Please, let’s not invoke the God of vengence in autism discussions

12 Jul

There have been times when I have had the opportunity to stand up and make a clear statement, and yet I failed to do so and lived to regret it. One case that stands out right now is when the blogger erv called Kent Heckenlively of the Age of Autism blog “you sick fuck“. That incident stands out because now I am faced with another challenge: do I stand up to what I see as dangerous speech, this time by Mr. Heckenlively himself?

In an article, When I Can Do Nothing, Mr. Heckenlively writes:

And yet, as thankful as I am for an understanding of what has happened to my child and so many others, my heart is heavy. The Dark Forces which in the past have destroyed the careers of those who have found clues to the afflictions of our children and other disease communities are once again on the move. You may very well read about their actions this week. And I can’t do anything to stop them.

The pain Mr. Heckenlively is feeling is palpable in that paragraph. I feel for him. I really do. At the same time I was quite worried by the choice of the phrase “Dark Forces”. Had the article stopped there, I would not be writing this response.

Mr. Heckenlively goes on to write how he sought guidance from the Bible. Nothing inherently worrisome about that:

I often find myself pondering such questions of faith. What is it I’m meant to do? I want to rush the barricades, but to what effect? It was with such thoughts in my mind I went to our local bookstore, picked up a Bible, opened it to a random page, and with my eyes closed, put my finger down.

The passage he found at random?

Psalm 94 – God, the Avenger of the Righteous

Perhaps now you see why I chose to write a response. Invoking God to bring forth vengeance is troublesome to me.

Here is the version (the language differs according to the bible translation) of Psalm 94 Mr. Heckenlively quotes in his piece:

O’Lord, you God of vengeance, you God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; give to the proud what they deserve! O’ Lord, how long shall the wicked exult?

They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. They crush your people, O’Lord, and afflict your heritage. They kill the widow and the stranger, they murder the orphan, and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.

Understand, O dullest of the people; fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, he who teaches knowledge to humankind, does he not chastise? The Lord knows our thoughts, that they are but an empty breath.

Happy are those whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, giving them respite from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot is slipping,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who contrive mischief by statute? They band together against the righteous, and condemn the innocent to death.

But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. He will repay them for their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord God will wipe them out.

Mr. Heckenlively concludes his article:

God knows there are some wicked people out there trying to keep our children from getting better. If you’re listening God, and it meets with Your approval, this week would be an excellent time to deal with them.

I don’t know what Mr. Heckenlively means precisely by “deal with them”. But he has just quotes scripture ” He will repay them for their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord God will wipe them out.”

Here is a comment allowed through by the Age of Autism moderators:

Can he just get on with the smiting

Which tells me that the message is being received: God should smite those who are seen as “wicked”.

Mr. Heckenlively: I wish you and your family well. I truly mean that. I also would strongly encourage you to step back and rethink the post you have put up. Look at the language: “He will repay them for their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord God will wipe them out.” Ask yourself, ask a trusted friend outside of the autism communities: is this something you should have published?

Mr. Heckenlively, I know it wasn’t easy for you to write what you did. It is not easy to write this response. Finding a tone that remains respectful while voicing my very real concern for the message you are sending is difficult to say the least. I hope that both of us can take down our posts very soon.

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41 Responses to “Please, let’s not invoke the God of vengence in autism discussions”

  1. Rene najera July 12, 2011 at 22:14 #

    As a Christian, I am ashamed for his conduct. Everyone who calls themselves Christian, or of a Christian denomination, should know that we live in a New Testament time, when Jesus encourages us to be kind to our enemies. The “What would Jesus do?” question is a good one to ask of these religious, self-righteous fanatics. Would Jesus “deal” with those of us who look to science for understanding the world around us? No, he wouldn’t. He’d treat us with gentleness and respect, like he’s asked us, his followers, to do of those who are against us. Mr. Heckenlively may be a parent in pain, but he is coming dangerously close to blasphemy if he thinks for one instant that he is above reproach and calls on a loving God for vengeance.

    Not a sermon… Just a thought.

    Seriously, though, leave religion out of it. Okay?

    • Sullivan July 13, 2011 at 00:30 #

      Rene najera,

      I’ve been told that the “smiting” comment has been removed from the Age of Autism blog. The message has gotten through in part. I hope they do the right thing and pull the article in its entirety.

