Because of being married to one of the most impressive human beings in all of creation I have recently become very interested in how people with Aspergers relate to the church. Pam does some fascinating things with people who have Aspergers as a part of her work. Since the Trinity is the central theology for all of my thought and faith I find the reality of people who long for social interaction but have to deal with various amounts of inability of dealing with social interaction compelling. There are tons of resources and people on the web who can give great definitions of Aspergers Syndrome. I am not one of those people. What I know I have learned from Pam and from limited engagement with a few people who have told me they have Aspergers. What I understand from my limited experience is that people with Aspergers usually struggle with social engagement because of an inability to get many of the rules of social engagement that the rest of us naturally pick up on. This is a very limited definition that I know some of you could expand on better than I can. Anyhow, this inability doesn’t mean that people with Aspergers do not want social interaction, in fact Pam has told me that they often long for it. Something can be fearful and longed for at the same time. Since I believe that we were created in the image of a God who is social in His very nature I find this whole situation compelling. How does the church help someone who fears and has trouble with social situations and yet desires and needs social interaction?
I don’t have the answer. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think through possible options. The one I want to try right now comes from a podcast I was listening to. In it the speaker talked about giving a lecture at Microsoft and he was upset by the fact that all the software engineers who were supposed to be listening to his lecture had their heads down in their laptops instead. He mentioned this to someone and was told they were watching a webcast of his lecture. Turns out it was more comfortable for these engineers to watch a webcast of him than to look him in the eyes all the time. A couple of “thread” programmers and I are thinking about the possibility of an app that would display a webcast of our Sunday night gatherings along with the scripture, lyrics, and PowerPoint slides. Would this make the social aspect of church easier for someone with social anxiety issues. Not sure but I am intrigued by it.
I believe the God who is community in and of Himself wants us to do whatever we can to help others connect to His community. Even if this means participating with the community through a screen instead of eye contact.