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


Sunday, March 06, 2016

Neglecting a human being right in front of us

I will at times read books about the church or Christian behavior. I am currently reading a book about the church. It always strikes me how writers can put forward convicting principles but seem to totally miss the connection to people whom society has devalued due to their impairment or disability. They will, for example, be very convicting about those who live in poverty (as in the quote below) but seem to be totally unaware and complicit in the treatment or exclusion of those with disabilities, not seeing the connection with that group of devalued people. Here for example is a quote from a book I am reading at the moment.


Moreover, the rich man in Luke 16 is damned because he ignores poor Lazarus at his gate. His sin is a sin of omission. But this omission is more than a general failure to "do more" or "do enough." His extravagant wealth makes him blind to the needs right in front of him. As John Schneider puts it:


The strong obligation-generating power is in the immediate moral proximity of someone in dire need. What makes the behavior of the rich people in these parables so very hideous and damnable is not that they had wealth, or even that they enjoyed it. It is that they did so, like the rich in Amos, in spiritual obliviousness to grievous human suffering that was as near to them, in the moral sense, as it could be. It was not merely that they neglected "the poor," but that they neglected a human being in need directly in front of them.


Lazarus, not the poor in abstract, was the rich man's test, and the rich man failed.
(John. R Schneider, the Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 178). (Above quote from, DeYoung, K. & Gilbert, G. What is the missio of the church? (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2011).


There is no real mention of persons with disabilities, at least thus far, in describing the mission of the church. They talk about people groups, and the notion of "social justice" in a very general sense. They also make comments or glean and share quotes such as the above. Look at the last sentence of the second paragraph above. "It is that they did so, like the rich in Amos, in spiritual obliviousness to grievous human suffering that was as near to them, in the moral sense, as it could be. It was not merely that they neglected "the poor," but that they neglected a human being in need directly in front of them." That is the experience of many people who have experienced social isolation, and the practice of many churches and members of the Christian community towards persons with disabilities. Human beings in need, directly in front of us, are neglected. They are too much trouble, or they are off putting because of their social skills, or whatever other reason. Additionally, we feel no need to change our behaviors.
Oh that God would open all of our minds such that we would love our neighbors. Oh that we would see those people directly in front of us. They are in the community, everywhere. What if we made the effort to put them in front of us of our Christian community. Our leaders have given us an excuse for not doing anything by not putting people in need in front of us. I guess it is up to us to seek those people out, bring them into our social circles, and further remove the excuses which have been plaguing us.


McNair

1 comment:

Diane Salinas said...

I can definitely relate to your frustration Dr. McNair. After taking a couple of courses and learning more and more about the special ed field, it is ridiculous how as a community, we neglect these humans that are in front of us. Not only should churches focus on helping those who are in need, but they should also focus on people with disability who are experiencing social isolation and being devalued due to their impairment or disability. Instead of looking down on these people that are also being neglected, due to “being too much trouble, or they are off putting because of their social skills, or whatever other reason,” we should acknowledge them as teaching us patience, love, care, and faithfulness, which is what the churches are suppose to be practicing. Like John Swinton stated in the book, Living Gently in a Violent World, “ Our task is to be faithful, peaceful people, wherever we are. And the shape of that peace is determined not by the violence of the world, but rather by the recognition that Jesus who is gentle has redeemed time and that the key to faithful living is living trustfully, patiently and gently until the Lord returns.”