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Offline Minnesotan

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Timidity
« on: April 17, 2015, 06:54:44 PM »
So anyway, the latest update on my situation:

I was finally able to make it to an Orthodox church, sort of. It took quite a lot of effort (I had to ride the public buses, but one of the buses was running late, so I missed my transfer and had to improvise, taking light rail instead, as well as walking/running quite a distance. I ended up about 15 minutes late for the service. So by the time I did get there, I was feeling quite stressed.

Then something unexpected happened. I just started panicking inwardly. I don't know what it was; anxiety about not knowing anyone? A feeling that maybe someone like me didn't belong there, that I was unworthy? Just plain fear of the unknown? Or perhaps guilt about the fact that no one else (including family or friends) knew about my interest or that I was there? I still haven't told them. The other day my dad surprised me by bashing the Catholics, with my mom objecting. I didn't expect him to do that--I always thought it was my mom who held those types of views more strongly. (Neither of them really know anything substantive about Orthodoxy. They tend to be the type who will take anything an evangelical pastor says at face value, especially if prefaced with "The Bible says...", regardless of whether the Bible actually says it). So I don't feel like I'm on the same wavelength with them at this point, and the fact there's something huge I'm hiding from them is giving me a lot of stress.

Anyway, I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin. I walked by the church, but just couldn't work up the courage to go in. So I just kept walking, hoping that I would calm down enough to enter at some point, but after a while it became clear that wasn't going to happen. So I just called it quits and hailed a taxi to take me home.

So now I'm feeling a little uncertain. In retrospect, there are some things I think I could have done better. Now, of course, I know the bus system isn't reliable. So I might have to look at carpooling, but the problem is that I have a fear of strangers (or at least, of meeting them in certain contexts). I should probably have let the church know that I was coming in to visit, so that they could have welcomed me and shown me around (if they were willing to, that is. Next time I'll be sure to do that.

I think that my best chance of getting through to my parents would be convincing me that Orthodoxy is the best place for me as a person on the autism spectrum. If I bring it up in that context, they might be more understanding, I think. I'm currently working on an essay on why people with ASD feel so out of place at churches, especially American ones. My thesis is that nearly every historical development within American Protestantism (with the possible sole exception of Mercersburg theology) has made churches more hostile and unwelcoming to people like us, as well as to people with other disabilities and diagnoses.

There's far too much subjective emotionalism, for one. People like us are naturally inclined (you might even say hard-wired) toward ritual, but American Protestantism's overall ethos rejects all ritual as "empty", saying that true "heartfelt" faith must manifest in spontaneous and emotional ways.

Also, saying that "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship" might sound liberating and comforting to neurotypicals, but has the exact opposite effect on people with Asperger's, for whom relationships don't come naturally and can be intimidating. The fact that "fellowshipping" with other congregants is emphasized so much in evangelical churches can also be problematic, because it leads to behavior that introverted people often find intrusive. "Born Again" Churches that emphasize emotional "conversion experiences" as evidence of salvation can lead us to despair, because we, as a rule, just don't have those kinds of experiences. (Pentecostal churches that teach tongues as a requirement for salvation cause the same problem). Finally, megachurches, with their overcrowding and loud contemporary worship, often result in sensory overload.

Ironically, even "disability ministries" can be harmful because they end up shunting us away, segregationist-style, from the main body of believers, rather than making it possible for us to integrate into the broader congregation.

C. S. Lewis' quote pretty much sums up my argument and I'm going to be sure to include it:

Quote
"What pleased me most about a Greek Orthodox Mass I once attended was that there seemed to be no prescribed behavior for the congregation. Some stood, some knelt, some sat, some walked; one crawled about the floor like a caterpillar. And the beauty of it was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing. I wish we Anglicans would follow their example. One meets people who are perturbed because someone in the next pew does, or does not, cross himself. They oughn’t even to have seen, let alone censured. “Who art thou that judgest Another’s Servant?" -Lewis, Letters To Malcolm

For someone who tends to feel self-conscious and paranoid about how others see me--and people with ASD are often like that--a church like that is literally a godsend. So I'm going to argue that Christians who are on the autism spectrum will feel most at home in a church that either is Orthodox, or that is like Orthodox churches in a number of ways (for example, removing most of the pews will likely cause a similar effect to the one listed above in the Lewis quote).
« Last Edit: April 17, 2015, 07:00:12 PM by Minnesotan »

Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2015, 10:02:05 PM »
Lord, have mercy, and bring peace to Minnesotan.

