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

Friday, May 25, 2007

God's works and God's grace

In the past I have commented on the John 9 passage about working the works of God. Click here to see the post. The implication is that we have the opportunity to "work the works of God" we have the opportunity to be his hands to people here on Earth. Recently I was thinking about that verse in combination with the 2 Corinthians 12:9 passage were Paul is told by God, "My grace is sufficient for you" when he asked to have the thorn in his flesh (some form of a disability) removed. If you put these two verses togethe, you come up with an interesting lesson.

One of the greatest works of God is the provision of His grace in a multitude of ways to people. It occurred to me that one of the implications of God's statement, "my grace is sufficient for you" could be that one of the ways in which God makes his grace sufficient is through the works of Christians, through the work of His people. God's grace goes way beyond those things that people do, and is not dependent only upon what people do. Yet there might be an aspect of this connection that people are or are not recipients of an aspect of God's grace because of what the Church does or does not do.

The Joni and Friends organization has reported the statistic that 95% of people with disabilities are unchurched. That implies that in as much as 95% of the disabled population, the Church is not taking advantage of the opportunity to work the works of God, to be agents of His grace, to be sufficient to people with disabilities. It is a very sad statement. We have the potential to be agents of God's grace and we choose not to be. We have the potential to have the "works of God" manifested through us and we say, "Nevermind."


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Kingdom of God in your neighborhood

I had the distinct priveledge this past week of speaking briefly at the Amos Fellowship in Riverside, California. Pastor Julio Andujo was interested in ways in which the church could engage the community, so I was invited. I must admit I was exhortive in my comments but the church was open and receptive. Pastor Andujo compared my comments to someone telling you you have crumbs on your face or that your clothing doesn't match...that is caring enough to point out ways you might improve what you are doing. Several congregational members approached me between services to tell of their experiences with persons with disabilities, some of whom were actually parents of children with disabilities. Many expressed appreciation that the issue of disability was raised in their church.

Paston Andujo's sermon had to be one of the most powerful presentations of God's word that I have heard in recent years. He spoke about the Kingdom of God, specifically referring to it as a place where we level the playing field. We provide access to God's saving grace through our leveling of the playing field. Although he was not speaking specifically to issues of persons with disabilities in the church, his comments were obviously applicable.

He then challenged the congregation with the question, How is the Kingdom of God doing where you are? How is the Kingdom of God in your neighborhood? How is the Kingdom of God in your home? How is the Kingdom of God in your school? Great questions!

As we level the playing field so people can have access (not just physical access) we give people access to God's word, to God's people, to the church. As a point of evaluation, we can then ask ourselves, How is the Kingdom of God doing for people with disabilities in our sphere of influence. I would ask you, how is God's grace begin shown, being demonstrated in your sphere of influence?


Monday, May 21, 2007

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination

It is called The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007, and begins with the heading, "To prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment." The full text of the bill is available here
You can also get other information regarding the bill here
The President apparently supports the bill as evidenced by the following statement
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/legislative/sap/110-1/hr493sap-h.pdf A critical aspect of the statement says, "The Administration appreciates that the House Bill clarifies that the bill's protections cover unborn children."

As I have reviewed the bill, there are many aspects which are very encouraging. However, there is one aspect that is not explicitly stated in the bill which causes concern to me. That is, in searching the bill there is no mention of "prenatal diagnosis" or "unborn children" that I could see relative to genetic information and its effect particularly on insurance benefits.

The bill has passed the House and is now headed for the Senate. I found out about it through World magazine which had a brief mention in the "Making the rounds" section.

In his book "The future of the disabled in a liberal society" Hans Reinders raises the spectre of parents going ahead with the birth of a child who has been prenatally diagnosed as having some disability, and as a result being denied insurance benefits for that child. I wish that aspect of the use of genetic information in regards to insurance were spelled out more clearly in the bill. It would close the door on practices which would support the abortion of children with prenatally diagnosed disabilities.


