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


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words

Yesterday, I had a very important meeting with some governmental officials regarding church/disability issues. As I always do when I have things I am concerned about in my life, I took my concerns to my church for prayer. In particular, I take my requests for prayer to our Light & Power group, a group which includes people with various disabilities.

As you look at the picture above, you see a man in need surrounded by loving, caring people who are lifting him up in prayer. It is a powerful image. I could just leave you with that image as what you see is really all that is important. But because I am trying to facilitate the inclusion of devalued people into the church, I will tell you that the tall man in the midst of the group is me. I am not a devalued person by the world's standards. By the world's standards, I might be considered successful because I am educated, have a career and have a home and family.

The people around me have experienced discrimination on a variety of levels because of a characteristic they have that society devalues. They would each be considered "disabled" by society. But look at the picture. Who is in need and who is ministering to the need? Do these characteristics matter in any way when people go before the Lord in prayer? They are blessing, encouraging, benefitting me. I am submitting to their ministry.

These kinds of images need to be more prevalent within the church. If people devalued by society because of a characteristic called disability are not contributing to the edification of others, it is probably because they have not been given the opportunity to do so.

It is our discrimination that distances them.
It is our discrimination that always puts them in the position of being recipients of ministry.
We are the same. To see us as different is not to see them as they are in the picture. It is a contrivance.

McNair

14 comments:

Jordan V said...

This is a really convicting message. In my job I have been trained to refer to my work as "providing services". In many ways this is true but a big part the "provision" is because people are not being invited to serve themselves and the community around them.

In recent years we have changed our language in reference to the consumers of our services from "client" to "participant". Change in terminolgy is one thing but realising a comunity where everyone is invited and expected to participate is another.

Thank you for the encouraging picture.

Jeff McNair said...

I really like the connotations of referring to people as participants, in all forms of "programs".

Richard Moore said...

Wow what a picture. Thanks for submitting to receiving from this group of people what only they could give. I have also received more than I deserve as well when I am surrounded by those the world calls disabled. Thanks for the picture it is real touching.

sam said...

this maybe a little off topic but I think it has some relavance here. Last sunday morning(5/15) I was in the Dallas airprot. I was standing in line with my brother and sister-in-law. When a women with down syndrome, probably in her late twenties walked past. she was standing in line with who I assume was her father, waiting patiently for her ticket to be taken by the attendant. I have worked with children with severe disabilities for the past four years, when i encounter people with disabilities in the public setting I try and ignore them. Not in a disrespectful way, rather treating them the same as I would anyone else in that setting. By not treating them as an "other", by not stareing at them as if there differnt, and going on about my buisness.So When I saw this young women I thought nothing of it and turned to my brother and sister -in- law. Both were staring very intently at the girl. I mentioned to them to stop. when my brother said something that stunned me " shes very well behaved for a person like that". like she was incapable beacuse she had a disability.This coming from a man who is incrediably open and excepting. I began thinking the only differance between he an I was that he really had'nt spent any time with people with intellectual disabilities. Here in lies the problem, people are afraid or mystified by what they dont understand. There needs to be interactions between all people, of all differnt ability and cultural backgrounds. With this interaction we can then begin to see people as they are. As people just like us, looking for there own quite place in the world of exceptence and love.

Anonymous said...

This point of view is so important as it is crucial in the effort towards spreading tolerance and equality for people with disabilities. People with disabilities have feelings, fears, and talents just as their non-disabled peers do and they deserve to be as much as apart of their home churches as anyone else. From a person’s viewpoint that has never been to your church this photo helps to demonstrate that when people with disabilities are included in prayer everyone benefits. Churches that promote the incorporation of people with disabilities in their groups sponsor confidence, a greater relationship with God, and an overall contentment that they may have never received if not for the church.

It is obvious to see that in this Light and Power group of people with disabilities are seen as much more than disabled and they have a lot to contribute to their community. This heartening picture spreads the message that people with disabilities benefit from their participation in the church as their non-disabled peers do through prayer and empathy. This photo shows disabled church members lifting up a child of God in need and that must instill a sense of pride in reference to their abilities. It is obvious the individuals pictured are certainly not devalued members of their home church and are in fact the opposite.

Anonymous said...

I have not met any of the people in this picture but when I looked at the photo I became emotional. It is an amazing and inspiring visual. In the eyes of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ, we are all equal. What you are accomplishing in the church with your disability ministry is allowing those with disabilities to feel at home, judgment free, and access to the Word of God in a way that they are able to learn and understand. The problem is that people are weary or afraid of what they don’t know or haven’t been around. Having a disability ministry in church will allow disabled with non disabled persons to interact and I believe will help close the gap a little. Thank you for the work you are doing. I am truly blessed to have seen this picture and read this post. I am a better person because of it.

gabbyrodriguez_cbu said...

Dr.McNair,
People say all the time (in any situation) "I could have cried over your story" and I must say that to you with no exaggeration. Pictures from WWI,WWII,9/11,etc. break our hearts and make us wonder what we could do to help the world become a better place.Pictures such as yours are not common, if these pictures were to be "popular" society might be interested in forming Christian groups that support people with intellectual disabilities. I agree completely with your statement of how society has labeled these people and I feel that they are not shown the love that Christ gave us and it is our doing.I may be an individual whom is not important enough to get my voice heard,but to see you make such great success and such impacts on others makes me have hope that I too will be able to help my church regarding inclusion.We are all children of the Lord and need to understand we were made in HIS image and he would never want us to judge others.Everyone is just as important and should be loved just the same.This picture depicts equality and shows how important EVERYONE is and to include EVERYONE only makes us more Christ-like.One step at a time and the world will become a better place...and you Dr.McNair have taken a step.Great Great Great entry!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous.......