And good for you for trying to go! Really, good for you!
One hides amid pornography, angry music, television that shows the worst of mankind, misanthropic politics, an internet populace led by all the passions: and then one asks, "Where is God?"


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Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2015, 10:15:16 AM »
Minnesotan, I smiled a bit after reading about the ASD part and the issues with other church bodies.
Our church has several such folks and they function within our Temple and during our service, being well received.
I enjoyed your C.S. Lewis remark because the first few times I went to Divine Liturgy I thought I had walked into Chaos-Central!
I watched Eritreans bowing prostrating before every Icon before service, while others nod before two or three, and during service all manner of behavior occurring simultaneously!
I had to come away wondering about "organized religion".
Do not fret over the last time but rather let Father know you are coming again and let folks approach you.
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Offline Czar Lazar

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2015, 11:35:58 PM »
um...I am new here, so my apologies if I am speaking on things that have already been spoken about. But here are my thoughts, first, a spiritual father is an important guide in these matters and if you have not attained one, I would suggest contacting a local Orthodox priest and explaining your situation -- even if necessary through email or phone. Second, sometimes (I am not saying this is the case) people are unable to enter Holy Orthodox Temples due to their own personal sin and need for repentance (this occurs frequently at Manastir Sv. Vasilija Ostroškog--St. Basil of Ostrog Monastery). Finally, I think this document would provide some great personal reading and help to make the case for the Holy Orthodox Church in your specific situation: http://www.antiochian.org/taxonomy/term/1121


Offline Opus118

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2015, 02:43:43 AM »
So anyway, the latest update on my situation:

I was finally able to make it to an Orthodox church, sort of. It took quite a lot of effort (I had to ride the public buses, but one of the buses was running late, so I missed my transfer and had to improvise, taking light rail instead, as well as walking/running quite a distance. I ended up about 15 minutes late for the service. So by the time I did get there, I was feeling quite stressed.

Then something unexpected happened. I just started panicking inwardly. I don't know what it was; anxiety about not knowing anyone? A feeling that maybe someone like me didn't belong there, that I was unworthy? Just plain fear of the unknown? Or perhaps guilt about the fact that no one else (including family or friends) knew about my interest or that I was there? I still haven't told them. The other day my dad surprised me by bashing the Catholics, with my mom objecting. I didn't expect him to do that--I always thought it was my mom who held those types of views more strongly. (Neither of them really know anything substantive about Orthodoxy. They tend to be the type who will take anything an evangelical pastor says at face value, especially if prefaced with "The Bible says...", regardless of whether the Bible actually says it). So I don't feel like I'm on the same wavelength with them at this point, and the fact there's something huge I'm hiding from them is giving me a lot of stress.

Anyway, I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin. I walked by the church, but just couldn't work up the courage to go in. So I just kept walking, hoping that I would calm down enough to enter at some point, but after a while it became clear that wasn't going to happen. So I just called it quits and hailed a taxi to take me home.

So now I'm feeling a little uncertain. In retrospect, there are some things I think I could have done better. Now, of course, I know the bus system isn't reliable. So I might have to look at carpooling, but the problem is that I have a fear of strangers (or at least, of meeting them in certain contexts). I should probably have let the church know that I was coming in to visit, so that they could have welcomed me and shown me around (if they were willing to, that is. Next time I'll be sure to do that.

I think that my best chance of getting through to my parents would be convincing me that Orthodoxy is the best place for me as a person on the autism spectrum. If I bring it up in that context, they might be more understanding, I think. I'm currently working on an essay on why people with ASD feel so out of place at churches, especially American ones. My thesis is that nearly every historical development within American Protestantism (with the possible sole exception of Mercersburg theology) has made churches more hostile and unwelcoming to people like us, as well as to people with other disabilities and diagnoses.