      [edit to add] Spoke too soon.

  2. Caroline July 13, 2011 at 01:07 #

    I clicked the Age of Autism and all I can say is this:
    Mr. Heckenlively, being the mother of a severely autistic daughter myself, I understand your pain and frustration, the feelings of despair, knowing that your beautiful child will most likely have to depend on you or someone else for the rest of his/her life.
    If you are seriously thinking about taking revenge on any person or people that you think are responsible for causing your child’s autism, please, please think again. Aside from the fact that there’s no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism, if you hurt somebody and are caught you will be arrested and jailed, possibly for the rest of your life. Being an attorney yourself, you now how much a good defense lawyer costs- money that could be better used for long term care. Your child needs you-no one can care for him/her like you can. If you are married, then your spouse will have to care of your child alone- would you really want to do that to her?
    If your aim is to manipulate someone into taking revenge for you, it won’t change a thing- it might give you a sense of temporary satisfaction but in the end, you will still have to care for your child. And it absolutely won’t change the fact that autism is a complex disorder caused by the interaction of genes and environmental factors, not vaccines.
    Just sayin’ Sorry if I was rambling.

  3. Caroline July 13, 2011 at 01:11 #

    I made an error in the second sentence of my previous post- I meant to say that I am the mother of an autistic daughter.

    • Sullivan July 13, 2011 at 01:41 #

      if it’s OK with you, I corrected the comment

  4. brian July 13, 2011 at 02:52 #

    Taking a cue from his daughter’s one-on-one aide, an animal-rights activist whose activities recently landed her in jail, Heckenlively wrote, “We need to get militant, and I mean in a way that scares those in power. You know what I’m talking about.”

    If the animal-rights movement serves as Heckenlively’s model, I wonder if what he’s talking about includes agressive attempts to intimidate researchers who don’t agree with his position, violence, and, well, worse.

  5. ERV July 13, 2011 at 03:02 #

    Well, in fairness, I said it in response to how he is ‘treating’ his child for autism, which I view is torture, and could possibly kill the child.

    Interesting that now, instead of turning his anger towards the quacks who have convinced him to do those horrendous things, he directs his anger towards the people trying to offer answers rather than snake-oil.

  6. Jean July 13, 2011 at 09:17 #

    I’m glad to have read this blog, but it’s so disturbing. There’s just no logic in religious zeal, as I know too well living along the Irish border. All religion has brought us is misery and murder.
    I feel quite sorry for Mr Heckenlivey, but I really worry for his child.
    XXX

  7. Liz Ditz July 13, 2011 at 18:14 #

    Kent’s latest comment:

    Dear Readers:

    I belive the power of prayer has worked. The man who was going to do some harm has pulled back. We are safe for now.

    Kent.

    the post is still disturbing, as are the comments.

  8. Kassiane July 13, 2011 at 18:48 #

    And people wonder why I talk about vengeful, hate-filled religion.

  9. stanley seigler July 13, 2011 at 19:42 #

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    there is little logic in this world…bet HE/SHE wonders why SHE/HE gave us free will…perhaps HE/SHE enjoys the stupid games (like hate-filled religion) we play…

    BTW/aside an old saw say: “if you want to make God laugh tell HIM/HER your plans…”

    stanley seigler

  10. stanley seigler July 13, 2011 at 20:03 #

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    COMMENT
    there is very little logic in the world…bet HE/SHE wonder why SHE/HE gave us free will…perhaps HE/SHE enjoys the silly games (eg, hate filled religion, misery and murder) we play.

    BTW/aside: an old saw say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell HIM/HER your plans…” and i do believe God has a sense of humor…otherwise i would have been struck by a bolt of lightening long ago…

    stanley seigler

  11. Leila July 13, 2011 at 20:55 #

    He searches for inspiration on the Bible the same way he searches for the next treatment for his daughter, blindingly believing in whatever hocus pocus is offered to him.

  12. This kind of talk, calling for death and vengeance and whatnot, is just a symptom of the problem that AoA represents. That problem is a combination of desperation, ableism, blind animosity, and a blatant pity party. When you read these parents, it’s all about “All of MY dreams were shattered,” “I was devastated,” “Woe is ME!” It’s not about their kids. It’s not about their families, or getting the issues addressed. It’s about keeping the pity party alive, and keeping the snake oil salesmen rich.

