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

Monday, October 02, 2017

"Guard dogs who cannot bark"

Dr. Timothy S. Laniak's While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks: Forty daily reflections on Biblical leadership is a wonderful resource, using the world of shepherding as the metaphor for understanding leadership. One of the reflections I particularly liked is entitled "Dogs." Here is an excerpt from that section which is particularly relevant to our work in facilitating the inclusion of persons with disabilities in local churches.  It begins by quoting Isaiah 56:10.

Isaiah 56:10 "Israel's watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark."

"Israel's watchmen are "all mute dogs that cannot bark." While the prophet's condemnation of a particular generation of leaders is negative, he presumes a positive role for spiritual watchdogs. Perhaps Isaiah had in mind the ruling elite here, but the metaphor of a guard is especially suited to prophets. Ezekiel, for example was appointed explicitly as a "watchman for the house of Israel." Prophets were heralds of coming judgment, sounding an alarm when the community drifted from its covenant obligations. They "barked" when they sensed danger. Though typically unpopular, prophets told the truth about the present and the future. In contrast, false prophets were more interested in popularity and superficial peacekeeping. They slept while danger approached.
...I've reflected often about the marginal role of prophetic watchdogs, perhaps because I've found myself sounding a continuous warning that others decided was misplaced. They saw peace and I saw trouble. But I've also ignored dogs whose warnings were grounded in irrefutable facts; the truth was just too inconvenient. God gifts the church with prophets who "see what's coming," but I'm afraid the majority of us resist the caution and tire of the incessant yapping. History has exposed a church slow in responding to warnings about racism and materialism, to name just two threats.
...Has God called us to make noise about a specific issue? Has our intensity waned because of a growing reputation that we bark too much? The destiny of a prophet is to sound the alarm when necessary, and for as long as necessary. Often alone... The community cannot be left with...guard dogs who cannot bark." (p. 147-149)

Partners in ministry, many of us have been "barking" for a LONG time. For myself it seems like almost every conversation I find myself in somehow revolves into a discussion of the critical place of persons with impairments in the church and community and how they have experienced exclusion. I am confident people tire of me and that subject. But that's ok. I am responsible for my "bark" as are you. To be satisfied with the way things are when you see they are not as they should be, is to be in need of being awakened to the injustice. Have you ever wondered why you see the injustice when others do not? That question alone should make you pause. Why do you see it? I am confident that you see it because you are called to attempt to do something about what has been revealed to you. Please don't tire of your work! Keep barking!!


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Christian model of disability

People will at times attempt to understand what disability is through the construction of models. One hears of the medical or individual model, the social model or the moral model, each of which tries to explain or understand what disability is. As I have thought of these models in concert with what the Bible says about people in general and those who are devalued in some way by society because of characteristics such as impairment or disability, I have wondered what a Christian model might entail. I plan to unpack this much more, probably in the form of an article at some point soon, but I thought I would share my current thinking hoping to perhaps get some feedback from others who have been thinking about these issues. So here is my first stab at what might be called "A Christian model of disability."

A Christian model of disability  - all scripture applies to all people
There might be 5 general aspects to be considered.
  1. The individual with impairments in relation to God
    1. Created in His image (Genesis 1:26)
    2. In need of salvation (Romans 3)
    3. Not the result of personal sin (John 9:3-5)
    4. Not the result of a lack of faith (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
    5. Complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
  2. The individual with impairments in relation to themselves
    1. Created with a purpose (Exodus 4:11)
    2. Specifically created (Psalm 139:13)
    3. Evidence of the works of God (John 9:3-5)
  3. The individual with impairments in relation to the community
    1. Indispensable and worthy of special honor (1 Corinthians 12: 22-26)
    2. God’s sovereignty for the community (1 Corinthians 12:18)
    3. Reveals neighbors (Luke 10:25-37)
    4. Reveals lack of understanding (James 2:1)
    5. To whom much is given (Luke 12:48)
  4. The community in relation to God
    1. God’s sovereignty for the community (1 Corinthians 12:18)
    2. No favoritism (James 2:1)
    3. Reveals wrong traditions (Mark 7:8 & 13)
  5. The community in relation with itself
    1. The Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)
    2. Love your neighbor (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
    3. Greatest commandments (Luke 10:27)
    4. Who is not my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)
Conclusions based upon the above and other passages might be...
So the individual is…
´ Created in the image of God
´ Created with a purpose
´ As they are that the works of God might be seen
´ Impairments not the result of personal sin
´ Impairments not due to a lack of faith
´ Complete in Christ
´ Seems weaker but actually indispensable
´ Thought less honorable but actually worthy of special honor
´ Reveals character of those around
So the community…
´ The Body of Christ is God’s design for people
´ People are the way they are under the sovereignty of God for both themselves and for the community
´ Within the Body of Christ there should be no favoritism shown to one group or person over another
´ If the community truly was as it should be, disability would be very different
´ Inside or outside of the Christian community, everyone is a neighbor
´ Should focus on relationships over programs
So God…
´ Is love and loves people
´ Has purpose in disability
´ God makes people “deaf, dumb or blind”
´ Additionally, because God is all powerful, he either causes or permits disability
´ God may heal people, however, it is related to his sovereign purpose, not to someone’s faith
´ Promises his grace and that it will be sufficient in difficult times