Friday, May 11, 2007

"Don't hate the player, hate the game"

"Don't hate the player hate the game" is a saying that you will sometimes hear people say. The idea is, for example, good looking guys tend to date good looking girls. That is just the way it is. So I shouldn't hate a good looking guy (the player) because the good looking girls like him. I might hate the fact, however, that good looking girls and good looking guys like each other (the game).

So what could this possibly have to do with disability... bear with me.

It seems in society today people with disabilities are ostracized, and misunderstood, and just generally not treated very well. At least not as well as those without disabilities (the game). I hate the game. I hate the fact that that is the way of the world. But should I not also hate the player?

My faith is clear that I shouldn't hate anybody, so I do my best not to. But if the player says that I treat people the way I do without thinking, because that is the way I have been socialized he is worthy of disdain.

At the recent Social Role Valorization training I attended, Dr. Wolfensberger stated the following:
Collective unconsciousness can be so vast that even the most global
societal policies may be undeclared, unexplicated, unacknowledged, and even
denied. Thus for many people to all work toward a bad thing requires no
deliberate or conscious conspiracy. While this is well-known by social
scientists, most citizens are not aware of how they themselves can be totally
unconsciously acting out undeclared, large-scale, societal policies in their own
daily lives (from "A leadership-oriented introductory social role valorization
(SRV) workshop, February 27, 2007)

It is one thing to recognize the game and just shrug your shoulders and say, don't hate the player, hate the game. It is quite another to be a player in the game and be so unaware that you are working toward a bad thing. To be unaware and yet working on the side of the bad thing. Churches need to wake up to their participation in the bad thing. Discrimination is the way things are, it is the game, but players have a choice to play or not in the discrimination game.

Changing the game begins when you wake up as a player.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pillow angel surgery broke the law

So it turns out that the procedure to keep Ashley as a child was illegal, because she was sterilized without court approval. CNN.com reports,

The Washington Protection and Advocacy System, a private group vested with
federal investigative authority for people with disabilities, found that Seattle
Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center violated the constitutional and
common law rights of a girl identified only as Ashley by performing a
hysterectomy without a court order from the state.
"Washington law specifically prohibits the sterilization of minors with developmental
disabilities without zealous advocacy on their behalf and court approval," said
Mark Stroh, WPAS executive director, in a statement.

The article at CNN.com gives the impression that although they regret not following the law, they in no way regret the procedure. In a later quote from the article,
It was like seeing a baby in a much larger body," said Dr. Douglas Diekema,
director of education at Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics in Seattle
and chairman of the bioethics committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics,
who was brought in to consult on this case.
"She would never talk, never walk, and was dependent on her parents to meet all her needs. Her cognitive function was the equivalent of that of an infant, unlikely to ever change." Family members call her their "pillow angel."

So the chairman of the bioethics committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics comes down on the side of the surgery. How many times have you heard stories about doctors telling someone they will never walk, or never run, or never talk or never do whatever the doctor thinks they won't do. If nothing else, this should tell you that


Understand me that I have dear friends and family members who are medical professionals. They are incredible people who do wonderful things. But as a group, doctors just don't get it about disability. To Dr. Diekema, the sterilization of the little girl was not a problem of ethics it was a problem of legality. Its like, you didn't get a permit before you built the addition on your house. You didn't really do anything wrong, you just didn't follow the letter of the law.

Later in the CNN.com article,

Writing on their blog, her parents said, "Ashley's smaller and lighter size
makes it more possible to include her in the typical family life and activities
that provide her with needed comfort, closeness, security and love: meal time,
car trips, touch, snuggles, etc."

So closeness, security, love, touch, and snuggles are dependent upon a person's size.

"Sterilization is not the intent of the 'Ashley Treatment,' but a byproduct of
it," they wrote, adding that while they support laws protecting against
involuntary sterilization, they believe the law is "too broadly based" to
"distinguish between people who are or can become capable of decision-making and
those who have a grave and unchanging medical condition such as Ashley."