  13. sharon July 13, 2011 at 23:42 #

    More evidence of how cult like AoA is.

  14. stanley seigler July 14, 2011 at 00:44 #

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    COMMENT
    there is very little logic in the world…bet HE/SHE wonder why SHE/HE gave us free will…perhaps HE/SHE enjoys the silly games (say hate filled religion) we play.

    BTW/aside: an old saw say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell HIM/HER your plans…” and i do believe God has a sense of humor…otherwise i would have been struck by a bolt of lightening long ago…

    [Marc Rosen say] That problem is a combination of desperation, ableism, blind animosity, and a blatant pity party…etc, etc…It’s about keeping the pity party alive

    COMMENT
    does overstatement add anything to the discussion…add anything to the quality of life for those on the spectrum…

    stanley seigler

  15. stanley seigler July 14, 2011 at 00:48 #

    [Marc Rosen say] That problem is a combination of desperation, ableism, blind animosity, and a blatant pity party…etc, etc…It’s about keeping the pity party alive

    COMMENT
    does overstatement add anything to the discussion…add anything to the quality of life for those on the spectrum…

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    COMMENT
    there is very little logic in the world…bet HE/SHE wonder why SHE/HE gave us free will…perhaps HE/SHE enjoys the silly games (say hate filled religion) we play.

    BTW/aside: an old saw say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell HIM/HER your plans…” and i do believe God has a sense of humor…otherwise i would have been struck by a bolt of lightening long ago…

    stanley seigler

  16. stanley seigler July 14, 2011 at 04:01 #

    [Marc Rosen say] That problem is a combination of desperation, ableism, blind animosity, and a blatant pity party…etc, etc…It’s about keeping the pity party alive

    COMMENT
    does overstatement add anything to the discussion…add anything to the quality of life for those on the spectrum…

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    COMMENT
    there is very little logic in the world…bet HE/SHE wonders why SHE/HE gave us free will…perhaps HE/SHE enjoys the silly games (say hate filled religion) we play.

    BTW/aside: an old saw say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell HIM/HER your plans…” and i do believe God has a sense of humor…otherwise i would have been struck by a bolt of lightening long ago…

    stanley seigler

  17. stanley seigler July 14, 2011 at 15:42 #

    [Marc Rosen say] That problem is a combination of desperation, ableism, blind animosity, and a blatant pity party…etc, etc…It’s about keeping the pity party alive

    COMMENT
    does overstatement add anything to the discussion…add anything to the quality of life for those on the spectrum…

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    COMMENT
    there is very little logic in the world…bet HE/SHE wonders why SHE/HE gave us free will.

    stanley seigler

  18. David N. Andrews M . Ed., C. P. S. E. July 14, 2011 at 18:49 #

    Kassiane: “And people wonder why I talk about vengeful, hate-filled religion.”

    I don’t wonder at all. What I wonder is why more people don’t. I’ve encountered plenty of that sort of religion in my time, and it never ceases to amaze me how many practitioners of certain religions are happy to call for their god(s) to wreak havoc and pestilence on people who have wronged them whilst asking the same god(s) to forgive them for their wrong-doings against their own god(s)… a phenomenon very similar, I suspect, to the fundamental attribution error. And one with some strong connections, I dare say, at the attributional and attitudinal levels. A position I find sickening, really.

    Leila: “He searches for inspiration on the Bible the same way he searches for the next treatment for his daughter, blindingly believing in whatever hocus pocus is offered to him.”

    Yeh, and this guy’s a science teacher? Bloody religious maniac, I say. If he had a clue about science, he’d not even be bothering with the AoA idiots and their stupid beliefs. Well done Age Of Autism for cultivating yet another stupid twat of a parent who is not really that concerned for his child’s welfare.

    ERFV: “Well, in fairness, I said it in response to how he is ‘treating’ his child for autism, which I view is torture, and could possibly kill the child.”

    To be honest, ERV … I agree with your original sentiment. His daughter is definitely not the sick one. Nor is she the one with the defective mind. He is. And he’s going the right way to end up with a dead daughter which – as far as I am concerned – makes him a danger to her.

    Marc: ”
    July 13th, 2011
    21:00:07

    This kind of talk, calling for death and vengeance and whatnot, is just a symptom of the problem that AoA represents. That problem is a combination of desperation, ableism, blind animosity, and a blatant pity party.”

