study autistic children's vaccination history?

2) The Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of a new federal panel the "Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee" which will help set public and private research priorities into the cause and treatment of autismas mandated by the recently passed Combating Autism Act.

Among those named to the panel by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt were Lyn Redwood, president of the Coalition for Safe Minds (and chief protagonist in my book), and a leading advocate of the mercury-vaccine-autism connection and Lee Grossman president and CEO of the Autism Society of America, another staunch supporter of the hypothesis.

Which again begs the question: If the debate over vaccines and autism is over then why did the Feds appoint two people to this important new panel who will relentlessly push for more taxpayer dollars going into research of vaccines and autism?

3) Lawyers for the US Justice Department and HHS are conceding an autism case that was to be tried in the so-called federal "Vaccine Court"according to papers filed on the court's on-line docket.

Nearly 5000 autism cases are pending in Vaccine Court though a small number of "test cases" are being tried in which attorneys for the families attempt to link the symptoms of autism to thimerosal and/or the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (or MMR, which never contained mercury). It was a pending test case that the government conceded.

According to my source, however, the government is NOT conceding that mercury or vaccines cause autism. "In this case the DOJ conceded that vaccines significantly aggravated a child's pre-existing autistic symptoms" my source said "but the autism itself was caused by a congenital mitochondrial disorder that is entirely genetic."

And the source noted"By conceding 'significant aggravation' I think DOJ is trying to avoid ever having this case go to hearing on the underlying causation issue.

"In other words this was likely going to be a slam-dunk and the Feds knew it. Rather than risk having the case become a "test" for thousands of other claims it looks like the DOJ opted to fold and pay out damages to the family without actually admitting that vaccines can cause autism.

This entirely unreported event raises several interesting questions I think. To begin with if the federal government has conceded that vaccines can cause "significant aggravation" to the autism symptoms of even just one child shouldn't the public be notified?

And if the government has conceded that this child would be better off today had he or she not been vaccinated -- in other words that vaccines made the symptoms of autism go from bad to worse - couldn't it be possible that vaccines might also say make symptoms go from mild to bad?

And if the government concedes that vaccines aggravated the symptoms of autism in at least one child shouldn't parents of children with the disorder be informed of this and shouldn't they be allowed to opt out of future vaccinations on medical grounds if they wish?

And if the government concedes that vaccines can aggravate the symptoms of autism then shouldn't that same government also earmark funds to research how and why that occurs?

And of course, why on earth would parents concede that there is "no evidence of an association between vaccines and autism" when the government has just conceded that there was an (albeit not causal) association?

Finally, to all those who are going to post comments about the autism rates in California not coming down, following the removal of thimerosal from most vaccines: You are right. The most likely explanation is that thimerosal was not responsible for the autism epidemic. But that does not mean that it never harmed a single child.

And keep in mind that, of the record 1000+ additional autism cases recorded in California last quarter, some 75% of them were children who were six years of age or older, and thus born well within the "thimerosal generation." There is evidence that many factors could conceivably be keeping the California numbers higher than the national average, including aggressive early intervention and outreach to low-income families, increased immigration from countries that still use thimerosal (and immigrant children who are routinely re-immunized upon arrival) and migration of families from less progressive U.S. states eager for California's relative public largesse.

And remember that the CDC, wisely, does not conduct autism prevalence studies on children until they reach the age of 8, to account for any late stragglers entering the database. If thimerosal did not come out of vaccines entirely until 2003, then it won't be until 2011 before kids in that birth cohort are studied by the CDC, so vindicating thimerosal entirely might still be a tad premature.

All that said, thimerosal may well not be a factor in a single case of autism. But what if one day, we discovered it had caused, say, one percent of all cases? With estimates of autism as high as 1.5 million in the country that would mean 15000 Americans who were ravaged by thimerosal
(not to mention everyone overseas).

But if thimerosal is vindicated,or shown to be a very minor player, then what about other vaccine ingredients? And what about the rather crowded vaccine schedule we now impose upon families of young children? And what about reports of unvaccinated children in Illinois, California and Oregon who appear to have significantly lower rates of autism? Shouldn't we throw some research dollars into studying them?

You can answer that, no, we shouldn't because the vaccine-autism debate is over.

But I am willing to wager that it has only just begun.