“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.



Anonymous said...

I a student in Mr. McNair's class. I have to agree with what the passage is saying. I have had a problem in the past with my knee. I restently ended up on chruches that was a mess, at times I felt as I was not whole that something was messing. The having reread the passage I did not have that big of a problem, but the chruch does, they do not see that the disable person has something to offer. They might have a opion that might make a passage clear, they don't see that insead all the chruch see is how much money we can make. They think of that all mighty dollor and forget everything else. What needs to happen is something needs to happen to them, to live for a little bit in their shoes to see what life is like. Then they would better understand what that passage is talking about. Then they would forget about needing money and focas on what is most inportant and that is trying to heal the body of Christ.

Kuuipo Benson said...

I would agree with you that the body of the Church is a disabled body. The Church is “comfortable” functioning without the entire body of Christ. But I would argue that “the Body of Christ is a disabled body”. The Body of Christ is a perfect union. It needs nothing added to it or taken away. It is only through sin that we (humans) have weakened the Church body. You also speak of, at what point the Church became a disable body. In my opinion, the Church has always been a hindered body. We can read in scripture of the life of Jesus and his service to the “frail and feeble” of the time. (When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17) Again, with the establishment of the Church in about 30 A.D. Paul is already writing to the Church in Corinth a letter to denounce impurities and sin within the Church body.
I briefly wanted to bring up the point that we spoke of in class when the question arose as to why we have failed to bring cognitively disabled persons into our churches. I suggested that persons with cognitive disabilities fail to offer a “service” to the Church and could provide little by way of tithing on such small, fixed incomes. I will go as far to say that a perception may be that these individuals appear to only deplete the Church’s resources and have little to offer “the Church”. Now don’t everyone jump on me, this by no way represents my belief or position. I am only trying to understand “why” we don’t have programs to reach out to persons with disabilities. I would be curious of other thoughts!!!
It is fortunate for mankind, me included, that we are “whole” by the grace of God and not by our words, works or actions.

Kuuipo Benson, EDU 541, CBU, Fall 2005

Anonymous said...

The passage in Corinthians really takes on a new perspective when a person is learning about disabled individuals. For many years, in churches across the world it has been taught that we are all a part of the body of Christ. Just as Dr. McNair said, it is taught that we cannot function without each part as stated in the Bible. There needs to be two hands, two feet, two eyes, etc. However, it is my opinion that most churches do not see disabled people as part of that body. They view their disabilities as non-functional in the body of Christ and just as Dr. McNair has stated, this impairs the church and keeps them from being whole.

I find it amazing that churches teach of the whole body of Christ and yet are so far away from the true meaning. From the beginning, we have been disabled as God took Adam's rib from him to create woman. Then woman and man both crippled humanity by taking from the tree of knowledge.

Just as God carries us when we need him, so disabled people need to be carried or carry us as Christians. Working, learning, or getting to know people with disabilities is rewarding and humbling.

Disabilities have become more prevalent in society as humanity evolves. Perhaps, God is trying to show us something. Maybe by creating more and more disabled people God is trying to show us how disabled we have become and that there are others that need to be a part of the church.

Disabled people may be on a fixed income most of the time but that is not the only thing that God requires of a church. Just as the widow gave so little yet gave all that she had and this meant so much to Christ. A disabled person may not give much compared to someone with more means, yet they give all that they have in spirit and mind.

I must say I have been humbled in taking this class. I have learned things I never knew before and been given a new perspective on people with disabilities. Yet, I see myself as more disabled than them because I should have known better. God has told us that as teachers we are held more accountable for the knowledge we share. I am glad to know now what I didn't know before but now that I do, as a Christian I can no longer claim ignorance and must do as God has commanded. I must reach out to others who need it and allow them the same grace and love that God has allowed me to experience in my life. Who am I to say a disabled person cannot experience the glory and grace of God? I am no one.

Sorry to go off in many directions, but this subject has really affected me as a person and I have so much to say about it.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa Gulas, EDU541, CBU, Fall 2005, Session II

Anonymous said...

Reading this passage of Corinthians it has opened my eyes up in learning about disabled individuals. This passage has moved me in many direction due to the fact that my brother who I truly love has suffered from a a disabilty called speech impediment. He has a hard time talking to other individuals and getting the words out. Over the years it has made him more frustrated yet following his faith in Jesus Christ has made look at things differently.

Churches for many years have looked as us as all being part of the body of christ. And we are being taught we can't function without any part. Yet just because my brother has a speech problem does not make any lower than an individual who can speak clearly.

A church is there is accept everyone in the eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. That everyone is created equal and lives through the body of christ. Just because a disabled individual may not have enough money or cannot contribute as much as say some other individuals do doesn't mean they cannot be part of a church where they can worship our Lord savior.

Living with a brother who has a disabled problem and having a step-father who lost a disabled child. I see things different than many others. I have experienced what my brother has gone through and is still going through. Being a college student at Kansas State University and students who you think would be adults at this point in time of their life is laughing when he is making a presentation at school because he cannot speak clearly.

Not only do chruches who are suppose to expect everyone but people in generally really need to put themselves in their shoes and see for one day in their life what they go through. Then he or she might really know what the passage is saying.

Disabled people are just like anyone in this world. Jesus Christ has went through many things that disabeled individuals experience daily.

Reading this I am really excited to talk to my Priest at my Chruch St. Mathews in Corona and what they are doing to minister to disabled individuals. This will be very interesting to find out.

Impossibleape said...

Hi Jeff:
This is a wonderful topic. I have been deeply moved by how people have responded to this piece.

Would it be alright if I shared this topic on my blog. Of course I will acknowledge you as author and encourage people to look over your site.

Thanks again for effectively stirring hearts in this matter of the 'last and least of these Christ's brethren'.

Adriana Duff said...

I really enjoyed the comments people have left regarding this issue. I tend to agree with everyone on some aspects. It is true, the church many times turns a blind eye to people with disabilities because of the amount of money that it would take to make all modifications and to provide the adaptations in order to service people with disabilities. This is no means an excuse. Benson, mentions that when Jesus was questioned by His disciples, as to why He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17. That is very true. However, in my opinion people with disabilities display the Spirit of God in them more than any Christian person I know, but that does not mean that they should be seen as though they are not a part of the perfect or "imperfect" Body of Christ. When spend time with a person with disability I only feel the Spirit. I believe that you once said that people with disabilities are with us, so that the work of God can be manifested through them; I believe you are right. It is truly a shame that the church fails to to what it claims, which is to make sure that everyone around the world receives the Gospel. How is it possible that the church can go to the ends of the earth; to the most remote places to try to convert people that are, sometimes, very difficult to find, but people with disabilities who lived but a few blocks away from a church cannot get access to it. I find it reprehensible and hypocritical.