Autism and the picture of God: learn how to be a welcoming neighborhood?

Autism and the picture of God: learn how to be a welcoming neighborhood?

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Our son Sam was the long-awaited reply to Jane’s prayers, fulfilling her need for a brother. Born prematurely, Sam confronted well being challenges in his early days, spending a number of days within the intensive care unit as an toddler. Despite docs dropping hope, steady prayers from Sam’s sister and household granted him a brand new life. As Sam grew, we observed developmental variations in comparison with different kids his age.

Even his sister began complaining that Daddy, “Sam is not taking part in with me,” and “he is not even listening to my directions.” After consulting docs and psychologists, Sam was identified with autism. This information shocked us, and Sam started to reside in his personal world as he began to develop. The time period “autism” was new to us as dad and mom.

Different individuals gave their views with restricted understanding, however we, as dad and mom, began to grapple with questions comparable to: How would he handle his life? When would he turn out to be impartial? When would he start socialising with different kids of his age? How would society settle for him? Why has God made him like this?

Prevalence of autism

As per a latest report by ETHealthWorld, roughly 18 million (1 in 68 kids) people in India have acquired a prognosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Moreover, it’s estimated that autism impacts round 1%-1.5% of youngsters aged between two and 9 years. Additionally, boys are believed to be 4 instances extra inclined to autism than women. Challenges in communication, social interplay, and repetitive behaviours characterise ASD. It additionally impacts people’ capacity to operate successfully in society and different areas of life.

In India, many individuals are unaware of the time period autism and its signs. Once, an aged girl visited our house and was fairly disturbed to see Sam in his hyperactive state. She felt that we weren’t disciplining our youngster, and he was nearly spoilt for her. Such an perspective occurs due to our individuals’s lack of schooling and consciousness. Bollywood movies like ‘Taare Zameen Par,’ ‘Barfi,’ ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ do increase consciousness in our Indian society, however far more must be achieved. A holistic strategy is required to deal with these kids’s bodily, religious, and emotional wants.

Individuals identified with autism understand the world in another way and talk in varied methods. Community acceptance and figuring out their skills is a problem. Unfortunately, quite a few individuals fail to recognise the significance of adapting themselves to accommodate people with autism. Instead, they usually try and implement adjustments on these with autism, neglecting their wants. This lack of consideration hinders the method of creating people with autism really feel snug and accepted inside their communities. We miss the chance to foster real inclusion and understanding by neglecting the need for mutual adaptation.

Demeaning the picture of God

During my latest go to to Lucknow, I talked with a retired Christian teacher from a prestigious faculty. After sharing about Sam, she recalled her interplay with the mom of a boy in her class who was additionally identified with autism. Hearing concerning the mom’s disparaging remarks about her son – labelling him as mentally retarded, ineffective, fool and mad – introduced tears to my eyes. Despite this, the teacher constantly emphasised the distinctive qualities of the boy and gave her finest to assist him.

In his article “Does Darwinism Devalue Human Life?,” Richard Weikart explores the historic connection between Darwinism and the devaluation of human life. He shares that Darwinism undermines the Judeo-Christian perception within the sanctity of human life. Weikart traces the historic roots of Darwinism’s affect on ethics, highlighting how German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel proposed killing disabled infants within the late nineteenth century.

For Haeckel, new child infants don’t have any soul, “so killing them is not any totally different than killing different animals and can’t be equated with homicide.” About a bodily or mentally disabled toddler, he wrote, “a small dose of morphine or cyanide wouldn’t solely free this pitiable creature itself, but in addition its kin from the burden of a protracted, nugatory and painful existence.” The solely cause we don’t kill “faulty” kids at beginning, in accordance with Haeckel, is as a result of we’re following emotion somewhat than cause.

In 1833, Charles Darwin launched into a journey to the South Sea Islands in quest of the presumed “lacking hyperlink.” Observing the inhabitants, whom he deemed primitive, notably the cannibals, he believed them to characterize a decrease stratum of humanity, seemingly confirming his evolutionary concept. However, thirty-four years later, upon his return to the identical islands, Darwin was astonished to seek out church buildings, faculties, and civilised properties inhabited by the once-perceived primitive inhabitants.