    Absolutely accurate.

    Rene: “As a Christian, I am ashamed for his conduct. Everyone who calls themselves Christian, or of a Christian denomination, should know that we live in a New Testament time, when Jesus encourages us to be kind to our enemies … Mr. Heckenlively may be a parent in pain, but he is coming dangerously close to blasphemy if he thinks for one instant that he is above reproach and calls on a loving God for vengeance.

    Not a sermon… Just a thought.”

    Thank you for sharing that. Good to know that Heckenlively is in a minority, really.

  19. stanley seigler July 14, 2011 at 22:22 #

    [LBRB say] I hope that both of us can take down our posts very soon.

    DITTO

    [Marc Rosen say] That problem is a combination of desperation, ableism, blind animosity, and a blatant pity party…etc, etc…It’s about keeping the pity party alive

    COMMENT
    does overstatement add anything to the discussion…add anything to the quality of life for those on the spectrum…

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    COMMENT
    there is very little logic in the world…bet HE/SHE wonders why SHE/HE gave us free will…perhaps HE/SHE enjoys the silly games (say hate filled religion) we play…i do believe God has a sense of humor…otherwise i would have been struck by a bolt of lightening long ago…

    BTW/aside: an old saw say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell HIM/HER your plans…”

    stanley seigler

  20. stanley seigler July 15, 2011 at 18:09 #

    [LBRB say] I hope that both of us can take down our posts very soon.

    ditto

    [jean say] There’s just no logic in religious zeal…

    COMMENT
    there is very little logic in the world…bet HE/SHE wonders why SHE/HE gave us free will…perhaps HE/SHE enjoys the stupid games (EG, hate filled religion) we play…and i do believe God has a sense of humor…otherwise i would have been struck by a bolt of lightening long ago…

    BTW/aside: an old saw say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell HIM/HER your plans…”

    stanley seigler

  21. stanley seigler July 15, 2011 at 18:14 #

    LBRB owner,

    i have tried, unsuccessfully, to comment here…am i banned…not important, just wondering…if posts are hung up some where…dont post just delete and advise…thanks…

    stanley seigler

  22. Chris July 20, 2011 at 10:03 #

    stanley seigler:

    i have tried, unsuccessfully, to comment here…am i banned

    Wow! That is amazing! Even though you are “banned” most of the comments seem to be from you.

    That is some major comment mojo!

    Could you teach us how to get approved comments where we are actually “banned” like at Age of Autism. If you are banned here but have several posts available for viewing… then you know exactly how we can do the same at Age of Autism.

    • Sullivan July 20, 2011 at 19:35 #

      Chris,

      after Stanley wrote that, I went through the spam filter and approved a bunch of his comments.

  23. Chris July 20, 2011 at 21:03 #

    Oh, sorry.

    (still recovering from The Amazing Meeting so I have both brain overload and sleep deprivation)

  24. stanley seigler July 20, 2011 at 23:42 #

    [chris say] Could you teach us how to get approved comments where we are actually “banned” like at Age of Autism. If you are banned here but have several posts available for viewing… then you know exactly how we can do the same at Age of Autism

    what the heck as age of autism got to do with posting to LBRB

    BTW

    i stated to LBRB owner [stanley seigler July 15th, 2011 1814]: “if posts are hung up some where…dont post just delete and advise…” so not sure why they were posted…

    perhaps i should ask AoA…and perhaps chris should keep up with posts…

    stanley seigler

  25. Chris July 21, 2011 at 01:30 #

    Mr. Seigler, I am still recovering from a long weekend with very little sleep, which I mostly blame on the hotel’s very noisy air conditioner.

    Though it still stands that Age of Autism does not allow many comments, which is different than this sites spam bucket.

  26. stanley seigler July 21, 2011 at 03:22 #

    [chris say] still recovering from a long weekend with very little sleep, which I mostly blame on the hotel’s very noisy air conditioner.

    sorry to hear about yo AC and lack of sleep…you shouldnt post when you are sleep deprived…

    [chris say] still stands that Age of Autism , etc.

    dont read AOA…so guess that is the reason i dont get the connection to posts here (LBRB) and AOA…

    stanley seigler

  27. Chris July 21, 2011 at 03:58 #

    Mr. Seigler, um, did you notice that a post at Age of Autism is actually the subject of the article at the top of this page? Obviously there is no way that Sullivan’s comments would be published there, so he posted them here.

