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'Mr. Spock goes to church': How one Christian copes with Asperger's syndrome
Brant Hansen, a host on Christian radio, says his Asperger's syndrome once made him feel like an alien at church.
October 19th, 2013
10:28 AM ET

'Mr. Spock goes to church': How one Christian copes with Asperger's syndrome

Opinion by Brant Hansen, special to CNN

(CNN) - In the book “Jim and Caspar Go to Church,” an atheist turns to a Christian minister as they're watching a Sunday morning church service and earnestly asks, "Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?"

I've grown up in churches and I'm a Christian, and I'm right there with the atheist.

I honestly don't get the connection. (To be fair, I've grown up on Earth, too, and there are times that I don't understand any part of this place.)

You see, years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome - and like a lot of "Aspies," sometimes I'm convinced that I've landed on the wrong planet.

For those of you who don't know the medical lingo, Asperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder, but not as severe as what most people think of as autism.

It basically comes down to this: those "normal human" rules for things like eye contact, when to smile, personal distance - we just don't get them.

What's more, Aspies like me don't like those rules. They make no sense to us. So usually, we just say stuff - bluntly - and stare uncomfortably at the ground. That's how we roll.

But it gets even trickier for people of faith like me.

Feeling out of place at work is one thing. Feeling like an alien at church is a whole other matter.

Imagine Mr. Spock at an evangelical Christian tent revival, and you’ll get the idea.

And my father is a pastor, so I was in church a lot.

Multiple times, each week, every week, I found myself wishing I'd be moved by the worship music, or that I could shut off my skeptical mind during the sermons.

I'd see people in church services, Christian concerts and Bible camps overcome by emotion and enraptured with charismatic speakers, and I wondered why I didn't feel that way.

Why did I always feel like a cold observer?

After going to college, I was convinced my lack of feeling meant I was missing something, spiritually, so I joined charismatic Christian groups in which emotional manifestations of the Holy Spirit are common.

I desperately wanted to have what they had - an emotional experience of God's presence - and asked them to pray over me.

It didn't work.

When I didn’t move with the Holy Spirit or speak in tongues, they told me it was because I had rejected God.

I worried that it was the other way around: God had rejected me.

Maybe I felt like an alien because I deserved it. I deserved to be alienated, irretrievably and forever far from God.

I tried to pray, read the Bible, and do all the "right stuff." But I still felt out-of-touch.

I wondered if I was so broken, such a misfit that God simply took a look at me and decided to move on.

I wish I’d known then that I was an Aspie. And that God loves Aspies.

I still feel alienated from many parts of Christian culture, but Jesus himself finally reached me.

And man, did I feel that.

To people who are beaten down or befuddled by religious rules, Jesus offers something that no one else does: rest. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," he says.

And he sums up the entirety of complex and confusing religious laws with this: “Love God, and love your neighbor.”

Beautiful. Even children can understand that.

The Bible tells a story about a man who approaches Jesus and admits that he has faith, but also strong doubts.

"Help me in my unbelief," he asks Jesus.

Jesus doesn't blast him. He loves him. To me, Jesus is the only one who really makes any sense.

Oddly enough, considering my medical condition, I'm now a radio personality on a network that plays Christian music.

It’s a beautiful fit, in many ways, because I get to talk to many people who also don’t fit in, and wonder if God loves them.

It’s true, though, others won’t understand me. I know that. I’m still an alien in the American Christian subculture.

Each evening I retreat from it, and I go straight to the Gospels.

It's not out of duty that I read about Jesus; it's a respite.

I long for it, because I'm awash in two strange and baffling cultures, both the irreligious and religious.

And I long for someone I can finally understand, and someone who might finally understand me.

Brant Hansen is a radio host on the Air1 network, where his show airs from 3-7 p.m. CT. He also writes a popular blog at air1.com. The views expressed in this column belong to Hansen. 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Faith • Health • Jesus • Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (3,030 Responses)
  1. nick

    Why do all of you religion haters feel that you have to get on here and bash someones faith. I though you were all compassionate and open-minded individuals. It is faith that breathes beauty, wonder, awe and mystery into the world. It is faith and religion that has inspired masterpieces of art, and musical compositions that enrich our lives deeply and greatly. To ignore our spiritual nature is to ignore the very things that make us human. All of you haters try to act like Spock wouldn't even go to church cause it's illogical, yet seem to miss the whole premise of the Spock and Kirk relationship. This article is powerful and inspiring, in that it once again reveals how each of us are so unique and different, which in itself, seems illogical. Thank you Brant for bearing your soul.

