Picking on the poor in the name of Christ

Christ of the Breadlines

Over the years I have heard some of my fellow Christians say truly awful things about the poor, the disabled and the needy. In one conversation a fellow Christian declared that the poor “deserve to be poor” and almost always cause their own problems. I have heard similar sentiments from other Christians that almost always make me want to wince in discomfort.

I have also heard fellow Christians (and Fox News) say repeatedly that most people on disability are able to work and are just lazy people who want to rely on the government. I’m sure if they knew firsthand how hard it is to get disability, how long it takes and how worthless and depressed many disabled people feel when unable to work, they might change their minds. If they went through it themselves or someone else in their immediate family needed those services, you can almost guarantee their opinion might change. I would say the same for other services for the poor, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

When I hear negative comments about the poor and disabled from anyone in the Christian community, I can’t help but think of these verses:

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” Zechariah 7:10 (The word “alien” in this also makes me think about our treatment of immigrants – legal or otherwise).

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 (Jesus commanded this kind of extreme sacrifice and yet we balk at helping the poor in even small ways?)

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33 (I’m sensing that Jesus really wasn’t a materialistic guy and didn’t want his followers to be either. Could be wrong there, but I definitely get that feeling.)

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Sometimes karma comes around sooner than you think…a personal story

karma

I’ve always found the subject of karma interesting. The whole what-goes-around-comes-around belief. You reap what you sow. To some extent I definitely believe this, although I do believe true forgiveness and grace can overcome negative karma.

Anyhow, today I want to talk about a personal experience of karma showing up a lot sooner than I expected. The story starts about 9 or 10 years ago when my husband first started working in special education. Back then I was young, still very much learning, somewhat more judgemental and sometimes just outright stupid. My husband would come home and tell me about the severely autistic kids he worked with. Some of these kids were exceptionally low-functioning and couldn’t speak or do much of anything for themselves. My husband loved them very much, but even though I am ashamed to admit it, I had some pretty negative thoughts.

Having never (up until that point) known anyone diagnosed with autism, I wondered what kind of lives these kids could have. Was it really worth educating them I wondered when some of them tried to eat their schoolwork rather than doing it? I am mortified to admit I was so ignorant and hateful, but I even wondered if they weren’t just a drain on society. Over time my views did start to shift, especially as I got to know more of these kids myself and spent time with them. It also amused me how as my husband worked with them more and more, he would laughingly comment that he thought I might be autistic. I thought he was joking. In a way he was, but in another way he definitely wasn’t.

Then came the day a few years ago when I read a book about a high-functioning autistic girl. I saw myself in page after page and was amazed. Here was someone so much like me! I saw myself in the sensory issues. I saw myself in the social issues. I saw myself in the stimming and the obsessive interests and the odd way of thinking about the world. Eventually, this led up to me being tested for autism and (surprise, surprise) I was autistic myself and always had been without even knowing it. I was one of those people I had once judged so harshly. Yeah, I might be higher functioning, but I have many of the VERY SAME issues! If that isn’t the irony of karma…I don’t know what is!

Now I am proud to say I am more empathetic to disabled people of all kinds. I stand up for the rights of others who get put down. I would be disgusted by someone who thinks the way I used to secretly think. I have grown and I am so glad…

Yes, I have autism and I am proud!

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Not too long ago, after a lengthy round of psychological testing and lots of other mind-probing activities, my psychologist broke the news to me that I do officially have autism. The autism I have is a high-functioning type called Asperger’s (or at least it used to be called that, now they are starting to just refer to it as “high-functioning autism”). So why did I even go at my age (30 years old) to be tested? Because of some of the issues I was having, especially with sensory problems and anxiety.

I have always had sensory problems. In fact, I still have to cut all of the tags out of my clothes, can’t stand the feel of many clothing materials against my skin, refuse to eat many foods due to texture and scent issues, cover my ears when I am around certain high-pitched noises and sometimes have mini panic attacks in large crowds due to the overwhelming amount of noise and movement around me. I have learned to control myself so that most people don’t notice in public, but believe me, if you lived with me, you would think I was crazy sometimes.

As for the anxiety, I always knew I had generalized anxiety and social anxiety, especially around “small talk” situations. I am fine talking at length about things that interest me and that I know a lot about. In fact, I have learned to limit how much I talk about my “obsessions” because it starts to bore others after a while. In the past, I just survived the anxiety by avoiding most social situations, but now that I am finally living my dream as an award-winning author, the last thing I want to do is give up that dream because I am afraid of discussing the weather with strangers.

So anyhow, ever since I have been diagnosed, some people seem to act like it is some big, shameful secret I should hide. Heck no. I am proud to be who I am, eccentricities and all. I do not consider myself “disabled”. At only 30, I am following my passion, have a wonderful marriage (to a very understanding husband) and have the true love and devotion of those closest to me. That is another thing, many people seem to thing being autistic means “unable to love”. Not at all. Sure, we can be harder to get to know and seem out of it and self-absorbed at times, but once we let you in and get close to you, we can be some of the most loyal people around.

So, yeah, we might rock back and forth or hum when we get nervous or get lost every time we venture more than five miles from home. We may stare off into space all the time or freak out over stuff you don’t understand. We might have weird eating habits and lots of OCD tendencies that raise eyebrows. We may collect nerdy stuff and want lots of alone time to recharge. But we have very good hearts underneath it all. And remember, just like so-called “normal people”, no two autistic people are exactly alike. Get to know us as individuals. If you take the time to do that, I truly believe that you won’t be disappointed.