So, removing one's uterus causing sterilization is a by product of the procedure. Also, people who are perfectly healthy but have severe mental retardation now are characterized as having "a grave and unchanging medical condition." To label a person as having "a grave and unchanging medical condition" only sets us up for the next step of taking them out of their misery via euthanasia. After all, as Dr. Diekema (quoted above) said, "disabled children (who) are traumatized by menstruation." So if you are traumatized by a normal aspect of being a human being, we don't help you to work through that trauma. We sterilize you. We take our your uterus. Also, don't you think it is odd that this little girl who is apparently so disabled, so mentally handicapped with her "grave and unchanging medical condition" would even know she was menstruating?

Do you see how these people speak out of both sides of their mouths? She will be traumatized, but she is too disabled to understand the ramifications. Either she isn't traumatized and doesn't understand or she is traumatized and does understand. However, in spite of her understanding of what is done to her, I understand what was done to her and therefore I need to speak up, speak out against it. I hope you will as well.

As Mark Stroh of Washington Protection and Advocacy System stated in the article.

"The implementation of the 'Ashley treatment' raises serious concerns about
the continuing discrimination faced by people with disabilities --
discrimination which is often based in stereotypes about their potential and
value as individuals"

For the complete text of the article, visit the following website.



Thursday, May 03, 2007

Impaired people

At the disability Sunday program at my church mentioned in the previous two entries, I was one of the speakers. At one point in the service, I asked all of the people in the room who had some kind of mental or physical impairment to raise their hand. I don't know what I thought about the numbers of people in a room who would have an impairment, but it appeared to be well over 50% of the group in each of the three services. I was surprised. I then talked about the teasing kids get as kids about wearing glasses, or any other difference they might experience. It seemed to me that really connected with the audience as they were finally seeing what the experience might be like to be teased, or even devalued by a society that doesn't tolerate differences. They don't tolerate difference even though (judging by my church, and the average types of people who attend there and extrapolating to the larger population) they themselves have impairments, have disabilities. It was very eye opening to me.

Mark Brown, talked about the image of God in a way that really connected as well. He spoke in reference to Toby Hoff, who had presented earlier in the program and who uses a wheelchair. He said, you might see him as a man in a wheelchair, but God sees him as one created in the image of God and crowned with the honor and glory that comes with representing that image.

The service ended with Mark inviting people to identify with those with disabilities and to evidence their solidarity by coming forward and standing around a table set with bread and a glass of juice where individuals with disabilities were already sitting. Just about the whole congregation came forward and joined at the table, spilling down onto the floor just before the stage. It was very powerful as many among those who came forward were weeping or very emotional. I felt as if the connection had been successfully made between people with and without impairments and people with various disabilities. It was very powerful. I was surprised as the wonderful response from the congregation.

Our question, is what to do next with this outpouring of love and support from our congregation. First of all I think God will bless them for their response, He is working in their hearts. But where to we go next, what do we do with this outpouring as a church. I am looking forward with anticipation to see where our leaders will take us. Please keep our church in your prayers.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Video of Disability Sunday at Trinity Church 4/29/07

In the previous post, I shared my notes for the portion of the sermon I was to give for our disability awareness Sunday, at my church, Trinity Church in Redlands, California. The program was a great success and I think the Lord was honored. If you would like to view a video of a portion of the program, you can visit the following web page. http://trinityonline.org/cgi-bin/MediaList.cgi?section
Click on the link to the sermon entitled, "A place at the table."

The video begins with an interview with Toby Hoff. Toby hosts a weblog that you can visit at http://amanforchrist.blogspot.com/ Toby is interviewed by Rachel Watters.

After Toby, Mark Brown speaks about the story of Mephibosheth from the book of Samuel. I am up next talking about treating people with disabilities with dignity. Mark is then on again with more about the Mephibosheth story, I provide more on what to do to help and include people with disabilities, and then Mark brings things to a close.

Anyway, check it out if you are interested.