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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. Lies are unhealthy for children and other living things

    Resist the call to prayer

    October 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  2. pablo

    nobody's asking the important question.....what about evil spock w/the evil goatee?

    October 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Crom

      He was not illogical and therefor not a real opposite. Opposite fail. But the goatee was very stylish.

      October 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  3. tony

    My god is the All-Mighty Collection PLATE !!!!

    It feeds! It clothes! It brings lovely young groupies! It avoids paying taxes!!!

    October 19, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
  4. Pseudotriton

    The irony is that, if not for science, the author would never have been diagnosed with Aspergers. It'd be just him identified as not loving god, and it'd all be part of god's plan anyway.

    October 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Jake Oglesby

      The author isn't against science. That's a negative stereotype (based on some truth of former action), that the church will be separate from one day. I've got friends that follow Jesus that are evolutionists (believing God used that process to form life). There's even a debate on whether the wording in Genesis in the original language implied something like a creation over an extended period. It doesn't bother me, because the church has had a long history of getting mad over stuff that doesn't matter. Dress code. Geocentricism. And my personally hated favorite "Did dinosaurs actually exist?" I hate that one. That's just ignorance. But the key portion here, is that Christians have always made a big deal about scientific discoveries that weren't that big of a deal. That's why it's always seemed to go at odds with science. My God made everything. I'm not afraid of the study of what He made. So whether you agree with me on that portion or not— just know that there are some Christians that love science (like the man who lead the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, evolutionist and Christian). So, don't be too quick to say things like that man. Christianity and science are not at odds like some Christians and nonChristians think.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
      • modestypress

        You don't understand. If God existed, It would be evil. It would be my duty to oppose it and burn in Hell. See you there, buddy or sister.

        January 14, 2014 at 12:16 am |
  5. NOTA

    So I left there in the morning
    With their god tucked underneath my arm
    Their half-assed smiles and the book of rules
    So I asked this god a question
    And by way of firm reply
    He said–I'm not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.
    -Jethro Tull (Aqua Lung)

    October 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  6. jayleigh

    So aspergers, christian radio host? Like most evangelical mainstream, this sounds like a car salesman pitch for Christianity. Carrying on daddy's business i guess. People with asp usually alienate themselves from everyone because of antisocial behavior. You have warmed your self up into the most one sided media that exists. This doesn't add up. Your so called disease at church was your bs meter, you should listen to it.

    October 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  7. Positive, Encouraging K-Love

    This article is awesome, amazing and inspiring!

    Thanks Brant Hansen for writing a master piece and sharing your faith, sure it will be a blessing to many.
    Wish Chris Stedman can read this and feel God's love tug at him. 🙂

    October 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Is God's love so feeble that most people can't feel its "tug"?

      October 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I hope someday the author of this article finds the strength to realize that there is no proof that any god actually exists, and that belief is nothing more than cultural habit and wishful thinking. It's a marvelous thing, to take responsibility for your own life.

      October 19, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
      • tallulah13

        God is known by those God loves, guess where that leaves me?

        October 19, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
        • Crom

          Go die in a fire, you little name-stealing shit. All you do is make you and your religion look worse. Tard.

          October 19, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  8. WMesser58

    illogical Spock is a scientist not an idiot...

    October 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • WMesser58

      Spock is a fictional TV character and neither an idiot or a scientist

      October 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
      • WMesser58

        @Me apparently "DUH" You probably wasn't born when Star Trek was on and Christians are idiots and Spock was and actor moron.

        October 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  9. dave

    Spock: "...that illogical, captain..."

    October 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  10. Deborah

    I've read quite a few of the comments and I just want to say...go to Air 1 M-F (1-5 PCT) and listen to Brant. He is truly one of the funniest dj's I've ever listened to. He makes me laugh and sometimes cry. He has a transparency that is very contagious....and Brant if you read this, I want to let you know that I am a therapist and have worked extensively with Aspies- I don't think there is ever a time I listen to you that I'm not thinking, " His humor does not seem like someone with Asperger's". Love you and your wonderful quirkiness!

