“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Disability ministry and social skills

In the last month, I have had the opportunity to travel to two places which are quite different when it comes to social skills. In France, I was at times greeted with a kiss on the cheek. In China, I learned a new meaning of "personal space" in that people will get very close to each other, even strangers. It occurred to me, if I kissed a man in China on the cheek, or stood as close to someone in France as people did in China, I would be considered quite strange because of the social customs of each place. There is nothing at all wrong with the social customs in either of these places. If I were to stand close or kiss on the cheek, I am not doing anything wrong...from a moral perspective. However, because of social traditions, I would be very wrong in either place.

Can we make this connection with those with disabilities who do not understand social skills? They are like the French person who kisses the Chinese person on the cheek, or the Chinese person who stand too close to the French person. They have done nothing wrong. They have only carried their tradition of social behavior to a place where the understanding of social behavior is different. As soon as we understand that people are from different places, we will likely forgive the misunderstanding and even enjoy or embrace it. When we go to those places, one of the things we enjoy are the differences in culture we experience. Are we willing to do the same for people who are not from a different culture, but just don't understand the social skill demands of the place where they are?

Social skills are too often the reason why person are excluded or rejected. As stated elsewhere in this blog, we hold to our traditions and reject the command of God to love our neighbor (see this posting on Disability Ministry and Traditions). How refreshing it would be if we were more accepting of others and their differences, particularly those which are simply social skill differences. May God help us to not let small things like social skills get in the way of loving our neighbors.

McNair

Friday, April 05, 2019

Disability as it relates to people, the community and God.

I have been thinking a lot about relationships involving individuals, the community and God. See this link for some of my thoughts. Recently in putting together a sermon on 1 Corinthians 12, the following occurred to me.
"Like the Corinthian church that Paul addresses, we face the same issues of disobedience that they did. We need to look at ourselves in the light of his exhortations. Because we have ignored or excluded individuals with disabilities, we have not become all that the Body of Christ should be. But we actually do not know what we would become if parts of the body that have been excluded were now included.

God in his sovereignty, has created individuals and his church. The way both of those are reflects how he wants them to be. Under his sovereignty, people are the way they are for themselves, for the community and ultimately for God. If someone is rejected because of personal characteristics, this reflects a misunderstanding of people, community and God. It is a threefold mistake. People aren’t able to express their God given purpose. The community or the Body of Christ will never become what it was meant to be, and arguably we are disobedient to God’s sovereign purpose."

I recently heard someone say that rejection of people is a "sin against the Body of Christ." I agree with that, that is how serious it is. This threefold mistake is so basic. It calls so much into question.

McNair

Friday, February 08, 2019

Euthanasia of children with disabilities

From Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger (1976)
"When legalization of euthanasia comes, it will come in the name of six favorite deceptions and disguises. They will say (as I can clearly document) that putting a person to death is good medicine and good science. The second disguise will be mercy, love, humanism and honesty. Thirdly, religion: remember that Satan pretends to be God. This is his favorite disguise at all times. So we will be, and have been, told that it is good Christianity to put people to death. The fourth one is the denial of the value of life, the claim that certain lives are not worthy, perhaps invoking cost-benefit issues. Fifthly, of  course, and maybe the most obvious one, is the denial of humanness of a person and that, therefore, murder will not be murder. Sixthly, euthanasia will be good law. It is essential that we should recognize those six signs, because they have much persuasive power." ( The Prophetic Voice and Presence of Mentally Retarded People in the World today, 1976, p 30).

In all the discussion revolving around the NY, Virginia and Vermont laws, there seems to be the underlying idea that infanticide/euthanasia is particularly ok if a child is born with a disability. Somehow, #5 above is always in play because if someone is disabled their lives are not worth living. It is crazy that the same people who would support the taking of the lives of children with disabilities, claim to support children and adults with disabilities. I wonder how long that will last if we move down the slope of infanticide. If it is ok to murder newborns, why not ok later in life. We have seen in Europe the permission to euthanize children up to age 4 (autism is often not diagnosed till age 30 months or later). Is that the next step that will be advocated in the name of "women's health?"