    October 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

    • baring?

      October 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
      •  

        spelling?

        October 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

        • bare- uncover (a part of the body or other thing) and expose it to view

          bear-
          1. carry
          2. support

          October 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  2. Katelin

    Dear Brant,
    I'm so proud that you posted this, it is great. I've struggled with atheism, but I have come to the only conclusion that Gos is real and loves everyone, not matter what they have done or will do. Your story is great and really inspiring, and its great you come to places like this to try to spread Jesus. God bless Brant. 🙂

    October 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      How does one struggle with the absence of belief? You've struggled with belief and finally gotten it installed. Good luck with it. It's a bit like an British car, though. Runs great when it runs.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • Katelin

        Find something better to do, if you're so offended you should just leave. God bless anyway.

        October 19, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          You haven't offended me. In fact, I enjoy your company. I do have something better to do, though -well, not clearly better, and I can multitask.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I struggled with belief until I realized that there wasn't a single rational reason to believe that any god exists. There is certainly no evidence that any gods exist. So I stopped believing. It's actually quite nice, being the responsible adult in my own life and not pretending that I have a supernatural daddy to take care of me if things go bad.

      October 19, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Still no change. Maybe it's broken. Anyone get prayer to work today?

    October 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Renny

    Wow guys! Why so much hate?! Keep your hate mail about God to yourself, if you don't have anything good to say don't say it at all! This is about his article and it is so nice to see him being able to express himself. I myself have autism and it isn't easy so this article encourages me. IF YOU DIDN'T LIKE IT OR DON'T AGREE WITH IT PLEASE GO DO SOMETHING ELSE.

    October 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • tallulah13

      No. Atheists are entitled to the same freedom of speech as believers. Why do christians hate the First Amendment so much?

      October 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  5. El Pibe

    Evangelicals know the bible better the Catholics, though, they are the same as Catholics... They guide themselves by the power of money and the same traditions as Catholics do...

    October 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  6. Air1 listener

    We love you Brant!! I am so glad that God has made us all unique! I can't imagine living like the rest of the world-it would be so boring!!

    October 19, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  7. Rhonda

    Brant, Our family loves you and the "awesomeness" you bring to the radio!! So creative, so real...just how God intended us all to be!! Thank you!!!

    October 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  8. Kristi R

    Wow cuz – this is awesome! Took me til just a few years ago to realize that I don't have to go to Jesus or God according to some person's rules on how I must feel or what I must do. Keep up the good work!

    October 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  9. Dicazi

    I'm a long time Trekkie. And a long time Christian. A fellow atheist Trekkie gave me a sticker with the splayed finger Vulcan greeting and the words "It is the only logical thing to do." I put it on the back of my Bible.

    Leonard Nimoy took that sign from a traditional Jewish blessing done by the rabbit at the end of the service.

    October 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • veggiedude

      Mr Spock's vulcan philosophy has more in common with Buddhism than any other Earth religion, right down to not eating animals.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • Crom

        Strict vegetarians are nuts. Crazy people enjoy having crazy ideas about their crazy religions, and always show signs of severe brainwashing. They need to be rounded up and given farms and kept away from others. Let them grow veggies but keep their nutbar cult-think to themselves.

        October 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  10. BG

    Religion is a crutch for the weak

    October 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Faith based religion is for those either too ignorant to understand logic or too cowardly in the face of their own brief existence to face the conclusions of it.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Ray

      And sometimes in life you need a crutch. Thanks be to God that His is always there!!!

      October 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • Crom

        So you clearly do not care that religion is a lie and even continue the lie KNOWING it's a lie. You suck as a human being, period.

        October 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Sunshine100

      And a "weak" person using a crutch is bad – how? Lose a leg and use a crutch is "weak" – how? Have diabetes and use insulin means I'm "weak" – how? "Weak" because when depressed take an anti-depressant? Experienced violence upon myself and have PTSD makes me "weak" – how? If a boy cries, is he "weak"?

      What is your (professional) medical, psychological, legal definition of "weak"?

      October 19, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  11. ScottCA

    Faith based religion is an utterly illogical and insane delusion, based in absolutely no evidence.

    It is a fallacy based in the evolved brains tendency to see order and design where there is none, a tendency called Apophenia.

    The faith based religious are like Douglas Adeams puddle:

    “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting-ho -le-I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."

    October 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  12. Sadderday

    In other words, the author of this article has no soul. You're going straight to hell, boy.