    October 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Joe

      See, exactly my point. EXACTLY my point.

      October 20, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  11. adrifter

    I didn't read the article because I try to avoid religious nonsense whenever possible. However, this is strictly a comment on the headline 'What if Mr. Spock were a churchgoer?' Mr. Spock was a logical character above all else. The idea of him going to church and worshiping an imaginary diety is, well, illogical. Live long and prosper.

    October 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      But being half human, he is prone to errors in judgment.

      October 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
      • WMesser58

        @godfreenow–half human yes half baked "NO" he'd never fall this fairy tale crap these christians are trying to play off Star Trek!!!!!!

        October 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
        • pablo

          uh oh......some little grouchy head needs a nap

          October 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  12. Robert Brown

    Another wonderful testimony of the power of God. Thank you for sharing and I hope God continues to bless you.

    October 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      People are resilient. We've had since the Cambrian radiation to become the amazing things evolution has made us.

      October 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
      • bk1024

        No thanks to organized religion

        October 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
        • PPLRWRD

          And no thanks to atheism the people in North Korea are still being persecuted and murdered by the numbers every day. Don't go blaming religion for the worlds problems. If we ban and forget every last semblance of religion in this world people will still find ways and reasons to hate and kill each other.

          October 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • Alias

      Please try to keep in mind that people of all religions have had stories of their god talking to them. Muslims feel alah, angient greeks saw zues in their dreams, native americans had visions, etc.

      October 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  13. John

    Thanks for your bravery Brant.

    October 19, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  14. Joe

    IIf her WERE a churchgoer there would be two of him

    October 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  15. Melanie

    A beautifully and thoughtfully written piece. Thank you for sharing your heart through sharing your story.

    October 19, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  16. Joe

    The guy in the picture up there, Brant whatever... people like him make me sick. They spend an hour in front of the mirror each morning trying to look at cutesy as possible... just the right clothes, just the right hair, just the right shape for the eyebrows, just the right length of stubble... and then they get up on a stage in front of impressionable young girls who are drooling all over the place for them and talk about "God" and "Jesus" and put on a big smile and all the while they know it's a big drool fest in the minds of all the girls watching... and they love it. What a schtick this whole "new age Christian" thing... it's a con if you ask me.

    October 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Sounds like he's not the one having a hard time getting over himself.

      October 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • John

      Sorry you feel that way. It is obvious you do not know Brant. You didn't even recall his last name in your comment. If he was trying to do those things you mentioned he would not be talking about his disability. You are however right that their are people like you mentioned. It is disgusting. However Brant is not one of those people..

      October 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Jim

      I would agree with you, Joe, but I'm also too good looking to have any opinions. We should all try to be more like you.

      October 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Deborah

      Hey Joe,
      I just wanted to let you know that I think you may have pre-judged Brant. Please go to :
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0K2gNs-sME I think if you do, you'll see someone who is so beautiful from the inside out.

      October 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
      • Joe

        Uh huh... women only say this about somebody they're dying to bang.

        October 20, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Kristi R

      LOL you obviously know nothing of Brant. Your ignorant comment couldn't be farther from the truth.

      October 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • Josh

      Listen to Brant on Air1 radio for ten minutes and you'll find that what you're saying is totally off. He's one of the most genuine people I've ever heard speak about Christianity.

      October 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  17. Cin

    Great article!! Thanks for sharing your heart! Don't listen to all the negative and the hatred either! It's not against you but God... and that's the sad part. Clearly people get offended when there is something real, and they feel a need to defend their believes even when not attacked!

    October 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
  18. Joe

    The guy in the picture up there, Brant whatever... people like him make me sick.

    October 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • PPLRWRD

      And thanks to people like you intolerance, hate, and persecution will continue in this world.

      October 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  19. Joe

    test

    October 19, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  20. Realist

    ----------------
    ----------------

    ... http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ...

    ... and thank goodness ...

    ... because he emanates from the ..

    ... http://www.EVILbible.com ...

    --------------–.

    October 19, 2013 at 7:38 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.