Monday, March 17, 2014
In thinking through the social structures of the church, the Mark 7:8 & 13 passages become crucial in decision making. What are the commands of God relative to church social structures and what are the traditions of men in regard to these same structures? If we opened the flood gates of inclusion, for example, would the result for the church socially, be something outside of the commands of God? If so, those results would be clearly wrong. However, if they were not, they would lead us to alternatives which have been somewhat unexplored because we have equated tradition with the commands of God. Must the Word of God be shared in a silent room? Does noise in a room indicate a lack of respect for what is being shared? Or, does silence indicate a lack of respect for what is being shared? Do the practices that lead us to being able to achieve the silent room during worship show a lack of respect for what is being shared? Does sitting still and doing nothing indicate a lack of respect for what is being shared? It seems many of our social assumptions need to be revisited.
It is obvious, but must be stated, that we are not talking about questions of morality when we speak of social openness. To illustrate, we are referring to someone talking or talking too loud or standing too close. We are not talking about what might be called “sins” by persons that we now say are no longer sins and then celebrate them. This is a critical distinction to be made in our current social climate where amorality is equated with morality because either is determined by the social consensus of the moment. For example, racism is wrong in our society... at the moment. But I don't trust our society because it could change because of prevailing events, and people suddenly think that what used to be wrong is no longer wrong. It is not like this has not occurred in the past. Think of the language that has been used to describe our enemies in war. In spite of the fact that there were and are Americans from ethnic groups representing the countries we fought, our language became racist. When there is no immutable moral position based upon truth, one does morality by consensus and consensus changes. Amorality is not what I am talking about.
In contrast, perhaps asociality (as contrasted with amorality) is acceptable, particularly when expressed by someone who hasn’t the ability to know the difference and/act on the difference even when shown to them. Asociality can be annoying because we are conditioned to experience social interactions in a particular way. I can tell you, however, when you spend significant time with people who do not understand typical social behavior, you come to not only find it not particularly disturbing, but actually at times quite refreshing. I recall that the thing that got me interested in disability in the first place was actually that. In my first interactions with adults with intellectual disabilities there was an openness, a lack of guile, which I found totally engaging. It would be considered inappropriate or strange for me to meet you and instantly tell you “I love you!” or “I hate you!” or even, “You have a big pimple on your nose!” Each of those statements are socially inappropriate according to typical standards and they are entirely wonderful and engaging in their honesty. Honesty, particularly when expressed, is not really socially acceptable behavior, but I love the brutal honesty I receive from my friends with various mental and intellectual impairments. I have grown to enjoy their form of inappropriate social skills over the "appropriate" social skills of others not impacted by disability.
Could the kinds of changes that inclusiveness would bring to the church cause us to develop alternative traditions that would be much more reflective of the commands of God than our current traditions are? I don't know but I am willing to try to find out.