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

Friday, August 20, 2004

Church caused suffering

I have recently taken a position as professor of special education at California Baptist University. In the midst of meeting other "new" faculty, we had a discussion about the suffering church. That is, those who as a result of their Christian faith are experiencing persecution around the world.

I mean in no way to minimize the suffering of any Christian, however, the church is causing some "suffering" itself. At those same new faculty meetings, we were each asked to share our interests. I shared my interest in opening up the church to persons with disability. As often occurs when I share my passion in a public forum, another faculty member, also the parent of a child with disability told me of how his heart was moved to hear of my passion. He was another of the many parents who cannot bring his child to church as they are not welcome. They are sometimes not welcome overtly, in that the church will tell parents their child is not welcome. They are also sometimes not welcome by default, in that the child is exclusively the parents' responsibility when on church property. The Sunday school will accept the child only if the parent accompanies him (not just for a short time, but forever), but otherwise, there is no place for the child.

Because of the stories I have heard and the things I have read, I can't help but believe that there are many churches where overt exclusion is occurring, and exponentially more where the exclusion by default is happening, even though those in leadership in the church must know that there are families with a child with disability who would chose to attend the church if some form of program were available.

However, the exclusion of persons with disabilities is so pervasive that it is common practice, and it really takes someone up in the face of the church, to rattle their cage to get something going. As I write this, I sit here shaking my head at the implication such exclusion gives to any who observe it about who the church is and worse yet, who their god is.

If it is too much trouble to include persons with severe disability in our churches, what does that shout out to those around us about the God we serve?


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