´ Reveals things about himself through disability, eg. His power is made perfect in weakness

Thanks for looking this over. As stated, any input would be gratefully received.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Disability ministry may trump other aspects of ministry

I met with a dear friend and colleague, Dr. Chris Chun yesterday. We were discussing a variety of topics when we landed on a discussion of disability ministry. As the parent of a beautiful daughter who also experiences a disability, Chris said that for his family, one of the most important if not the most important criteria for choosing a church for his family was whether there was the desire to include his daughter. That might begin with a disability ministry. Of course solid preaching and teaching are critical as is the ability to be in small groups, etc. But these things being somewhat equal across many churches, the aspect of a church life and ministry that trumps all else for many families like Chris', is the presence of persons with disabilities being served by and included in ministry.

This is the kind of observation that should cause churches and church leaders to pause. In America, nearly 20% of the population experiences some form of impairment. If you have this large a group of people (which is even larger when you consider the families of such folks) who might agree that disability ministry trumps other forms of ministry, you would think the desire to promote such ministry should move to be a significant priority.

Over the years, the pastors of my church have often told me of how often families who chose to attend Trinity Church came because of our desire to include people with disabilities or be in a church that includes persons with disabilities. Even folks of other religions, like Mormons, will at times send their family members to our church because of the opportunities presented there. People can be desperate for a place where their family member is included, loved and taught the things of the Lord. Unfortunately, that is something that is to often difficult for families to find. But when it is found, it is a truly beautiful thing!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Radically normal

We regularly have folks visit our Light & Power class which includes adults with disabilities. Recently a friend visited from Canada. After attending the class and then interviewing some class members, he indicated that there was something different about the way we did things.

 I asked, “What did you observe that was different?”
He thought a moment and then responded, “Light & Power is radically normal. People are treated and interacted with like any other adult would be interacted with.”

I embrace that characterization. Many ministries look far from normal in terms of interactions among adults. But the question to ask is, “Does this reflect who adults with disabilities actually are, or are we projecting on them who we perceive them to be?” You see, the lack of typical interactions is probably a reflection of misunderstanding of who people with disabilities are.

If I had a son and raised him to act in an immature manner, that is how he would act. That is, if the culture around a person consistently and persistently indoctrinates a person to be a certain way, they will likely reflect that programmed outcome, whether that outcome is positive, appropriate or desirable.  I would argue that our culture almost relentlessly socializes people, particularly people with intellectual disabilities to be a particular way which is not necessarily a desirable way. When people then become who we have socialized them to be, we then say that is who they always were, not who they were socialized into becoming. If we believe that, then people can be socialized into becoming something different. Adults with intellectual disabilities, for example, needn’t behave or be treated in a juvenile, age inappropriate manner. Once again, if this is the case, it once again reflects the biases or perceptions of the socializer not who the people themselves were.

So who are you socializing persons with disabilities to be?
How are you socializing the social environment to be toward persons with disabilities?
Are you reinforcing the idea that persons with disabilities are somehow different than other people?
Are we reinforcing that persons with disabilities are so different that we cannot help but reinforce these perceived differences?

No, my friend. We need to be radically normal in our interactions with persons with disabilities. Don’t support the pejorative perceptions about who people are that society tries to indoctrinate us into believing. Romans 12:2 really applies here.

Step back and reflect and you may need to renew your mind.

Monday, July 17, 2017

360' Video of lesson 8 from The Light & Power curriculum

I have long wanted to do a video of a lesson from our Light & Power company where you could view the whole class during the lesson. In that way, you would see not just what the teacher is doing, but the class as well. With the help of my son, we recently did a 360' video of a lesson. If you are unfamiliar with 360' video, that means that on your computer, you can move the perspective that you see to view anyplace in the room. If you have the youtube app on your phone, you can move it around to see the entire room as if you were there. The quality of the video is a bit lacking as you will see, but it still gives you a feel for what our class is like.

The video is of Lesson 8 which is entitled, "Praying for other people." Here is the link should you want to check it out!

Lessons from The Light & Power Company: Lesson 8 Praying for other people

I have also added the link under "video links" at the right.