Tuesday, July 10, 2018
The sin of the social environment
In Mark 7:1-13 there is a telling interaction between Jesus and a group of Pharisees. In verse 5, Jesus is asked, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders…?” They were asking about the fact that the disciples didn’t ceremonially wash their hands before they ate. Jesus responds by quoting Isaiah saying, “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (ala Romans 12:2). That is pretty damning. But Jesus follows up by saying in verse 8, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” He goes on to tell of how in this case, they do not honor their parents. “Thus you nullify the word of God by your traditions that you have handed down.” He concludes in verse 13 by saying, “And you do many things like that.” Their traditions, in this case, did not honor a group of people they should have been honoring. There are traditions which contribute to functionally impairing people, socially and otherwise, via an unwillingness to make the changes to the environment, the traditions, that would better reflect the commands of God.
If we as “these people who honor me with their lips” do exchange the commands of God for the traditions of men, we are guilty of the sin of the social environment. Fill in the blank as to what that particular social environment might be. It could be the school, the restaurant, the church or the local park. Our traditions seem to teach us to treat people with disabilities as different from those without disabilities. We also seem to have a hierarchy of persons with disabilities as well in that people affected by disability can also fall into this kind of social environmental sin. I addressed this a bit with a post back in 2007 called "Don't hate the player, hate the game." But to blame our behavior on the way we have been socialized or that everybody acts in a similar manner, is childish. I am responsible for my own actions and if the social environment is behaving in a wrong manner, that is not an excuse for me to behave similarly.
I am responsible for my behavior toward others.
I am responsible for my language toward others.
I am responsible for my exclusion of others.
I am responsible for my not choosing some people as friends.
Your personal characteristics, whatever they might be, didn't MAKE me do anything. I just took the opportunity of your presence to express a form of ugliness that resides within me. I took the opportunity of you being someone different from me in some way (personal characteristics, ideology, etc.) to embrace the the ugliness within me and celebrate it. In my novel, Meowoof, I talk about this as the Grumble. It is something that lives within us. So in reality, I am the ugly one, not you. I am the intolerant one, not you. But if my blaming you for my ugliness is not called out, then it will be encouraged and only continue.
Take responsibility for your own participation in the sin of the social environment and stop it.