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

Monday, February 06, 2006

A "replacement narrative"

A friend and colleague of mine, Arthur Seale and I have been in discussion about the notion of a replacement narrative. That is, a story, a narrative to replace the one which guides people socially in their day to day lives. For the Christian, the replacement narrative is what she/he learns from the Bible. The teachings of the Bible are prescriptive social constructions which in many ways replace the social constructions we were raised to believe by our society. For example, we might have been taught as a child that if someone hits you you hit him back. The biblical replacement narrative would perhaps say you should turn the other cheek.

This notion of a replacement narrative really came home to me this past weekend as our pastor discussed Romans 12. The passage says,
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

I wondered about this in terms of the narrative the church is currently working under relative to persons with disabilities. I hate to say it, but in many ways, the society reflects more of a biblical construction of disability than the church does. However, generally we do have a lot to offer the world, and we must not conform to the patterns of this world but renew our minds.

To what extent does the church reflect or contribute to negative social constructions of persons with disabilities, and, I would argue move away from a truly biblical narrative about who people with disabilities are and Christians and the Christian church's responsibility towards them? I even wonder at times whether the church knows what the biblical replacement narrative about disability is.

Anyway, that is what Arthur and I are chewing on. Your input is invited.



knowusbyourlove said...

We have put some thought into what the church's "narrative" currently is. In the area of the U.S. which we live in, which is the South, churchs' narratives unfortunately reflect the world's narratives.The church responds in several ways. A church body may not recognize that there are people who have disabilities and thus not intentionally reach out, minister to and "present every man complete in Christ" including those with disabilities. Maybe this is why their are 41 million people in the U.S. who have disabilities and 27 million do not attend church. At best, here in the deep South, the church has taken up the world's narrative which views people who have disabilities as objects of charity and not real human beings who need Christ, can receive ministry and can be equipped for ministry. Often times when the church espouses this view, they adopt the worlds model of interacting with those who have disabilities by providing "minisrties" to those who have disabilities. Unfortunately, these "ministries" are based on a segregated model. Many of those with disabilities accept this model thinking "nothing is better than something."

Personally, we think that the church here in the south is missing it. They have adopted the world's view of those with disabilities and not Christ's. We do not see where Christ supports not reaching out to those with disabilities. We do not see where Christ supports segregation of those with disabilities in the church and its functions. Christ calls us to reachout, to minister and to be equipped for every good work and that means people who have disabilities too. Christ calls us to unity and that includes reaching out to and with and by those who have disabilities. It includes ministering to and with and by those who have disabilities. It includes being equipped with and by those with disabilities.

We believe that the church has taken its narrative from how the world responds to those who have disabilities and that is either with advoidance or segregation. Our school systems in the south do this. Our recreational facilities go by this model and so do our businesses. The church has followed suit.

It is our hope that the church will reach out and not avoid, desire unity and not "divisions" by intentionally calling its members to reachout to those who have disabilities and to allow for "built in" supports so that people who have disabilities can worship,be equipped and minister to those around them as well.

impossibleape said...

Hi knowus
Your comment is right on.

A new model may lead to a new experience of God in our chuches and our society.

Churches actually acting like the unaborted among us do matter would be a good start for any pro-life conservative congregation.

impossibleape said...

HI Jeff
You said;
"I even wonder at times whether the church knows what the biblical replacement narrative about disability is."
This really struck me. I am a father of two children with Fragile X syndrom. I have been struggling to know what God thinks of us and have had virtually no help from the churches we attended.

What is this narrative as far as the evqangelical church is concerned? Is it enunciated in a book? Can you link me to resources where this is explained?
Are there such resources? Are these resources ready to be disseminated to pastors and congregtions because where I am there is precious little to help us make sense of the call to suffering placed on our family.
In the Catholic world Jean Vanier has done a wondeful job in comforting us but we wonder where is the evangelical church in this matter?
My commentaries on


are an attempt to make a place for my children, and children like them the world over, in the Kingdom of God.

The Editor in Chief said...

I think that is part of the problem, isn't it. Our narrative should be informed by the Bible. That is where we learn revealed truth, truth we probably wouldn't know otherwise. For example, I wouldn't know that I was created in God's image unless he told me so. The Bible is the narrative upon which we base our lives. However, there is much mis understanding about what the Bible says on some issues. My hope is that those with theological training and knowledge would help us to understand what our narrative teaches us, tells us about what the truth is. Without that assistance, we end up with a lot of confusion. Yes, Vanier has contributed to that understanding as have others. But there is still much that could be fleshed out by a discussion among Christian theological leaders. Perhaps they could provide answers which would help to guide churches to creat programs, or provide counseling to parents, or help persons themselves who are experiencing disability to come to grips with what is happening in their lives.

impossibleape said...

Hi Jeff

What do we evangelicals make of the old testament's insistence upon a perfect sacrtfice and the exclusion of anyone with a deformity from ministering in the temple?

What of the 'faith crowd' who say that God always answers faith filled prayers and that nothing but the 'saved, healed and delivered' can be of God's Kingdom?

So much of the tradition we ascribe to can make the different and the diseased a category of people who are under God's judgement and who are often treated like the lepers of another era.

If the church was forced to really think about what their theology infers about most of humanity it might have to reconsider some of its unthinking reactions and attitudes towards those who are forced to live in a real world that doesn't match up to the 'saved, healed and delivered' narrative.

Anonymous said...

Before taking your class I can honestly say the idea of how the church viewed the disabled really had not been an area I gave much thought at all. I would have never denied a family, child or adult simply because they had a disability or a family member with one. I know I always made a place for them and tried to reach them where they were at. But I wasn't ready and expecting them to come. I wasn't purposfully seeking to evangelize those with disability. In many ways I suppose I saw them as someone I could help, but this is really a belief that I am somehow superior, which is not what I truly believe and yet it is what I was showing by my actions. At best I would say that I need a total renewing of my mind in this area to not see people with disablilities as a ministry but as Jesus sees them which is as souls worthy of a life in eternity with him. He died for all of us and His desire is that non would perish without the knowledge of who He is. I have this truth and I need to purposfully evangelize all people and that requires that I seek to find those that do not know and share the gospel truth with them. Thanks for an eye opening class.