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

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

disabled Body of Christ

A student in one of my classes recently shared the passage from Corinthians about the Body of Christ. The passage states,

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now, you are the body of Chirst and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:21-27).

We touched on this passage back on March 30th. However, thinking through the notion of the body again, and even the title of this weblog, it occurred to me that we are a disabled body. The Body of Christ is a disabled body. Why is that? I would argue it is because we have selectively not included or even have cut off parts of the body, people with disabilities who would desire to be participants in the Body of Christ. It is as if we as the Church (using the Body of Christ metaphor) are limping around without a foot, or are seeing with only one eye or are missing the fingers of one hand. In the same manner that a person might become used to a missing aspect of their anatomy, the Church has become used to functioning without all of the members of it's body. It would be interesting to try to determine whether there was a point in the life of the Church when we actually 'cut off' that part of the body, or whether it was in some way 'born' without all their body parts. To push the metaphor further, the Church might not know what it is to walk with two feet or see with both eyes or have a hand with all of the fingers intact. That is what I have alluded to in the past in this weblog regarding that we really don't know what the Church could be if we included all of those who would choose to participate. We have grown used to being a disabled Body of Christ, grown used to being an incomplete body.

Can you imagine cutting off your foot because it wasn't a priority to have it as a part of your body? Can you imagine thinking, "I will get by with one eye because it will be too expensive to try to live with two eyes." To me, that is what we as the Church are doing. We are by choice deciding to be a disabled Body of Christ that does not include all of the parts.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Complicity: the state of being an accomplice, as in a wrongdoing

That is the way The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines the word complicity. In atrocities, in discriminations, in poor treatment of the past the word might be used to describe the church. We look back on those times of complicity in the past and wonder how the church could have been so blind as to have missed the great evil, the significant injustice it was participating in at the time.

We congratulate ourselves at the fact that "we would not have let that evil happen!"
I have often wondered what the blindspot of the church is today. What is the evil we are overlooking which we might stand up against? I think I might have the answer.

As I described in the last blog entry, there is great excitement that doctors may now be able to identify up to 90% of persons with down syndrome prenatally, and do it earlier. They claim this will save mothers the embarassment of being detected as pregnant or the psychological dissonance of having felt the first kicks of the baby before killing it. Church people, leaders included, are often so oblivious about who persons with down syndrome are that they cannot even engage in a discussion. As a result, they mourn the birth of a child with down syndrome in the same manner as someone without knowledge. Down syndrome is an unknown to them, though it needn't be, so they fear it, perhaps even fear those with the disability. But if those people were in churches, we might not only loose our fear, we might learn to see them as a blessing. I can tell you that I do!

I am not the parent of such a person although I would not fear being such a parent. I don't know how many people with down syndrome I have known, maybe 50, not a lot of people but I certainly don't fear them or their differences. I have actually come to love them and am drawn to them. They are sweet, decent people who enjoy life. They will rejoice or mourn with you with heartfelt empathy. They will go to school, maybe get a job, and live on their own or with limited support. You wouldn't have to try very hard to convince me that a great sense of humor is a characteristic of the syndrome. However, we, the church, fear what we don't understand, and are too damned lazy to find out what it is that we fear. If we did take the time, our perspectives would change.

The degree to which the church has not participated in dispelling falsehoods and telling the truth,
the degree to which the church stigmatizes and excludes people from the typical programs of the church,
the degree to which the church says that such people are not a priority for ministry to the point of putting it into their budgets,
the degree to which the church doesn't go out of its way to bring people with down syndrome into its fellowship,
the degree to which national church leaders are not speaking out against the evil of prenatal diagnosis and abortion of children with down syndrome,
is the degree to which we are complicit in this evil.
We are complicit in this evil.

The good news is that God is a forgiving God. He is forgiving if we denounce our complicity and repent. It starts with you (as trite as it sounds).

McNair (fcbu)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Down Syndrome Genocide

In a fascinating article, the National Review discusses an article in the Washington Post entitled, "Down Syndrome Now Detectable In 1st Trimester: Earlier Diagnosis Allows More Time for Decisions." Couching the issue of prenatal diagnosis and abortion as a women's health issue, the article states, "This is a big deal for women. It's going to have a big impact on care for women, not just in the United States but throughout the world." In a crazy example of doublespeak, the genocide of persons with down syndrome is a solution that is going to have "a big impact on care for women." This is not the genocide of an entire class of people, having a particular characteristic, which the Washington Post article didn't even attempt to overstate, "The syndrome results when a baby has three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome, causing distinctive physical features, developmental problems and an increased risk of a variety of health problems that usually shorten the child's life span." The taking of down syndrome life is so prevalent, that euphemism (the substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit) in terms of describing who persons with down syndrome are is unnecessary. We are taking the life of a whole class of people because they have, "distinctive physical features," "developmental problems," and an "increased risk for a variety of health problems." Step back for a moment and think about this. If this doesn't cause you great concern, it should. People with down syndrome are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. But we choose to kill them, to wipe them out in the name of a "big impact on care for women." It is sick.

In response to this article, the National Review online posted its own editorial entitled, "Defining Life Down: Are we okay with eliminating a class of humans?" This article does a pretty good job in defining the issues and confronting us with the reality of the situation, we are "eliminating a class of humans."

Through training I have received from the Syracuse University Training Institute or Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry I have become sensitized to the issues. We are on a fast track to increased devaluation and termination of the lives of persons with disabilities. But my real question is, "What about the church?"

We, the Christian Church, are embracing the sins of the culture in direct opposition to the obvious and "most central themes of the Scriptures" (as Jim Wallis states). "Social location often determines biblical interpretation (also Jim Wallis). Our social location is anywhere where people with disabilities aren't. No wonder we think we can exclude them with impunity in the face of God's commands.