Here is another great quote from John Swinton's book, Resurrecting the Person. He writes,
The task of a liberating church is to reveal signs and pointers to remind the
world that the way it is, is not the way it should be, and that loving "the outsider" is not an act of charity, or a function of "specialist ministries," but is, in fact, a "new" way of being human. In remembering God's actions in history and in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the Christian community is drawn into a new way of living and seeing the world. This way refuses to forget the pain of the oppressed, or the degradation of those who are excluded and fragmented by the types of social forces that seek to provide a picture of "normality" that bears little resemblance to the coming kingdom. Such a community embodies the fact that God has not forgotten the world (pp 125-126).
Normality bears little resemblance to the coming kingdom. Whatever that definition of normality might be. Whether it be...
normality in terms of race
(is your church all one color of people) or
normality of socio-economic status
(is your church largely upper middle class people) or
normality of intelligence
(is your church all educated people), or
normality of social skills
(is your church all people with good social skills), or
normality of reality
(is your church devoid of people with mental illness), or
normality of ability
(is your church lacking people with various disabilities).
The only normality that should be present within the church is a normality of desiring to follow Jesus Christ to the degree you are able to understand it. If that were truly our bottom line, then Christian churches might look a whole lot different then then currently do.
Normality is also reflected in our church structures. How else could you have the major weekly meeting of the church be something that is so social skill intensive. Our structures not only reflect normality they then enforce normality, in a relatively constrained way (see "Don't taze me bro" blog entry). That is, it doesn't take much in terms of difference for you to stand out in a church, it seems. And we should not embrace that, we should reject that. Openness to differences in people should be a characteristic of the Christian church. If we were what we should be, we would be so counter culture that we might risk persecution and death on a cross.
When it comes to people with various differences, various disabilities, to what degree does the church show the world how it "should be" not just reflect the way it is. It is sad that even our attempts at being what we perhaps should be, are attempts to copy the secular world (inclusion for example). We could be so much more creative, so much more giving, so much more inclusive, so much more radical in our loving approach. In reality, however, in many ways we lag behind the programs (like inclusion) that the world offers.
A bit more from Swinton,
The church is a community of friends that is charged with the task of reminding people with mental health problems that God has not forgotten them, and reminding those who would oppress them, wittingly or unwittingly, that God is with and for those whom they reject and marginalize (p. 126).