This outstanding transformation was attributed to the missionary efforts of John G. Paton, who had unfold the truths of salvation amongst them. Witnessing their upliftment and religious progress moved Darwin profoundly, main him to assist the London Missionary Society generously. This expertise challenged Darwin’s notion of the “lacking hyperlink,” highlighting the transformative energy of religion and the picture of God inside humanity.

Some scientists might query the rationality of autistic kids as a result of they fail to recognise the distinctive qualities which these kids contribute to our society. Unfortunately, “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, in order that they can not see the sunshine of the gospel that shows the glory of Christ, who’s the picture of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Hence there are people who find themselves not capable of see the picture of God and the glory of Christ in such kids. Autism is a neurodevelopmental situation that impacts people in varied methods, however it doesn’t diminish their price as human beings created within the picture of God. Therefore, any suggestion of devaluing or harming people with disabilities, together with autism, contradicts the basic teachings of Christianity concerning the sanctity of human life.

In his picture

Genesis chapter one affirms that each human being is created within the picture and likeness of God. To be in God’s picture, people share His character, nature, attributes, and ethical, moral and mental skills. In different phrases, it refers back to the psychological and religious colleges and His persona that people share with Him. When Christians encounter questions on incapacity, they usually look to the concept of the picture of God. This idea is the right match for affirming the worth and significance of each individual. Brian Brock in his article, ‘Autism and the Image of God: On Becoming A Mobile And Reproductive Church’, mentions that there are three foremost ways in which Christians have understood the picture of God over the centuries:

(a) The Substantive View: This view explains that regardless of having many capabilities, people are totally different from the remainder of creation by giving them skills that no different creatures have. Some argue that what units people aside from all different beings is their capability for rationality, whereas others argue it’s their ethical sense.

(b) The Functionalist View: This view of the picture of God focuses on one other facet talked about in Genesis 1, the place God assigns people a process i.e. to have ‘dominion’ (Genesis 1:26). According to this attitude, the idea of the picture of God will not be robotically current in each human being however is seen as a royal accountability.

(c) Relational View: In this attitude, people are designed for relationships—with one another and with God. By fostering life-giving connections regardless of variations, people replicate Christ to 1 one other. This view emphasises the individuality of people, as they alone are tasked with representing God on this planet. The beginning of each human from Adam and Eve signifies their humanity, and their major function is to not dominate the earth however to reside in ways in which resemble Christ of their interactions with others. After going via the above views, it’s important to know that each human, whether or not common or autistic, is created within the picture and likeness of God. We would possibly initially separate people with autism from our understanding, however from a divine perspective, they maintain immense worth.

After the Fall, sin took management of our lives, and we forgot that we had been created within the picture of God. We do share His persona, however our picture is tarnished on account of sin. Since then, we now have turn out to be confused about our picture. We have just one option to regain our tarnished picture, and it’s only via God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the picture of the invisible God, the radiance of His glory and the precise illustration of His nature. When we settle for Jesus as our private Saviour, He begins restoration work and transforms us into His picture. In this, we recognise that we’re created in God’s picture and acknowledge others to be created in His picture.

Fostering relationship

The life tales of Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and so forth., are eye-openers that allow us to grasp the potential of autistic kids. In John 9:1-3 Jesus noticed a person blind from beginning. His disciples requested him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his dad and mom, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his dad and mom sinned,” stated Jesus, “however this occurred in order that the works of God could be displayed in him.” Like the disciples, we additionally shut our eyes and fail to grasp the actual objective of God. The problem earlier than us is how we accommodate and worth people with autism inside the context of their skills. By doing this, we not solely acknowledge that they’re created within the picture of God but in addition develop a relationship with them.

For Sheila George, Director of the Ashish Foundation for the Differently Abled (AFDA): “Our final purpose is to assist these kids and adults lead fulfilling and productive lives, and to be accepted and included within the mainstream of society.” The imaginative and prescient of AFDA is to “improve the picture and competencies of every youngster to take up valued social roles.” This basis sensitises and equips households, communities, and organisations to reply and have interaction productively in order that kids and adults with autism can lead fulfilling lives. In our expertise, relationship issues rather a lot. Sam is a really loving youngster. The extra we pour our love into his life, the extra we expertise love from him. We really feel privileged that God has chosen us to be Sam’s dad and mom. Like Sam, different kids are desperately ready for our love and care.

