I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21 (NIV)
The Christian world is divided in myriad ways, however, as I look at those endeavoring to develop ministry to persons with disabilities there are arguably 2 groups. There are what might be called the evangelical Christians and those who are the nonevangelical Christians. It is interesting to me how convinced members of each of these groups are that they are right to the exclusion of other Christian groups. I am sure that I am naive, however, if that is what the study of theology brings you to, unrestrained criticism of those with whom you do not agree, then I am pretty sure I want to continue to NOT know the things that those people know. (I would also say that theologians have been a huge disappointment over the years because they will argue over various positions, but they as a group cannot get the most basic of all things, love, right as it applies to loving those with disabilities. I stick to the position that we as a church have largely gotten things wrong from Sunday school to seminary. But I digress). When a Lutheran friend tells me that he is a believer in Jesus Christ, I am good with that. I need not find points of disagreement and discuss them. There is a haughtiness in theological certainty. Every denomination does this. Living near Loma Linda an adventist community, I noted a man driving with a bumper sticker that said "Saturday is the Sabbath, get it right." So lets find the one thing that I might not agree completely on with an adventist Christian, and make that the point of our discussion...I digress again. If I as a special ed professor am haughty and puffed up about what I know about special education, that is one thing. It is wrong for me to be filled with pride about the knowledge I have. However, it is something completely different to be puffed up with knowledge about the things of the Lord.
My point is that I have become aware that there are those in the Evangelical world who are doing wonderful things in disability ministry, and there are those in what might be called the nonevangelical world who are doing wonderful things in disability ministry but the groups are completely disconnected because of theological differences. They are even unaware of each other and this seems silly to me.
A friend of mine, well known in disability ministry circles once said to me, "Lets get the people with disabilities included in churches. Then we can figure out who is right." I couldn't agree more. I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog that Dr. Jean Vanier once told me that the church has been working on the rectitude of doctrine when it should have been working on the rectitude of love. These two sentiments really nail the issue for me. If we truly worked on loving others, we could perhaps get past our theological differences. However, we prefer to argue theological differences and forget about love.
Now don't mistake my position as anti-intellectual. I am a professor for goodness sake. But I am confident that the Lord Jesus would want us to be collaborative in our efforts to love our fellow man, collectively, as the church. Must I ignore the ideas of Henri Nouwen because he was a Catholic Christian and not a Baptist? Must I ignore the wisdom of Joni Eareckson-Tada because she is an evangelical and not a Lutheran?
I once had a pastor of a church I attended, a Church of Christ, who told me that if people were really serious about their faith and studied the scriptures that they would go to the Church of Christ. This has always struck me as the height of pride. It has always stuck with me that many with significant theological education think,
"If people were only serious about their study of God's word, then obviously they would agree with me because I know have studied harder than they, have gained greater insights than they, have a stranglehold on the truth when they do not."Personally, I try hard to walk humbly (Micah 6:8) in issues of theology, because of all the brilliant people, Christian people, I have met in my life who were serious about their faith, really studied the scriptures and came away with different perspectives from one another.
Perhaps the love that must be learned to include people with poor social skills, or love those who make demands on me for my time could be the rallying point that would allow me to get past theological certainty. Perhaps I will release my stranglehold on my perception of the truth long enough to listen to someone else's perspective. Maybe I will learn something if, for example, after growing up in a Baptist home, going to a Baptist school, college and seminary, I listen to the words of a Nazarene Christian who loves the Lord.