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

Friday, May 14, 2004

Levels of Support

Dr. Julian Rappaport is a famous community psychologist. I discovered his writings nearly 18 years ago, and read whatever I can find that he has written. I suspect he will be often cited here in the future. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to study under him while I was at the University of Illinois.

Dr. Rappaport writes about what he calls the "Levels of Intervention Analysis." He says that minimally, one might intervene, do something to alter, support, or facilitate change at the . . .

Individual Level
Small Group Level
Organizational Level
Societal Level

Imagine these levels as concentric circles with the individual level in the middle, working toward the societal level on the outside. Interventions at each outer level effect the inner levels they contain and ultimately the individual.

We might help individuals by doing some of the things discussed in other places in this blog. We might support small groups who help individuals. People give money to the disabled ministry staff, etc. We might help at the organizational level by encouraging churches or denominations to institute rules or procedures which would provide support. We intervene at the societal level by attempting to influence societal attitudes or changing laws that might help.

At some point it might be interesting to develop a "Christian Church Report Card" and grade the church in each of these 4 areas. I would challenge you, however, to try to think of examples positively and negatively of how the church is doing, or how you personally are doing. Email them to me if you would like. mail@jeffmcnair.com

So . . .

What do you do on an individual level to support persons with disabilities? Your efforts might begin by seeking out and getting to know someone with a disability.

What do you do on a small group level? Does your church have some kind of outreach ministry to persons with disability? If not, perhaps you might suggest it and volunteer. Even if the Lord has called you to a different area of ministry you might do what you can to support the disabled emphasis. I personally am not involved in foreign missions, however, if my church did not have such a focus, I would feel it should be added and individuals recruited to staff it. I can also provide supports to that ministry to do its work. Work which ultimately affects individuals.

What do you do at the organizational level? Do you even know what policies your church or denomination has toward persons with disabilities? Will you wait till you, a family member or someone close to you experiences disability before you will care? Although I don't blame them, it is sad to me how many parents of persons with mental retardation have no knowledge of people with the disability till their child was born. I am not talking about the high level of expertise parents develop throughout their lives as parents. But more that they knew there were mentally handicapped people out there and they knew that they had families who might be experiencing a variety of issues, but they will admit that they, well, they kinda didn't care. It was not a part of their world. This is an indictment of the church at the organizational level. How might you advocate for a more inclusive perspective in your particular church or denomination? That will also impact individuals.

Then, on the societal level, what motivates you to get involved politically? Is who will tax you the least? Do you think about how politics can impact the environment in which the church does it's work? At the moment we are focussed on areas of disability. I suspect you are reading this because you have an interest. Do you know what President Bush or Candidate Senator Kerry think about disability? What have they done in these areas? I will not make this into a political advertisement for one or the other, however, whoever is the president has the potential to make a significant impact for change on the societal level. Their decisions will affect individuals.

We should also pay mention to the media. Several examples should suffice. What about the programs you watch on the television? On the left politically, Bill Maher (I believe that is the correct spelling) has compared persons with mental retardation to household pets. On more of the right, Dennis Miller said that the terrorist leader who was recently killed by Israeli missles was basically done a favor in allowing him to excape his existence as a parapelegic. In each of these cases, these celebrities are having an impact on the way persons with disabilites are perceived by society. Without refutation, these kind of comments are left standing.

By contrast, David Hyde Pierce (Niles Crane on the television program Frazier) has been a strong advocate for persons with alzheimer's disease. Recently, on the occasion of his birthday, there had been attacks on President Reagan by comedians regarding his alzheimers disease. Once again, without entering into the policital fray (I have no idea what Mr. Pierce's political affiliation is) he stated that there are two types of people who make jokes about others with alzheimers. First, there are those who have never experienced the disease. Wisely he says he hopes they will continue to be able to make such unkind jokes as that would imply they have never experienced the disease. May they live on without ever having to face the ongoing debilitation and humiliation of one you deeply love. Second, are those who make jokes to try to ease their own pain or the pain of their loved ones who do have the disease. Such a perspective has the potential of a significant impact at the societal level.

So think and act creatively but with an eye toward formative evaluation of the church.


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