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


Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Am I a part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?"

In the song "Clocks" the band Coldplay asks the question,
Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?
These are truly relevant questions for those of us in disability ministry to ask ourselves. The social consequences of disability are brutal. They are pervasive. We may be unaware of them unless we experience something like a disability that causes society to devalue us. Parents will have a child with a disability and suddenly experience what I call in my book Meowoof "the grumble" and wonder why they had never experienced or heard of it before. It was always there, even in they themselves. But they were unaware.

As an aspect of disability ministry we must become aware of these things. We must also be aware of the the way the traditions of our churches can also contribute to social devaluation.

I have seen ministries to persons with disabilities which are truly part of the the disease.
The disease of the grumble.
The disease of devaluation.
The disease of unwillingness to change.
The disease totally misunderstanding who persons with disabilities are, their value, their giftedness, how we as the Body of Christ desperately need then. And how we desperately need them with us, next to us physically and socially.

If I participate in the grumble, I am part of the disease.
If I participate in any form of devaluation, like age inappropriateness, I am part of the disease.
If I am unwilling to change church traditions in order that devalued people can have access,, then I am part of the disease.
If I refuse to change personally so that people with disabilities can have friendships, can make demands on me to love them, then I am part of the disease.
If I refuse to find and provide opportunities for the expression of gifts of severely disabled people, then I am part of the disease.
If I segregate people, I am part of the disease.

I could go on and on with this.

Ministry leader, reflect on what you are doing! I have often done this and saw how I have been a part of the disease I claim to be curing.

McNair

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Preventing speech about the beauty of people with Down Syndrome

A dear friend from Australia, among others, made me aware of a video apparently banned on French TV. It was actually just a TV commercial. It illustrates the suppression of speech that we see growing in a variety of places around the world. But in this case, it has to do with keeping people from seeing the the beautiful lives of persons with Down Syndrome.

Repression of speech has blossomed in the US in universities where the notion of an exchange of ideas is desperately being put down by liberal elitists. Either they are blind to the complete hypocrisy of what they are doing, or more likely, they know exactly what they are doing. For example at conferences which I have attended, liberal faculty will actually say there is no tenable alternative perspective to the one they are purveying. Clearly if they are university trained, you would think they would obviously know better than to say something so stupid. However, it could be that BECAUSE they are university trained that they are so unreflectively and mind numbingly foolish.

Independent of your political persuasions, you must admit that we see this reaction in the response to the election of the US president. If you voted for the winner, many opponents consider you deplorable, among other vindictives because clearly there is only one perspective on any issue and that is the one that held by detractors. So the detractor's response is to tantrum because they have lost the ability to understand that there are a variety of ideas and independent of how hard they believe something, not everyone agrees with them. I am not always right. But when people indicate that they do not agree with me, I throw myself on the floor and flail around like a child.

If I am an adult, however, with as open a mind as I claim to have, I am willing to allow others to hold and express their perspectives. But others unfortunately will not allow me to hold or express my perspectives on these issues.

So as in the commercial mentioned above, go ahead liberal, pro abortion supporters in France. Publicize your desire to terminate the lives of anyone for that matter, who is different from you and advocate for not causing remorse in anyone who you convinced to do something that was evil. Go ahead. That is your right. But then allow me to show you what you have done through the evil that you have propagated ONLY by showing the beauty of the lives you have NOT successfully terminated.  In your rabid foolishness you have destroyed something beautiful. I will not curse you. I will only attempt to direct your eyes to the beauty that might have been there but isn't because of your misguided actions. But even THAT is not permitted.

Truth is not what these people are after. 

They are only interested in forcing an arguably immoral position that they cling to like a drug addict to his needle.

McNair

Link to video

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Meowoof A new book by Jeff McNair

Meowoof is a new book from Jeff McNair. It would be great to give to a young person who feels different in some way, someone with a disability, or parents of a child with a disability. It is juvenile fiction so it is easy reading and fun. But there are very deep ideas behind the engaging story. Great also for a discussion group interested in discussing differences in people.
Here is the description that goes with the book.

Meowoof invites you into a world of dogs! Of course it is filled with licking, sniffing, biting and chasing. It is no doubt a fun and amusing place to visit. But life is not without its challenges. 


Barney, a beagle, and his mate Inky, a dachshund are just a young couple looking to start a family and live a typical life. But there is something unusual about one of their pups. He is like no pup they or any other dogs have ever seen before. Skip and Rosie, friends of the family do their best to support them as does His Howliness, the leader of the Moon Howlers, but they are up against attitudes deeply held by doggy society. Barney and Inky find out how those around can change when someone is not like everyone else. Those who understand the experience of being different will fearfully whisper about how dogs are taken over by the Grumble, an evil living inside of everyone. How does one battle against something everyone has inside of them? Dogs like Skip and His Howliness refuse to be put off by differences in others and will bear their teeth and fight the Grumble. But the Grumble is not that easily defeated. 


