I recently watched a video by Grant Macaskill on autism and religion. Although he takes it from a Protestant and evangelical perspective, I think it can be helpful for us. Macaskill is a bit of an expert on the topic and I reviewed his book in an academic journal.
Video of Grant Macaskill at Wheaton
Here is the video. I will post notes below.
For those of you who are autistic or have more intimate knowledge of it through work or family, the first 30 minutes of it will be more of a review. He is describing autism to an audience that is not so familiar with it. Such people can start right at minute 34.
Social and Sensory Aspects of Church
He notes how churches often have strong social and sensory aspects that can help many neurotypicals but are often a challenge for autistics. In this regard, he spoke about the varied fellowship aspects of church: I think Catholics are more open to an autistic who goes to Mass and then mainly practices Catholicism through things like private prayer over a prayer meeting. He also notes how CHurch can be unpredictable which is less an issue for us Catholics than for his evangelical audience.
The way we autistics can be disruptive can also be a challenge for churches. We often don’t fit the stereotype churches have for people.
Thinking Biblical About Autism
We have a challenge with autism as no Biblical texts clearly speak about it. “Autism” was only named recently. Macaskill uses this to point out the issues with how we do exegesis. He critiques a Protestant proof-texting or fracking method which we Catholics can fall into too.
He goes in-depth into an exegesis of St. Paul. He notes how in our flesh there is the tendency to judge others. He also notes how the divisions in Corinth are instructive to divisions today as they were based just on external expression or social status – with obvious implications for autism. Some people might seem to be lesser, but Paul reminds us that are are valuable in the Church. He sees how one part of the body of Christ should accommodate another: Paul talks about it in another circumstance, but we can analogously use it regarding accommodating autistics.