There's far too much subjective emotionalism, for one. People like us are naturally inclined (you might even say hard-wired) toward ritual, but American Protestantism's overall ethos rejects all ritual as "empty", saying that true "heartfelt" faith must manifest in spontaneous and emotional ways.

Also, saying that "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship" might sound liberating and comforting to neurotypicals, but has the exact opposite effect on people with Asperger's, for whom relationships don't come naturally and can be intimidating. The fact that "fellowshipping" with other congregants is emphasized so much in evangelical churches can also be problematic, because it leads to behavior that introverted people often find intrusive. "Born Again" Churches that emphasize emotional "conversion experiences" as evidence of salvation can lead us to despair, because we, as a rule, just don't have those kinds of experiences. (Pentecostal churches that teach tongues as a requirement for salvation cause the same problem). Finally, megachurches, with their overcrowding and loud contemporary worship, often result in sensory overload.

Ironically, even "disability ministries" can be harmful because they end up shunting us away, segregationist-style, from the main body of believers, rather than making it possible for us to integrate into the broader congregation.

C. S. Lewis' quote pretty much sums up my argument and I'm going to be sure to include it:

Quote
"What pleased me most about a Greek Orthodox Mass I once attended was that there seemed to be no prescribed behavior for the congregation. Some stood, some knelt, some sat, some walked; one crawled about the floor like a caterpillar. And the beauty of it was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing. I wish we Anglicans would follow their example. One meets people who are perturbed because someone in the next pew does, or does not, cross himself. They oughn’t even to have seen, let alone censured. “Who art thou that judgest Another’s Servant?" -Lewis, Letters To Malcolm

For someone who tends to feel self-conscious and paranoid about how others see me--and people with ASD are often like that--a church like that is literally a godsend. So I'm going to argue that Christians who are on the autism spectrum will feel most at home in a church that either is Orthodox, or that is like Orthodox churches in a number of ways (for example, removing most of the pews will likely cause a similar effect to the one listed above in the Lewis quote).

Strange that I never noticed anything from you that suggested you were within the AS. What I have noticed is that there are a lot of males here that are very shy and overly self conscious  (me included). In my case the thought of going to a large church where no on knows me is frightening. I like small churches. I have agoraphobia or something like that. I have thought about this and there is a simple solution, but I do not know how to pitch it.

What we need is a Greek Orthodox Escort Service.

If you leave out Orthodox in the phrase you will just get a bunch of prostitutes in Greece that do not look Greek so do not go there.

You just need someone to help you  break the ice, get you situated, and help endear yourself to the yia yias, lock arms with you while describing to those curious who you are, etc. Worth every dollar in my opinion.

I am only specifying Greeks because I know them best. Serbians are great as well. That is pretty much  the limit of my experience.

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2015, 06:11:12 PM »
What we need is a Greek Orthodox Escort Service.

If you leave out Orthodox in the phrase you will just get a bunch of prostitutes in Greece that do not look Greek so do not go there.

If we include Orthodox in the phrase, do we get authentic Greek prostitutes? 
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Offline eddybear

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2015, 06:43:34 PM »
So anyway, the latest update on my situation:

I was finally able to make it to an Orthodox church, sort of. It took quite a lot of effort (I had to ride the public buses, but one of the buses was running late, so I missed my transfer and had to improvise, taking light rail instead, as well as walking/running quite a distance. I ended up about 15 minutes late for the service. So by the time I did get there, I was feeling quite stressed.

Then something unexpected happened. I just started panicking inwardly. I don't know what it was; anxiety about not knowing anyone? A feeling that maybe someone like me didn't belong there, that I was unworthy? Just plain fear of the unknown? Or perhaps guilt about the fact that no one else (including family or friends) knew about my interest or that I was there? I still haven't told them. The other day my dad surprised me by bashing the Catholics, with my mom objecting. I didn't expect him to do that--I always thought it was my mom who held those types of views more strongly. (Neither of them really know anything substantive about Orthodoxy. They tend to be the type who will take anything an evangelical pastor says at face value, especially if prefaced with "The Bible says...", regardless of whether the Bible actually says it). So I don't feel like I'm on the same wavelength with them at this point, and the fact there's something huge I'm hiding from them is giving me a lot of stress.

