The Golden Ticket           

I actually wrote this post a very long time ago, and I revisit it often, edit it, and don’t post it. Belief, faith, and religious doctrine is a landmine topic that I know I won’t actually sway people’s opinions. It’s woven into who we are, what we’ve been taught, where we draw comfort, and a sense of control in an uncontrollable world. So why post it? And I seriously claim to not have the answer, so really, why post it? Our world is loud enough, why make it noisier?

I am an Ally and have been for as long as I can remember. I was only ever taught acceptance and love, and truthfully, it was also a topic that wasn’t discussed very often.  My grandfather had a first cousin who was openly gay. Cousin Bob lived in Key West and looked like a smaller version of my grandfather. There were two moments that I remember very specifically that involved being taught acceptance. One was the first time I met Bob.  He was coming to visit and Grandaddy explained that he was gay.  He said a lot of people aren’t accepting of him, but he is my family and you don’t turn your back on your family. He went on to explain that you may not understand why someone is the way that they are, but that should never stop you from loving and being accepting. He told me that it wasn’t a big deal or any of our business to have opinions on. Second time, my grandparents took my sister, cousin, and I on a trip to San Francisco when I was 13 years old in June. None of us knew what celebrating “pride” was and this was in 1992. We had rented a car and were trying to get to our hotel in downtown San Francisco. We got caught in the middle of the pride parade. To say that it was a world that none of us had ever been exposed to is an understatement. We, as young girls, were in the back seat, eyes wide, and laughing at some of the signs and pointing to show what we had seen. What happened at that point is a moment in time that I will (hopefully) always remember. We hit a red light and my grandfather turned around and looked at all three of us very seriously. He told us that he knew that this is different and none of us understand it. He clearly told us to stop acting silly, laughing, and pointing. He said this is their home and we are visitors. We will treat them with the respect they would give us in our home. It was not the first or the last lesson that he gave about respecting others that I consider to be one of my core values.

Another thing my grandfather taught me, that is relevant here, was how to care for Everett. He had a first cousin, Mary Ann. She had an intellectual disability. He was her guardian after her mother passed away. I only ever knew him to be her guardian. Mary Ann was not put into an inpatient institution like most people with intellectual disabilities were in the 1930s. From my understanding, she lived with her mother until her passing.  Mary Ann came and stayed with my grandparents during the holidays. She lived in the best group home facility my grandfather could find in Mississippi. He treated her with respect and never neglected his responsibilities of being her caretaker. He traveled to visit her or pick her up in Magee and always encouraged us to ride with him. We’d visit her, take her things she needed, and go out to eat where she wanted. She was never grateful, she wasn’t capable, but it didn’t ever bother him. He was calm and patient with her. He would just always tell me “You take care of your family”. Little did either of us know that he was teaching me how to mother my own son.

When Everett was diagnosed with autism, everything about my world was turned upside down. The way I view the world and situations changed and shifted forever.

In countless instances, I have encountered those that quote bible verses or send me articles about how God makes no mistakes and that Everett’s autism is part of God’s plan. All of these messages are intended as comfort for me, and so many times it did just that.

Everett will never be able to fully follow the rules of salvation or be born again. When Everett’s peers went through the Methodist confirmation, I quietly sat back while he was excluded because he wasn’t capable. But everyone has always reassured me time and time again in many different variations of why he gets the “golden ticket”.  I’m promised that he gets a fast pass to heaven, yet so many of us don’t.

The love Everett receives from our community is so great and I am eternally grateful for it.  He is protected and loved by people I don’t even know for exactly who God created him to be and that is humbling to my core. They forgive his meltdowns that have been violent. They look past his inability to hold back negative reactions. They delight in just a mild acknowledgment that would come off as rude in a neurotypical person. Everett can’t help but be self-serving and self-protecting to the detriment and expense of those around him. He at his core doesn’t make the cut to get to heaven. 

Let’s go through a few of The Ten Commandments.

He loves Thomas the Train more than God.

You shall not make idols. See above.

Remember the Sabbath and make it holy. He has no clue what Sabbath is and I can tell you only a few people who actually make Sabbath a holy ritual. While we are being so biblically led, shouldn’t this be on the agenda?

Honor your father and mother. Definitely doesn’t adhere to this one.

He doesn’t love his neighbor as he does himself.  He loves himself more.

But golden ticket for him…

This isn’t a joke to me, so don’t take the tone as light hearted. It is the reality of our life. He will never be able to fully understand the steps of Christian salvation and act on them. I love my church and the people who go there, and they love Everett so much. And there is nowhere more apparent in our life that Everett doesn’t fit at every level than our church. His autism has shaken my faith to the core and I have had to rebuild that to some how make sure he fits. In the new foundation of my faith, I don’t pretend to know any answers, I refuse to weaponize the bible for judgement, and I spend my time in the red texts. Everyone accepts Everett as if God made him this way and takes those differences to not be choices, yet there is such denial to extend the same generous love, acceptance, and “made in God’s image” to others. A rejection of a person that follows the commandments and has been born again, but they don’t receive the grace of the golden ticket. Everett’s autism? God’s plan and he doesn’t make mistakes. Other people’s queerness? Going straight to hell.

Just as I am an advocate for Everett and watch him be marginalized and excluded daily by the world in so many ways, I am an advocate for others. I’m tired of seeing pain handed to those who are different in the name of God. We humans can sure make big messes and I don’t want to add to that mess.

I’ll end with this. Let me make this clear. I don’t have the answers or a golden ticket. I may be very wrong and I’m okay with answering to that, but I hold firmly that I will not have to answer to anyone actually reading this post for my stance. What I will not do is spread more judgement and pain in the name of God. I will not treat people disrespectfully or cast them aside because their faith, opinion, or stance is different than mine. I will spread love. I will always move towards love.

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