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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Disability Studies at California Baptist University

California Baptist University invites you to consider our MA degree in Disability Studies. The degree is entirely online.

We are one of the few if not the only Christian university offering an MA in Disability Studies nationally, and perhaps the only university in the world offering a MA degree in disability ministry. 
We are focussed on developing leaders in the field.  Nearly 50% of our first cohort of graduates (2012) have had their MA research published in a professional journal.  Students have come to us from the fields of policy, nonprofit management, ministry, and human services among others.  Graduates are working as teachers of children and adults, government agency workers, directors of nonprofits, vendors of human services, directors of parachurch organizations, working in disability ministry and as pastors among other pursuits. 

We are accepting applications for the fourth cohort now through August. Classes are taught by Dr. Jeff McNair and a faculty of experts in aspects of disability studies. For more information, check out the website, Disability Studies at CBU  or you can contact Dr. McNair directly at jmcnair@calbaptist.edu  or our dean of admissions Ted Meyer at tmeyer@calbaptist.edu

This program received WASC accreditation Summer of 2008 and has received significant input and support from the Joni and Friends organization whom we consider our partners.

So please do not hesitate to contact Dr. McNair with questions or to request an application or you can visit the website above for more information.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pride, sin and depression

Had a conversation with a man the other day who shared with me that he suffers from periods of depression.  He actually lives with a manic/depression form of mental illness and although through medication he has it somewhat under control, he will sometimes still deal with depression. 

He shared how when he has shared his disability with pastors or teachers (he hesitates to bring it up anymore), he is often told that his problem is "unconfessed sin in your life."  Now my sin can definitely cause me to be depressed, however, if I have clinical depression based upon a form of mental illness, my depression is not due to unconfessed sin.  That is the first lession.  Second, if you tell me that the reason I experience depression is because I have unconfessed sin in my life, you are basically saying that you think you are better than me because you, as an idyllic, humble example of righteousness have confessed your sin so you do not experience depression.  While I have such an obstinate attitude that I will refuse to confess my sins and thus I experience my depression.

This response is not only simply wrong, it is so prideful in judging one's neighbor when you may have no idea of what the person with the mental illness is experiencing.  Need I even mention the book of Job?  You experience no impairment, no disability, no mental illness because of your righteousness, while I experience impairment, disability, mental illness because of my sinful condition that you claim I refuse to confess.

This perspective is referred to as the moral model of disability.  I basically states that impairment/disability is due to what I have done, or my parents have done or my family has done.  You see I/we are bad people and we are just getting what is coming to us.  But if we were more like you who does not experience impairment/disability then we would not experience impairment/disability too.

When I have the opportunity to speak to groups, I often ask whether sin is the cause of disability.  Not from the perspective of the "original sin of Adam" but just more related to my personal sin.  Now I can do things of a sinful nature that can cause disability in others.  If I act violently towards another person I can cause disability.  But does the fact that I am a thief or a liar, or do not honor my parents, etc., basically that I am as Paul referred to himself  the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), should I expect that my children will as a result be disabled?  In reality if sin were the cause of disability and I truly understood the sinful condition of people, then I should expect that ALL of our children would be disabled.  In my personal life, I know that sin is not the cause of disability because neither of my children are disabled.  I know myself, and trust me if sin were the cause of disability my children would be disabled.

But back to the conversation I had with my friend.  He may do things in his life of a sinful nature that can cause him to feel depressed, but his experience of mental illness is not due to unconfessed sin in his life any more than the lack of mental illness is caused by the confessed sin in the life of his detractors.  We need to understand human impairments for what they are.  We need to understand the pervasiveness of sin in all of us.  Recognize that it is the pride in me that causes me to see myself as somehow perfection in my spiritual astuteness to confess my sin, while simultaneously seeing someone who experiences impairment/mental illness as other and imperfect and unrepentant.

Get the log out of your own eye before you point out the splinter in someone else's eye (Matthew 7:5).


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The power of the victim in the Good Samaritan

Following up on the last post about power, it occurred to me that in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), power can be seen.  That is, in the story one man is beaten and left for dead.  Three others come by.  First was a priest, second was a Levite (apparently a kind of assistant priest) who both passed by and didn't help the man disabled by the beating.  But a Samaritan stopped, helped the man and took him to a hotel where he could be cared for.

The new point for me was that the man who was disabled by the beating did nothing but lay there.  His only role in the story was that he was present.  When those who were arguably more "powerful" in that they were able to get up, move, do the things they wanted to do like travel came into his presence, his presence alone revealed their character.  They were much more powerful by comparison, he had no power by comparison (1 Corinthians 12:22 again, "seem weaker") but his presence alone was either hugely affirming or quite damning of the character of those who came in contact with him.  I mean think about it!  For centuries since, the Samaritan and his response has become a part of western (at least) language.  We all recognize that the Samaritan's character was revealed in this exchange (well it wasn't really an exchange because one person did nothing), in this encounter (a better word).  The priest and the Levite probably thought themselves good guys, regular temple attenders, respected in the community and so forth.  But the presence of a person with a disability revealed at least to some extant who they actually were.