  28. stanley seigler July 21, 2011 at 16:01 #

    [chris say] um,…

    got it!

    stanley seigler

  29. Chris July 21, 2011 at 17:34 #

    Good, you finally noticed what the article was about!

  30. stanley seigler July 21, 2011 at 21:12 #

    [chris say] Good, you finally noticed what the article was about!

    thanks for the help and i cant blame sleep deprivation…oldzimers maybe…or maybe i was relating to my specific posts and what if any relation they had to AOA…

    andand, i did ask LBRB to delete my posts…

    the result of your sleep deprivation, my oldzimers, is this tit/tat discussion which serves no purpose…and certainly doesn’t contribute to the quality of life for those with special needs…

    the end…and apologies to LBRB for my contribution to the useless comments.

    stanley seigler

  31. Eileen July 30, 2011 at 04:09 #

    I have long worried that Age of Autism would inspire some crazy action, like those people who bomb abortion clinics and kill doctors. The people who run the website seem not to care that they are constantly stirring up people who are under pressure, dealing with grief, and looking for someone to blame. I have been banned from commenting there for asking questions. But I remember one particularly scary thread when they published Paul Offit’s address, and someone wrote that they,”couldn’t wait to send him a Christmas card, he, he, he….” Very creepily threatening. One woman on there told me, after a particular vicious attack I received upon commenting, that I would “see her in my dreams.”
    The people who run that site are part of a cult. They will not allow questioning or new information to change their perspective. They are angry and mean-spirited. It is the kind of Tea-Party conspiracy thinking that promotes violence. The tricky part is they will post a violent comment, and only take it down if it gets attention outside of their site. So, they know the comment is inflammatory but publish it anyway. And this is no accident. We all know how they screen comments. Scary, scary, scary. And the really crazy part is when it comes to vaccines, the science, like the new fraternal twin study citing PREnatal environmental factors, keeps proving them wrong.

    • Sullivan July 30, 2011 at 17:07 #

      Eileen,

      I do worry.

      Here is an example:

      In a podcast on a similar site (the AutismOne site) the commenter discussed how he wants to outlive a certain researcher. The podcaster expressed his wish to actually piss on the grave of the researcher.

      Very troubling.

  32. Chris July 30, 2011 at 05:01 #

    Eileen, you are welcome here!

  33. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. July 30, 2011 at 15:49 #

    Eileen… what Chris said! Plus that your observations about that group are very accurate!

  34. stanley seigler July 30, 2011 at 16:53 #

    [Eileen say] I have been banned from commenting there (AOA) for asking questions…etc

    i hadnt seen the need for all the condemnation of AOA (dont read aoa)…THANKS to eileen i now do.

    stanley seigler

  35. Eileen July 30, 2011 at 17:28 #

    Sullivan,

    Scary indeed! What amazes me is the people who run Age of Autism are clever, and know how to contain their own comments, but inspire their less savvy to say crazy stuff. Unfortunately in the age of Google, it doesn’t take much for crazy people to find each other and become emboldened by their shared anger. As a mom of two girls with autism, I have found that, as with all challenges, some people of kids with issues react with optimism and hope, and others react with anger and vitriol. I read a quote once, “Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it.” Maybe it’s a hokey quote, but it’s true.
    I really worry that it is just a matter of time before one of the disciples of JB Handley does something terrible. And to think all of their anger is built on falsehoods.
    Can you even imagine being the child of one of their more angry followers and being routinely described as damaged and injured. Can you imagine how it feels to know that you, as the child, are the reason for all that anger and misery? Sad, sad, sad.

  36. usethebrainsgodgiveyou July 30, 2011 at 19:11 #

    Man…I don’t recognize this religion stuff when it’s put in the minds of some.

    My mama is a sweet little old lady, married to a bartender, who could probably count the Sundays she’s missed mass on one hand. Half the time she was probably in the hospital having kids.

    They give religion a bad name.

  37. Mona Albano August 10, 2011 at 20:15 #

    This is particularly sad since there’s more and more evidence that autism comes from genetic abnormalities in the number of repeated copies of certain genes, so the ill-wisher is invoking a curse of the parents who provided the genes!

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