Lets consider for a moment that mental retardation is a result of sin, in terms of being a result of the Fall (not parental sin, their own sin, etc.). I recognize that these are huge generalizations, however, what characteristics of persons with mental retardation would be those which would seem the result of "evil" and what would appear to "normal?" Then armed with this information, what is our responsibility?
These are the things about mental retardation which some might consider the result of the Fall, that is apart from what God might have intended for people.
Low intellect resulting in:
-inability to achieve at the same level as those not effected
-poor social skills due to an inability to interpret social behavior, social cues, the perception of others
-limited language ability resulting in limited abilities for speech, understanding, ability to read and in severe situations autism in its various forms.
Physical disabilities of a genetic variety:
-such as organ disorders
-bone and stature problems
-metabolic problems and their potentially devastating results
-potentially forms of cerebral palsy or seizure disorders
Also due to the societal construction of disability:
-effects on the family
-devaluation of the individual with disability
Others might also be imagined.
At the same time, these are things associated with mental retardation which seem antithetical to the Fall:
-viewing life as little children
-a simple yet often very strong faith
-a willingness to serve
-an ability to not see their own situation as abnormal
-the desire to be social and close to people
-acceptance of others irregardless of appearance or intellect
-freely loving of others without pretence or "walls"
-genuine honesty in expressing their feelings
Others might also be imagined here.
In viewing people either with an eye toward changing them or as an advocate, it is important to distinguish between what is normal versus what is evil. In change through education, we must also see the difference between characteristics of individuals and characteristics of groups. If the societal construction of mental retardation is changed, many of the perceived deficits of these persons will not be as relevant as they appear to be now. For example, concerns over quality of life will reflect the necessity to change environments in which persons with mental retardation move at least equally as often as the necessity of changing the persons themselves. Advocates will be less likely to entertain excuses.
I had a conversation with an interesting man the other day who is an expert on administration of faith based programs. He decried the problems of trying to include persons with disabilities in private Christian schools, for example, citing costs (largely) among other issues. To my mind this is an environment that needs to be changed. Christian schools have justified their lack of inclusion of persons with disabilities in their schools over the years on the basis of a lack of money. Although I recognize the pragmatics of the situation, somehow this argument rings hollow with me. Can you even imagine going before the Lord and saying, "Well, we would have served the disabled people if we had had more money." Would a proverbial response from God be, "Hey, no problem. It just wasn't a priority."
This type of exclusion is a direct reflection of who people with mental retardation are perceived to be, what the Church's responsibility toward them is perceived to be, and in the situation who is in need of changes.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
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