Anyway, I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin. I walked by the church, but just couldn't work up the courage to go in. So I just kept walking, hoping that I would calm down enough to enter at some point, but after a while it became clear that wasn't going to happen. So I just called it quits and hailed a taxi to take me home.

So now I'm feeling a little uncertain. In retrospect, there are some things I think I could have done better. Now, of course, I know the bus system isn't reliable. So I might have to look at carpooling, but the problem is that I have a fear of strangers (or at least, of meeting them in certain contexts). I should probably have let the church know that I was coming in to visit, so that they could have welcomed me and shown me around (if they were willing to, that is. Next time I'll be sure to do that.

I think that my best chance of getting through to my parents would be convincing me that Orthodoxy is the best place for me as a person on the autism spectrum. If I bring it up in that context, they might be more understanding, I think. I'm currently working on an essay on why people with ASD feel so out of place at churches, especially American ones. My thesis is that nearly every historical development within American Protestantism (with the possible sole exception of Mercersburg theology) has made churches more hostile and unwelcoming to people like us, as well as to people with other disabilities and diagnoses.

There's far too much subjective emotionalism, for one. People like us are naturally inclined (you might even say hard-wired) toward ritual, but American Protestantism's overall ethos rejects all ritual as "empty", saying that true "heartfelt" faith must manifest in spontaneous and emotional ways.

Also, saying that "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship" might sound liberating and comforting to neurotypicals, but has the exact opposite effect on people with Asperger's, for whom relationships don't come naturally and can be intimidating. The fact that "fellowshipping" with other congregants is emphasized so much in evangelical churches can also be problematic, because it leads to behavior that introverted people often find intrusive. "Born Again" Churches that emphasize emotional "conversion experiences" as evidence of salvation can lead us to despair, because we, as a rule, just don't have those kinds of experiences. (Pentecostal churches that teach tongues as a requirement for salvation cause the same problem). Finally, megachurches, with their overcrowding and loud contemporary worship, often result in sensory overload.

Ironically, even "disability ministries" can be harmful because they end up shunting us away, segregationist-style, from the main body of believers, rather than making it possible for us to integrate into the broader congregation.

C. S. Lewis' quote pretty much sums up my argument and I'm going to be sure to include it:

Quote
"What pleased me most about a Greek Orthodox Mass I once attended was that there seemed to be no prescribed behavior for the congregation. Some stood, some knelt, some sat, some walked; one crawled about the floor like a caterpillar. And the beauty of it was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing. I wish we Anglicans would follow their example. One meets people who are perturbed because someone in the next pew does, or does not, cross himself. They oughn’t even to have seen, let alone censured. “Who art thou that judgest Another’s Servant?" -Lewis, Letters To Malcolm

For someone who tends to feel self-conscious and paranoid about how others see me--and people with ASD are often like that--a church like that is literally a godsend. So I'm going to argue that Christians who are on the autism spectrum will feel most at home in a church that either is Orthodox, or that is like Orthodox churches in a number of ways (for example, removing most of the pews will likely cause a similar effect to the one listed above in the Lewis quote).

Well done for giving it a go! If I'd have been in your shoes, arriving 15 mins after the start of the service at an unfamiliar church, I don't think I'd have gone in. In fact, that happened to me once many years ago, except it was 30 mins late as I'd got the service time wrong. I got back in the car and drove off again.
 

Offline Opus118

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2015, 11:39:52 PM »
What we need is a Greek Orthodox Escort Service.

If you leave out Orthodox in the phrase you will just get a bunch of prostitutes in Greece that do not look Greek so do not go there.

If we include Orthodox in the phrase, do we get authentic Greek prostitutes?

Absolutely!!! If you are not Orthodox, you are not Greek.

Offline Jonathan Gress

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2015, 09:57:45 AM »
I remember when I started going to Orthodox liturgy I was terrified of turning up late. I really get the timidity when it comes to going to new churches and meeting new people. But seriously, if you turn up even 30 minutes late you're probably early compared with many long-time parishioners.

Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2015, 10:05:09 AM »
I remember when I started going to Orthodox liturgy I was terrified of turning up late. I really get the timidity when it comes to going to new churches and meeting new people. But seriously, if you turn up even 30 minutes late you're probably early compared with many long-time parishioners.

And here I tell all the Orthodox cannot understand Protestant time!
Truthfully, when I hear, "Blessed is The Kingdom"..............sweet Life begins..........
So try and be early if you can.
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Offline Jonathan Gress

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2015, 10:41:40 AM »
I remember when I started going to Orthodox liturgy I was terrified of turning up late. I really get the timidity when it comes to going to new churches and meeting new people. But seriously, if you turn up even 30 minutes late you're probably early compared with many long-time parishioners.

And here I tell all the Orthodox cannot understand Protestant time!
Truthfully, when I hear, "Blessed is The Kingdom"..............sweet Life begins..........
So try and be early if you can.

Well, of course you should turn up on time if you can. Just "better late than never" and all that.

Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2015, 10:51:16 AM »
Well done for giving it a go! If I'd have been in your shoes, arriving 15 mins after the start of the service at an unfamiliar church, I don't think I'd have gone in. In fact, that happened to me once many years ago, except it was 30 mins late as I'd got the service time wrong. I got back in the car and drove off again.

I think that would be the reaction of most people!
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Offline CharalambisMakarios

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Re: Timidity
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2015, 03:25:04 PM »
Thanks for your thoughts, Minnesotan. As someone who's in a similar place both on the conversion journey and also on the ASD spectrum, it was interesting to read what you had to say.

With regards to your situation, I congratulate you for going as far as you did. You're working towards your goal, and that's important. I wish you the best and I will be praying for you to advance further as you are able. In my own experience, I never had much trouble walking into services, but I became quiet as a mouse when I was there, and required a good deal of friendly reassurance from parishioners to open up about what a young WASP like me was doing in an Orthodox parish on a Sunday. As others have posted already, having a spiritual guide can be helpful. At any rate, I've found it very useful to talk to priests about my journey, as they often have an understanding about where would-be converts are coming from. Regular parishioners in my experience have been very welcoming, but they may not have that depth of understanding that comes with the priest's shepherd role.

Your reflections on ASD and Orthodoxy are interesting to me. I've often tried to consider how the two have intersected in my own life. I have Asperger's (whether it's noticeable or not), and as someone who was raised in a somewhat evangelical Presbyterian church, I resonate with some of what you're saying. I personally rather like the phrase about Christianity being a relationship, but that's probably just the mystic in me talking, and I agree that the "emotional conversion" trend in American Protestantism can be harmful. I remember dealing with self-hatred for multiple years because of a "confession" I made at a church camp once. I recognize now that it was needed at the time, but it was not presented in a way that helped my emotional development (luckily the Spirit works in spite of all obstacles).

I also agree that the presence of ritual can be a great aid to people on the spectrum in terms of spiritual practice. I am comfortable with emotional spontaneity in my prayer life, but things like the Jesus Prayer have only anchored that, not hindered it, and as far as churches go, I've become increasingly dissatisfied with the evangelical attempt to create a charged atmosphere. I may be somewhat less typical of ASD individuals in that I do have those kinds of emotional experiences in worship, but I'm very conscious (almost super-conscious) of when they're genuine outflows of my own devotion and when the leader of a worship service is just trying to tug heartstrings (if you'll forgive my less charitable assessment. Plenty of Protestant churches mean well, and their devotion is legitimate). Still, I find the genuine emotion in my case is aided by the poetry, order and beauty of Orthodoxy.

I really like that C.S. Lewis quote. Anyway, sorry for rambling on. Best of luck with your thesis, and best of luck with convincing your parents that this is the right place for you. I've had to have various conversations with mine, but it's mostly working out. Keeping them on board with the process really helped, in my experience. Of course, it also helps that my mother was a Religious Studies major in college, and finds these things interesting from an intellectual perspective as well as a personal one. I would love to read some of your work, if you are willing to share. There's not enough literature on ASD and the religious experience. I remember doing a research project on ASD and mysticism back in high school, and I had to mostly draw from personal experience, since there's so little out there.

Pray for me, a sinner.