We all have heard of Roe vs. Wade, but have you heard of Doe vs. Bolton? This is the law that basically permits late term abortions for just about any reason. Don't believe me? Search the law.

"In a Los Angeles Times analysis, David Savage explained: ""[Supreme Court Justice Harry] Blackmun had said that abortion'must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician.' So long as doctors were willing to perform abortions - and clinics soon opened to do so - the court's ruling said they could not be restricted from doing so at least through the first six months of pregnancy." During the final trimester, "It soon became clear that if a patient's 'emotional well-being' was reason enough to justify an abortion, than any abortion could be justified." (https://secure.mccl.org/doe-v-bolton.html more information is available on this website).

Could the "health" of the mother be considered as a reason for infanticide if it is use as a justification for late term abortions? Seems like a logical next step. Mothers will often experience emotional stress at the birth of a child with a disability. Get ready for the horror of the next  likely step.

Please wake up Democrats and Republicans too if it applies to you as well! Do not support this evil.

McNair

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Disability ministry perceptions

So often, when we consider the development of ministry to persons in some way affected by disability, we focus on our perceptions of the situation. We have customary ways of doing things that have become comfortable and ingrained. Then someone comes to us who either cannot or will not participate in those customary practices. During the times when we don't reject them, we tend to think about our perceptions of the situation. What do I need to do? How am I feeling? How can I help these people? It strikes me that although these are good questions to ask ourselves, they only reveal half of the equation.

I wonder what people with autism perceive when they come to church? What do they perceive when they enter a social situation? It would be interesting to begin by trying to understand their perspective.

Imagine someone with a disability, say autism or intellectual disability, riding in a car on the way to church. What are they thinking? As they get out of the car and walk toward the door of the church or the ministry, what are they anticipating will happen or are hoping will happen? As they go into the worship service, do they understand what that is about? When people around them are singing and raising their hands, what do they perceive that activity to be? If we were to explain to them what worship is, would they feel they have worshiped? Do we know the answers to these questions. When the class/ministry/church experience for the day is over, would the person say, "Yes, I received today what I was hoping to receive from my experience at church."

In part, the answer to this question goes to the culture of the church or ministry. If people have different perceptions of the world due to disabilities that impact their intellect, are the activities that impact those without those types of disabilities touching them in the same way?

Take for example something as "intuitive" as friendship. I have a man who is a friend of mine who is autistic. He seems to be constantly always on the lookout for a friend. He will attempt to reach out in friendship to others, people with intellectual disabilities, and although they might respond in a friendly manner, they seem to not be providing what he is after. His perception or understanding of friendship seems in some ways to be different from theirs. And like many people without disabilities, they either don't understand what he is after or are not interested in engaging in the type of completely appropriate relationship that he is seeking.

I think it would do us well in ministry to attempt to understand how those we are seeking to serve perceive us, what we are trying to do, and whether to them, we are being successful. What we learn would not only impact what we do in ministry, but potentially also impact recommendations we would make on how these same individuals might be socialized in their upbringing.

McNair



Monday, January 21, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King and "changing the edifice"

I have been thinking and writing a lot lately about the ways in which the Christian community's culture needs to change in order to better love our neighbors, in particular those with disabilities. In that process, I ran across this amazing quote from Dr. Martin Luther King. He said,

"On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." (“A time to break the silence,” 1967)

I think this is particularly relevant in the context of developing an inclusive church culture. People can be fooled into thinking that the answer to ministry to persons with disabilities is some form of segregated ministry whether it is at the church or in a different place. This is the "haphazard and superficial" approach to disability ministry. We have meetings on days when few people are at church. We have segregated programs for every age group. These make us feel like we are doing something but in reality we are not doing what is needed.

As Dr. King instructed us, we need to change the edifice that causes us to settle for flinging a coin to a beggar. But changing environments, such that the changes that are required are implemented, is exceedingly difficult. This is the hard work of disability ministry. We reflect on how we do things, our traditions, etc. and then seek to change any edifices that cause us to be straight jacketed into "solutions" which may actually exacerbate difficulties for those we are claiming to assist.

Flinging the coin to the beggar won't keep him from living in poverty. Segregated ministries will not cause the church to become what it needs to be if it wants to truly love its neighbor.

McNair