What is it to be different? What happens to you and those around you when you are not like everyone else? You are different. In a truly unique way, Meowoof begins a story about those who are different and what their lives are like.  
  • If you are a little different you will see yourself in this story. 
  • If you love someone who is different, you will more fully understand your experience. 
  • And, if you struggle with those who are different, perhaps you will begin to understand why.

You can soon purchase Meowoof at Createspace by clicking on this line.
Or you can purchase it at Amazon.com by clicking on this line.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Fear of Dissidents

One of my favorite books by Jean Vanier is Becoming Human. It is great book for anyone to read, not just those interested in disability or disability ministry. It is just as the title implies. It is a book about what it means to be human. When discussing the movement from exclusion to inclusion, Vanier has a section called "Fear of Dissidents." Let me provide a few quotes from this section.
There has always been a fear of the dissident, that is to say, of the one who seems to threaten the existing order. Those who fear the dissident are those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of that order; frequently, money and power, or the need to control others and to feel superior to them, are at the root of such interests (p 74).
The dissident can also challenge comfort and tradition. These are also power bases of a different sort which can be extremely difficult to change.
It is the nature of power to resist change... (p 74)
Change is clearly what we are after. Cultural change within the church. As I have mentioned in the past in this blog, Foucault, the philosopher, has stated that when you experience resistance, it implies that power is being expressed. Power can be expressed from bottom to top and from top to bottom. The resistance we sometimes feel in church leadership is clearly evidence of power attempting to be expressed from the bottom (see The Power of Those Who Seem Weaker article).
There is a deeper issue here, beyond the self-aggrandizement of the powerful. Leaders consider themselves as generally in the right. It is part of the paradigm we have  created: if you have succeeded in making your way to the top, then, by definition, by the law of natural selection, the values for which you stand have been authenticated (p 74).
The path to this leadership also did not include information that those with disabilities would desire to be present in the place the leader would be occupying, the local church. Because there was little to no training in this area, they are even more confident that they are right!
The only point to be made about all this is that it is important for leaders to listen to dissent and try to understand where it is coming from and what is true in it. If history teaches us nothing else, it is that power is borrowed...The principle at issue is the temporary nature of power, and the necessity of service and humility, the necessity of seeing what truth is being cried out in an act of protest ( p 75).
Oh that the Lord would give our leaders the wisdom to consider the dissident within their church. This is a bold statement, but I am positive that the desire we dissent from the church about, our desire to see devalued individuals included and valued is clearly the heart of God on this issue. We will not someday change from our dissenting position to a position of exclusion. But we should expect those in leadership to one day be among the dissenters.

McNair

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Follow up on "How disability ministry could cause a change in human services."

I was thinking some more about the previous post on the impact disability ministry could have on human services.

The more that the church gets into the lives of people with disabilities, particularly those with more severe disabilities who live in residential settings, a variety of things could happen. The first thing is that churches could bump up against the perceived regulations covering these facilities, get frustrated with their lack of access and then give up. From my experience, that is something that could happen. Community members who endeavor to form relationships with people under the care of the state are not always welcomed with open arms. If one is allowed access, there is a feeling that you are up to something no good. There is also a worry about what you might see and to whom you might reveal what you have seen.
We had a situation once where there was something a bit disconcerting which occurred at a home. We didn't say anything to anyone, but somehow word got out about it and the agency which regulated the group home confronted them about what had happened. The owner of the group home accused us of telling the regulating agency about them and for the next almost year, residents were not permitted to go to church. As I relate in the Sherlock Holmes post the folks who lived in the home, once again they were people with quite severe intellectual disabilities were taught the phrase, "We are taking a break from church." So, you bump up against human services and they restrict church attendance of their residents.

So the second lesson is that we need to be serious about our desire to include people in relationships and then be persistent in attempting to facilitate the changes needed for residents to experience community integration. We are moving from being complicit in large scale social isolation to wanting to facilitate true community integration. No wonder our motives might be questioned. We have not been interested in those folks for a very long time and our change in interest can be misunderstood. So we need to be at homes, regularly, so that we can become known. As prove we are trustworthy, we can then move toward social integration via relationships with real, unpaid, community members.

Perhaps a third lesson if we are unsuccessful in our efforts is to work in some areas of human services ourselves. That is, perhaps we can develop homes people can live in. I know Christian parents who are desperately looking for Christian alternatives where there is the freedom to attend church. Perhaps we can facilitate vocational training and placement with businesses represented by the people who attend church. Perhaps we can facilitate opportunities for service for persons who are friendly and would make great companions but end up either at home all day or in adult day care settings where their lives might be wasted. In a future posting I will describe efforts I am pursuing to develop a certificate in Christian service for adults with disabilities. But rather than relying exclusively on government programs, perhaps we might develop better programs to both serve our community and reflect a Christian perspective.

There are more avenues which might be pursued. Let's keep thinking. Things as they are are not great. There is much room for innovative thinking and the offering of alternatives which could be significantly better for all.

McNair