"Did you see that Amy was open under the basket?"
He said, "Yeah."
I asked, "Then why didn't you throw the ball to her?"
He replied very matter-of-factly, "I don't pass to girls."
"You don't pass to girls?"
"No, I don't pass to girls."
I responded, "Well we have a place for players who don't pass to girls.
It's called the bench."
Shortly after that interaction, probably before the end of the first half, he went back in the game and started to pass to the one girl on our team.
I believe there is a lesson here for us. In the game of YMCA basketball, you can pass to girls, or you can sit on the bench.
Fast forward 10 years. I had a conversation with a pastor who related that some of the people in leadership in the church, particularly people in leadership of small Bible study groups felt uncomfortable with people in their Bible study groups who were disabled, or didn't have perfect social skills. He wondered what he should do? I think the question was perhaps related to how he might limit the numbers of disabled people in a group, or change disabled person involvement in such a way that the leader didn't feel so uncomfortable. My response was that basically if you are a leader who can't handle disabled people, you probably shouldn't be a leader. You don't pass to girls, you get benched from the basketball game. You don't accept people with disabilities, you are disqualified from the leadership, you are benched.
Here is a further example.
OK, pick an ethnic/racial group, any ethnic/racial group. Imagine your leader coming to you and saying, "I don't like people from this particular ethnic/racial group in my Bible study." Your response would be:
a. "Yeah, I don't like those kinds of people either"
b. "You are benched"
Sure we could add another potential answer, like, we will provide you training before we put you in a position of leadership, or help you to get to know people, or whatever. That could be another option. But basically, the only responses are "a" or "b."
You might say, "But it is different if the people are disabled." I might even agree somewhat. There is no reason for people with profound mental retardation to be in the Bible study group. But anyone who has the potential to understand even minimal levels of the content should be there. Anyone who would benefit from the social aspects of the interactions could be there as well. But social skill deficits are not a reason for excluding involvement. Particularly if they are minor.
Unfortunately, the Christian church's response has too often been "a." Look at the involvement of people with disabilities in churches, look at the involvement of people with disabilities in Chrisitan schools, look at the lack of information shared about disability on Christian colleges, in departments of Christian ministry, in seminaries, look at the lack of sermons on disability that have been shared from the pulpit, look at the number of ministries to persons with disabilties at churches.
Matthew 23:23 says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.""Yeah, I don't like those kinds of people either"
Apparently, that is a statement some church leaders would attribute to Jesus Christ...
I think he would tell the leaders,