After having an interview with my church pastor, I am totally convinced that church has been quite neglectful when it comes to serving those with special needs. As I church member, this situation should be a priority to all church officials, members and community. I strongly believe that these individual need from us, but we also need from them. When I comes to my church in particular, there are very few church members with special needs that attend to Sunday Mass, but the question is: Do we have any members with special needs, or do their families wish not to make them part of our celebration? Society is much to blame! Individual with special needs feel discriminated, made fun of, criticized and laugh at. At the end of my interview with my church pastor, I asked: What is my church going to do to minister and engage services to persons with special needs? He responded by stating that currently our church is training individuals to minister to them.

Anonymous said...

The picture in your blog was very moving and inspirational. It is rare to see this occurrence in a church, not only in a church but in society as well. It is usually a picture of people helping or praying for what our society calls “disabled”. In our society we never give them a chance, many people believe they are incapable of being a normal functioning citizen. The lord does not discriminate anyone he accepts all people, so why can’t we? We as Christian’s do everything for the glory of God, is discriminating something we would want to do for the glory of God? In my eyes my the answer is no but there are many Christians who discriminate and look down on these beautiful special people the lord made, although they might not realize that they are doing so. By this wonderful picture being displayed I believe this will change our society’s ignorance towards the devalued people in our society and will help change many people’s views on the way they are treated. As Christian’s, I believe we all have things to work on we are not perfect, we need to be more accepting and bring all people in our church including them treating them like are not different. We can learn so much from them if we give them a chance, this picture is just the beginning of making a change in society. Thank you for all the wonderful work you do.

Anonymous said...

This picture is worth a thousand words. When I looked at this picture I felt many different feelings. I felt happiness, hope, empathy, and sadness all at once. Once I began to read this article all of those feelings began to make more sense. It makes one happy to see a community come together in Christ to help one another in a time of a request of prayer. This shows hope of how much love and kindness there is still in the world. I can feel the love and kindness coming through looking at this picture. I felt empathy for the powerful feelings and thoughts I could feel through this picture. Lastly, I felt sadness from the article. It is awful these people in the photo are thought of as devalued people in society. They are there showing their care and kindness. These pictures do need to be seen more in the church, and it is heartbreaking to me there is not more of this to be seen. We are all the same and discrimination is an awful thing. I will keep this in my prayers that images like this will be seen more, and more opportunities will be given to do so.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your transparency in sharing this post with us. What a beautiful image of God’s love seeing you surrounded by praying friends who feel the importance of being asked to pray for someone they care about.

We are all powerfully brought to our knees at the feet of Jesus when we come to Him in prayer. No one person, disabled or not, stands any taller than another in His sight. The love of Jesus is THE great equalizer and it’s such a shame that that love cannot be seen equally by all.

Thankfully, there are blogs like this one that unabashedly fly in the face of the norm and make images like this one accessible to all. I agree that people with disabilities should be provided with ample opportunity to provide for the needs of others in ways that are meaningful. When looking for assistance it is so easy to look right past a disabled person without giving them a second thought and continuing on in your search for someone you think might be able to help. When it comes to things like prayer or needing a listening ear there may be few people better equipped to fully devote their attention and powerful prayers than a disabled person.

The more often we put disabled people in positions of influence and value the more they will value themselves and what they know they can offer to the world.

Anonymous said...

The one way that the church can improve its relationship with disabled individuals is by taking a “sum of their parts” perspective that they do with their non-disabled church members. When I refer to the idea of “sum of their parts”, I refer to the concept that one takes into the consideration the positives and negatives before they assume judgment on an individual and decide whether or not that they want to help them. If the church took this approach rather than their current one in regard to disabled individuals, they will still see the disabled individual’s weakness, but they will also see their strengths as well, which are probably more than enough to overpower this weakness. I find it ironic that the church will turn away a disabled person, who is only hampered by their disability, but will accept a non-disabled individual whose weaknesses are far more severe and damaging to themselves and others.
Although I would like to see the church judge people based on their character alone and not a weakness that is unfairly placed on a person, I think the application of the “sum of the parts” concept will allow church goers to see the numerous positives that outweigh the one uncontrollable flaw that disabled people possess.

Anonymous said...

This photo reveals how disability truly lies in our thinking as individuals. How blinded are we each day to judge others? This is very common and especially targeting towards people with disability. In order to change this perception, knowledge will inform us on how this occurs and personal experience (encounters with individuals with disability) cement what previous did not know. However, the challenge is with our busy lives, individuals with disability are dis-valued in society, therefore rarely receive attention. A picture is worth a thousand words, but knowledge is power, and experience is truth. If we can combine all three, we may begin to see a difference in how we treat individuals with disability and discover they aren't problem, but we are in our thinking. This is a great post to educate and create awareness with the issue of disability and the church. Dr. McNair, keep fighting the good fight!

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful and emotional picture. A picture indeed is worth a thousand words. We are all in need it does not matter how we look, who we are, or where we come from. Well all have feelings and sometimes those with disabilities have more feelings than those who do not. This picture signifies love, compassion, and tolerance.