    October 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  13. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Since this page is to be purged anyway, I'll vent all the hatred I feel for believers – Christians in particular, their God, and their Christ/Saviour guy.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    There, that's better.

    October 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Nice piece of writing, Brant, BTW.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Agreed.

      .
      .
      .

      Wow! How cathartic.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Jess

      Would you say this to someone in person or do you just feel that it is alright because you can hide behind the annonimity of the internet?

      October 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Say what in person?

        October 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  14. follow christ jesus

    thank you brant, would love to meet you one on one and seek God together, what a breath of fresh air, so to speak, be blessed

    October 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Sunshine100

      Why do you need to "seek" God or Christ? He/they are all around and within you already. Why would one need an audience or another person present to be one with the Spirits? "Seek" the higher power – to me this indicates offering oneself up to be brainwashed.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Dawny

    Brant,
    Love your post. We listen to you all the time! I have an aspie. He's absolutely wonderful. Before him, I too was a skeptic about behavior. I listened to your show about a year ago and you were talking about how disgusted that a parent humiliated their daughter in public. You went on and on. Your producer wasn't there. I thought to myself,"What's wrong w/this guy? This isn't Jesus love" and I changed the station. It was after that that you came out stating that you had asberger's. Made the connection and I get it and I get you. Love it. Aspie's are black and white, straight as an arrow! 🙂 My aspie is 8 and wonder also if he'll ever connect w/God. My sons were talking about superheroes and surprisingly my aspie said God was his hero. It brought a tear of joy to my eyes. Then the other 2 piped up and said, "Mine, too." 🙂 I was reading the posts and why am I surprised w/all the hate? I should know at my age that people do that. I forgot exactly what was said, but I'm not wasting my time reading the rest. Oh, I have to tell you something else. I had a cold and someone asked me how my cold was and I said it's getting better. My son then said that I was getting sicker since my cold is getting better. What a gem! Our English grammer is so frazzled and we're blind to our word. Funny how a 5 year old aspie, who'd only been talking less than a year to tell me what I REALLY said. 🙂 My son has also brought me closer to God with prayer (lots of prayer for many different reasons) and opened my eyes to more than what's in front of me. Please keep us in your prayers. My one concern is that my son has started to get aggressive when children his age don't hear him ask them to leave him alone. Plus, he tries to play w/older children and ends up hurting them. Everything has to be structured, per his autism teacher. God bless you and your family.

    October 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  16. good gravey charlie brown

    Spock would never go to church as it is illogical to do so.

    The entire premise of this article lacks logic

    October 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • doughnuts

      Leonard Nimoy is Jewish, so Mr. Spock would go to a synagogue.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
      • Check

        William Shatner is Jewish too - so what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

        October 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      I dunno... If invoking Spock's name in the headline got you to read an article that you wouldn't have read otherwise... I'd say that was pretty logical.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  17. Lionly Lamb

    God whose Holy Spirit is the Allness of Absolute Nothingness can never be measured nor thoughtfully understood by the materially reflective nuances of humanoid indignations...

    People are but mere constructs of spatial rifts where matter becomes contrived into being and becoming physical augmentations that wells up in transfixed subjugations of subliminal essences befitting that which was first formed and lastly formalized...

    Life itself comes from Godliness formalization and not vice versa... In then of the Beginning, all was known and first formed before ever Becoming of the Material Affirmations...

    Real eyes
    Realize
    Real lies

    October 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  18. Kevin

    Spock uses logic ergo he's probably not waste his time idling in churches in futile exaltation.

    October 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Spock would not waste his time with superstltious nonsense like Christianity. ancient books written by ancient imbeciles without an inkling of understanding of how the natural world works.

      They cowerd in fear from the giants in the clouds wielding lightning, and sacrificed animals and people to appease them.

      October 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  19. Sabababataba

    Both 'Spock' and Jesus were born and lived jewish lives, If either one of them went to an evangelical revival they'd be befuddled too.

    October 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  20. tallulah13

    And.. BOOM! A page of comments gone, just like that.

    October 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Check

      Yikes!... and just as I was replying to something too. **Sigh** It's hardly worth the effort these days...

      October 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • Z'gow P'ah

        Abuse of process is illogical, and so the fools do it to excess with the help of the badly chosen editors. Good times.

        October 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
        • Crom

          Yes. Good times. I am giddy with disgust. Underwhelmed by all the ridiculous nonsense. I may faint.

          October 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.