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

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. 

1 comment:

Carolina Galvez said...

Wow. This is so true. In my college career, I have learned about the huge impact that popular culture has on a person and I wholeheartedly believe that peoples actions, emotions and identity as a whole is, in the most part, influenced by their childhood. However, I understand that this ideology has the capacity to make excuses for people. At first, I would make excuses for someones "ugliness" and excuse it with "well that's all they know". Even though this may be true as able-minded adults we have the God-given ability to think critically. Many people when confronted about their actions put up a front saying that they grew up in a time or place where this ugliness was accepted, normalized and even encouraged. Although this may be true it isn't a valid excuse for separating oneself from those who may not meet our normality standard. Like the blog concluded each person is responsible for their words, actions, and attitudes. We cannot separate the action from the person. Without a person, there would be no action so separating them would be illogical. I was reading a devotional a couple days ago and while reading this blog I was reminded of a phrase that struck me at the moment of reading the devotional. The phrase was "Don't let your inexperience taint your understanding of what could be". Just because we have not experienced a friendship with a person with a disability does not mean by any means that it could not happen. Just because the people in our inner circles do not interact with the outcasts of society does not mean we cant.