Embrace: function of the Church

A church, whose head is Jesus Christ, is named to play an lively function within the lives of such kids. The Church should uphold the dignity and worth of all human life, together with people identified with autism. The Church’s response is rooted in compassion, understanding, and respect for the inherent price of each individual, no matter their skills or variations. There are 4 steps which believers ought to take with those that are identified with autism:


How can we make ourselves out there to others? By approaching them with openness and compassion. As a neighborhood belonging to Christ, we should attain out to kids like these. To accomplish that, we should establish such kids in our neighbourhood or church neighborhood. In Matthew 25:42-45, Jesus speaks of those that neglect to look after others in want, highlighting starvation, thirst, lack of hospitality, clothes, illness, and imprisonment. By not visiting them, we fail to recognise the presence of Jesus in them. Jesus additional stated in verse 45, “Truly I let you know, no matter you didn’t do for one of many least of those, you didn’t do for me.” How vital is it to return near those that are in another way abled? Often, we discover their absence from our common gatherings. How ought to we reply to such eventualities?


By coming near them, we get acquainted with them. Through this, we are going to uncover their likes and dislikes, strengths and skills, hobbies and skills, and communication and social abilities. What do they get pleasure from? (meals, actions, objects, locations, individuals); What do they discover distressing? (meals, actions, objects, locations, individuals). By doing so, we are able to create supportive environments that cater to their wants and pursuits. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage each other and construct one another up, simply as in truth you might be doing.” Further, he states in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to 1 one other in love. Honour each other above yourselves.”


By getting acquainted with them, we’re known as to regulate ourselves in accordance with them. Through changes, we are able to meet their wants. Can we alter something in order that they could get what they want? By inviting households into our properties and church buildings and making them really feel snug, we are able to create inclusive areas the place autistic kids can thrive and obtain the assist they want. This might contain modifying routines, offering sensory-friendly areas, and providing understanding and acceptance. Ultimately, by adjusting ourselves and our environments, we are able to be certain that autistic kids obtain the care and assist they require to flourish in each house and church settings.


As believers, it is essential for the Church to embrace and assist such kids and their households. We should be certain that they could get alternatives to take part in church actions tailor-made to their wants, valuing their distinctive presents and skills. By adapting programmes and offering assist, we are able to enrich your complete church neighborhood whereas fostering their sense of belonging. Christian faculties needs to be prepared to simply accept them on a par with others. Paul writes in Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens, and on this method you’ll fulfil the legislation of Christ.”

Sufficient grace

April is recognised as International Autism Acceptance Month, throughout which I had the chance to deal with the Caleb Institute Community about autism. To my shock, many college students and school members had been unaware of the main points of autism, and for some, autism was a brand new idea. I felt a necessity to lift consciousness about this inside our neighborhood. Initially, it was fairly a harrowing expertise for my spouse Delicia and me to share about Sam. However, after a lot prayer, we felt peace in our hearts, and now Sam has turn out to be an instance via which we are able to share insights about autism and God’s love with others. Only via the grace, love, and compassion of Jesus Christ we look after Sam and his sister Jane.

Ashish Foundation for the Differently Abled (AFDA) Charitable Trust, located in Dwarka, New Delhi, is an establishment the place Sam goes for his research. The imaginative and prescient of this basis is to empower kids and adults with autism to succeed in their God-given potential in inclusive communities. This basis sensitises and equips households, communities, and organisations to reply and have interaction productively in order that kids and adults with autism can lead fulfilling lives. Geeta Mondol, Founder of AFDA, states, “We are all created in God’s picture to attain our potential and contribute to the constructing of our nation. Ashish vows to help and facilitate the creation of an inclusive society the place there may be room for everybody.”

Rev. Dr. Samuel Richmond is at the moment the Director of the Centre for Advanced Religious Studies at North East Christian University, Dimapur-Nagaland, and an Academic Consultant at Caleb Institute in Gurugram, Haryana. He additionally serves because the honorary secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Theological Commission. He is married to Delicia and has two kids, Jane and Sam.

© Christian Today India


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