And who were the priest and the Levite?

Jesus tells us.  They were people who were not a neighbor, who did not love their neighbor.  So who are we as a church?  We are people in the words of Jesus who do not "Go and do likewise."  We are the ones who pass by on the other side.  We are the ones who are unwilling to be changed by the presence of people who simply by their presence have the power to either reveal our character or potentially change us through the insight we get into who we are.  They are once again, "indispensable" because they will show us, all of us, independent of where each of stands on the disability/impairment continuum, who we are relative to the second greatest commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

But people need to be present among us for that power to be weilded.  We need to stop the "passed by on the other side" kind of behavior which is little more than deliberately ignoring our neighbor.  The sad part is that both the priest and the Levite "saw the man" which resulted in the behavior of passing by on the other side.  When people tell me they just didn't know about people with disabilities in the community, I don't believe them.  Church leaders know there are people with disabilities in the community.  Although they may not actually put themselves in a place where they see them, they are still passing by on the other side.

Why is the inclusion of persons with disabilities so foundational?  Jesus shows us that if we do not love them, we do not love our neighbor.  What could be more basically wrong with us than if we don't love our neighbor.  The image of a man "left for dead" is a perfect illustration.  How often does the church, knowing people with disabilities are in need and in the community, attitudinally leave them for dead.  Everyone around the beaten man in the story allowed him to be "left for dead."  The social isolation and lives being filled with "almost friends" (Baca & McNair, 2013) people who are exclusively paid to be with a person with a disability, is how we leave people for dead today.  We must be like the Good Samaritan, love our neighbor, and reflect Jesus' directive to "Go and do as he did."


Baca, J. & McNair, J. (2013).  Almost friends.  Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability, 2(1).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Power and 1 Corinthians 12:22

1 Corinthians 12:22 "the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable."

I always pray for new insights regarding things related to the church and persons with disabilities.

The insight that recently came to me, was related to the part of the verse that says "seems weaker."  The rest of the passage indicates that persons who seem weaker are indispensable, but it doesn't address why they only seem weaker when in reality they are not. This is the new insight I received this morning.  People with disabilities have the potential to cause wholesale change the church and the traditions of the church with their presence.  So they may seem weak but the power of their presence is actually so powerful that if embraced it will change everything within the church. They are therefore, both indispensable and incredibly powerful to change the church...though seemingly weaker.

1 Corinthians1:27-29, particularly verse 27  says "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the wise."  When one is shamed, one is expected to do something in response to the shaming, perhaps a change in one's behavior, apologizes, etc.  Coupled with 1 Corinthians 12:22 the seemingly weaker will shame the wiser, potentially to bring change.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, God chose what is
   -low and despised in the world
   -even things that are not
   -to bring to nothing things that are
   -so that no human being might boast in the presence of God

It involves the bringing of change
   -via shame
   -bringing to nothing things that are (perhaps traditions)

God is strong in weakness.  If we allow God to use our weakness, he will act powerfully.  People seem weaker because we don't see their weakness in concert with God's power.  Using the understanding of weakness/power given us by the world, we see people as weak because in part we see them, in themselves, and don't understand God's purposes, particularly in weakness.  They therefore seem weaker.

Now power can be displayed in at least two ways.  Power can come from being over others.
Power can come from being necessary to others, in being indispensable to others.

Arguably, the power of those who seem weaker (they seem so but actually are not) is the second type in that they are powerful in what their presence allows or causes the whole body to become.  However, I can see what I might become with their presence, decide I don't want to become that thing, nullify their actual power, and relegate them to being perceived as weak.  But I might also be blinded to the changes their power exercised would bring and so do not find out what the change would be.  I probably  need to first include them and then see where I would be taken in terms of change.

Powerful people may exert their power over others and cause some type of change.  But the type of change we are discussing is not that exerted by the powerful, but rather the relinquishing of power to the "weak" by allowing the changes they bring.  Power is being transferred to them in the changes they bring.  They will enjoy the changes they bring, but they are not changes they in any way actively sought (particularly those with more severe disabilities).

Foucault would say that when people resist, it is evidence that power is being exerted.  The resistance of churches and church leaders could therefore be evidence of the unintentional exercise of the power of the week, simply by their presence.  The rejection by the church of this power to change (acquiesce to change by the church) might thus be the reason why those who are indispensable, seem weaker.

The pressure to love is another form of this power people exert over one another.  They may actually say, "You must love me!" but rarely so.  But with the Bible in one hand and the person needing some loving response from me present at the same time, the power of the Bible's command to love exercises power over those who would submit to becoming aware of it/the situation.  The responsibility to love is power over a person.  Think about this in reference to 1 Corinthians 13.