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

Friday, February 11, 2005

An Epiphany?

Epiphany: A spiritual event in which the essence of a given object of
manifestation appears to be the subject, as in a sudden flash of recognition
(The American Heritage Dictionary).

Epiphany? Maybe not. However, I did come to realize something the other day. One would think that the church would represent the comunity in which it finds itself. the church taken as a whole, say all the churches in the City of Redlands, California where I live, should reflect the entire community, but individual churches may not represent the community at all. That is, sadly we have churches which are overwhelmingly white, black, Hispanic or Asian in the ethnicity of the members. We even have churches which separate themselves within the groups. So if I go to a church that is predominatly black, I assume that white people worship somewhere else. If I go to a church that is predominantly Asian, I assume that the Hispanic people worship someplace else. I am used to attending churches which do not represent the community in and of themselves. Why would Christians choose or even want such an option? To me it is disturbing that we as Christians cannot even worship with people of a different ethnicity than ourselves. There is truth to the axiom, that Sunday morning at 11:00 is the most segregated hour of the week. The church will have some explaining to do when it meets its Husband.

However, I guess I assume that there are not very many African American people who attend my church because they go to a different church comprised of mostly African American people. In the same way, the Hispanics attend the Hispanic church, and I guess, the disabled people attend the disabled people church. Perhaps I have the same lack of concern in that I don't worry (or care) about those of a different ethnicity who don't attend my church, as I don't worry about the disabled people.

There are two problems with this assumption. One is that most people with disability do not represent a different culture. They are the same as the rest of us. The other is that there is not a separate church for persons with disability (nor should there be, I believe), so the only option is to include them in the existing churches. I would argue that you should assume that if persons with disability are not in your church, chances are that they aren't anywhere, aren't in any church. Why would your church be any different than any other in this regard?

So all you white, black, Hispanic and Asian churches, if their aren't white, black, Hispanic or Asian persons with disability attending your church, where do you think they are? Chances are they aren't attending any church. Do you care? Even if you do have some persons with disability at your church, do they represent the numbers you might expect in the community? Do you know?

"I tell you the truly, whatever you did not do for one of the least of
these, you did not do for me" (Matthew 25:45)

If you are not doing anything, why would you assume that someone else is?



Gail M. Hernandez said...

I too have noticed how the churches seem to self-segregate, but this tendency seems to be representative of people in general. Looking at the conditions in which people live, neighborhoods seem to be white, black, Hispanic, or Asian. Further divisions occur between the uptown and the downtown; the rich and the poor; the educated and the uneducated, the young and the old. We humans seem to want to classify and separate. I’ve often wondered why we do so, perhaps we just feel more comfortable with the familiar. Perhaps this tendency to self-segregate is not so much a fault of the church, but one of human nature.
This tendency to segregate is reinforced by the current political trend of labeling people. I realize that this is done in an effort to preserve ethnic identify, but it ultimately serves as a divisive force in society. We no longer seem to be bound as Americans, but we have the special interest groups of African-Americans, Asian-American, Hispanic-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Native-Americans, and Caucasian Americans. On a global scale, many countries do not appear to be concerned for the welfare of the human race, but seek advances for their own benefit regardless of the consequences.
The only example of a church (congregation?) that I could recall that seeks to serve individuals with disabilities is the “Deaf” churches. I find it interesting that the disability of being deaf supercedes being white, black, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, educated, or uneducated, etc.
While these self-imposed states of segregation are for the most part are embraced by these populations; the segregation (perhaps exclusion) of individuals with disabilities from the churches that represent these populations is not. Many of the disabled seek to follow the precept found in:
Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the gathering together of ourselves, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much more as ye see the day approaching.”
Jesus commanded us to serve others, setting the example by washing the feet of his disciples.
John 13:13-17 - . "You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them"

Jesus Said: "...Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." Luke 14:23

sharon yang said...

I beg to differ. If you are blessed enough to take courses here at CBU like Globlal Perspectives which prepares missionaries and discusses the world missionary movement from Old Testament times to the present, or if you talk to missionaries (esp. those who are in overseas missions) you realize how much culture plays a major role in hindering or advancing the gospel. For instance, today many missionaries go into the field with western ideas about church (like service should be on Sunday) and do not make an influence on the people they target (like Hindus in India who worship anytime at their temple), because the target group do not understand or value these cultural values. They may also begin to see Christianity as an us vs. them concept. They fear to be Christian is to lose their cultural identity. However, if the missionary reflects about what cultural baggage he is adding to the gospel message and also learns about the culture they are interacting with, they can break down some barriers to the gospel. One sign of a healthy harvest (missionary wise) is that viable indiginous cultural chuches are planted, that is Jesus becomes a part of their culture and how they view their culture (I can be Indian and a Christian). That does not make one big unified world Christian culture. It makes different cultural churches and different ways of presenting the gospel. However, this does not have to contradict Scripture, Paul admits that he had to be flexible about culture when he spoke to the Gentile. He had to distill what was necessary - the basics of the gospel. We will realize that wonderful unified worship of all cultures side by side in Heaven, but not here on earth. I think the deaf do see themselves as a seperate culture and that is o.k. I am not saying that segregation is alright, but if all the churches were healthy and alive then they will be able to have love and respect for other churches and other believers. I go to a church that started out as a Chinese Evangelical church which ministered to immigrants who did not speak English well enough to be incorporated into an American style church. Many of the older people in our church need to have that connection to the Chinese culture, because they have little other connection to their culture in the U.S. Our church also has many non-Asian members, we translate services,

sharon yang said...

Sharon Yang 2~~Sorry, I meant to edit.
Final thoughts now!
Sometimes I see that it could benefit people with disabilities to see them as a culture, but not to segregate them to some special church. One benefit people with disabilities have when they form a group is advocacy. We have seen its influence in social services, it could impact the church too. I suggest that what is most beneficial at the time is the best course of action. If the best way for a learning disabled group to learn the Bible is in special intervention, like a conference, then go for it. If the best benefit is in the church, then go for that too. I do not see segregation of disabled individuals from church as in their best interest.
Maybe the whole problem really is more of a symptom of "blindness" or ignorance or a lack of love by the church. Maybe it is our definition of love, that does not match Christ's definition. Let's face it the American Church in general is not prayerful and has become lazy in many aspects, how we treat others (including the disabled) convicts us.