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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause"

I was recently talking with some colleagues about how there are many apocryphal stories floating around, and have been for years, which embrace an unjustifiable spirituality about who people with disabilties are or are not. By unjustifiable, I mean from a Christian perspective based upon the Biblical narrative. I focus my comments on Christians, who claim to believe the message and narrative of Christianity, and then cling to unjustifiable spiritual claims. In being critical of these stories, a friend disagreed saying that the stories were comforting and encouraging to he and his family at the birth of their family member with disability.

No doubt, that those who create such stories are probably motivated by the thought of being encouraging to the parents and families of persons with disabilities, but I would rather hear the truth. Please don't tell me that there is an Easter Bunny no matter how good it makes me feel, if there really isn't one (there isn't is there?). Also, don't tell someone that their child with down syndrome is an angel, because I know that he is just a person like me. Don't tell me that he has something special to do, unless you are telling all the other children the same thing, because we all are unique and all therefore have special things that we alone can do. But those with disability are not any more special than anyone else. They are just people. They are not heroes, or angels, or devils, or object lessons for the nondisabled. They are not demons, or sub-human animals, or to be considered objects of dread or pity, or holy innocents (see Normalization by Wolfensberger), or any other notion you might come up with other than that they are people.

Now, some may do heroic things or angelic kinds of things or even evil kinds of things, but that is because they are people like you and me and we sometimes do heroic things and angelic things and evil things.

So it may make you feel nice to think that there is a Santa Clause, but there is no Santa Clause. We jokingly tell our children that they will get nothing from Santa Clause this year, nor have they gotten anything from Santa Clause ever. To say otherwise, particularly to a child, is an untruth...an untruth perhaps shared out of kindness, but an untruth nonetheless.

But we are not dealing with children when we are attempting to answer the questions of parents, adults, who have had a child with disability born into their family. Yet we must also clearly understand what the truth is so we can share it accurately. That is where church leaders need to step up to the plate so that Christians are not misinformed. But then, I wonder what percentage of church leaders know the truth in this area? I wonder how many churches will advertise that next week's sermon topic is, "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause?"


1 comment:

Impossibleape said...

They are first and foremost human beings.
But given the kind of stigmatization and separation they experience inside the church it would be helpful if we had a better theology that included them.
Our evangelical , bible believing ways make viritually no space for them.
And that I say is shame and a sin.

I challenge everyone to think of what the evangelical gospel means to someone with no language at all. Can they believe in their hearts, confess with their mouthes and repweat the standard sinners prayer? You would think that they are as excluded from grace as many of us say those born before Jesus and those living where no missionary has ever travelled were and are.