Friday, December 19, 2008
Jesus Christ, not so Superstar
Friday, December 12, 2008
The regular life
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
From "Surprised by Hope" by N.T. Wright
..."To hope for a better future in this world - for the poor, the sick, the lonely and depressed, for the slaves, the refugees, the hungry and homeless, for the abused, the paranoid, the downtrodden and despairing, and in fact for the whole wide, wonderful, and wounded world - is not something else, something extra, something tacked on to the gospel as an afterthought. And to work for that intermediate hope, the surprising hope that comes forward from God's ultimate future into God's urgent present, is not distraction from the task of mission and evangelism in the present. It is central, essential, vital, and life-giving part of it. Mostly, Jesus himself got a hearing from his contemporaries because of what he was doing. They saw him saving people from sickness and death, and they heard him talking about a salvation, the message for which they had longed, that would go beyond the immediate into the ultimate future. But the two were not unrelated, the present one a mere visual aid of the future one or a trick to gain people's attention. The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing, close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term, in the future...
The point of the resurrection, as Paul has been arguing throught the letter (1 Corinthians), is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. And if this applies to ethics, as in 1 Corinthians 6, it certainly also applies to the various vocations to which God's people are called. What you do in the present - by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself - will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether...They are part of what we may call builting for God's kingdom. (pp. 192-193)
I want to pull a few sections out of this passage and touch on them a bit. Wright says, "Jesus himself got a hearing from his contemporaries because of what he was doing." This is so important in the life of a church in relation to disability issues. You can criticize me all day long about being closed minded or intolerant, however, if I am working to love, encourage and befriend people with various disabilities, well, it might just cause you to be silent. Unless completely foolish, people are still impressed by what others do over what they say they will do. Wright says that a significant reason that Jesus himself got a hearing was because of what he was doing. Why should people listen to you or your church? Is there any reason that a family member or friend of a person with a disability or a person with a disability herself should listen to you on the basis of what you are doing?
"The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing, close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term, in the future." How does what you or your church doing point to what you are promising long-term in the future for persons with disabilities both on Earth and in Heaven? Are you promising them a future where they will be a full member of the Body of Christ or are you promising that there is no place for them in the Body of Christ, in the Kingdom of God? We have the ability to provide a glimpse of the future even if we are not seeing a person physically healed. We bring glory to God by providing a glimpse of a future where disability is largely irrelevant. I say largely irrelevant because it appears that there will be vestiges of our Earthly life in Heaven (eg. Jesus' stigmata). My love, my acceptance, my caring, independent of your personal characteristics are a glimpse of the future. It is no wonder if people with various disabilities are not drawn to church. We give them a picture of a future without them through their experience of a present without them.
Wright also states that, "These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether...They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom." He makes the point that our physical bodies are redeemed. Our existence is not merely a spiritual existence because this cannot be supported by scripture. So he claims there is some kind of a link between our physical bodies now, and the new bodies we will receive in the New Heaven and New Earth. I am confident that I don't understand what this means. However, there is a long term aspect of the things we do as people if we will only be aware of it (see April 10, 2005 blog entry). I think the effects are multifaceted for our own lives and the lives of others. They build God's kingdom in myriad ways.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Broadening the notion of "ministry"
Afterwards, one bright student approached me with her story. The child of deaf parents, she wondered about church ministry to persons who are deaf. Should interpretation of sermons into sign language be the extent of ministry with persons who are deaf? What a great question! So the only relevant aspect of being deaf is to be able to understand what is being said to you by someone translating. I am sure there are those who believe that, but I am not sure that I do. I suspect there are many other things that go along with being deaf that I have no understanding of and that if I treat deaf people as if the only important thing about their deafness is that they need to understand what I, or my pastor say, I am being very naive. Other similar questions flooded my mind like, "Are accessible restrooms the entire range of ministry to persons who use wheelchairs?"
The way the church typically responds, you might think so. I have several friends who have progressive MS. Is the extent of ministry to these people accessible restrooms, or a spot for their wheelchair in the church service? You might think so. When will the church, when will leaders in the church take on these issues such that those who experience the disabilities, and the rest of the congregation for that matter, become informed about what disability tells us about who God is, what the role of the church is, as well as thinking through the "whys" of disability. We may never know why, but we can sure explore the whys. Not knowing something has never kept Church leaders from speaking about it in the past. A rational exploration of the whys might be very helpful for all concerned and as with many things in life, the journey may be just as valuable as the answer. What does it imply to you as a disabled person, if I am struggling to understand the issues you face in your life from a Christian perspective? I think it implies at the very least that your issues are important and worthy of my consideration, my professional or pastoral efforts to understand, and at best that perhaps there are answers that might be found should I devote some or all of my energies to the issues.
Exodus 4:11 states,
The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
Why would God do such a thing to a person? Because I know that God is love and God is just, there is something for me to learn if I will pay attention. God apparently deliberately makes some people mute or deaf or seeing or blind. I may never fully understand why, however, by devoting my energies to understanding perhaps God will reveal new lessons about himself that the Church has never learned but that God has for us to learn if we will only look.
Southern California has an earthquake drill
One of my student teachers works with high school students with very severe intellectual and physical disabilities so I thought it would be interesting to go and view how the school would assist students in that type of a program/setting should such a natural disaster occur. As I was driving up, I noticed that what appeared to be the entire student body was standing and milling around on the football field. Of course! The way you prepare for such a disaster is to be in a safe area a half hour before it occurs. Why was I surprised?
When I went to the separate, county classroom area where the students with severe disabilities classrooms were, they were just coming back into the classroom. One student rolled into the room wearing a tee shirt that said on it, "insufficient memory" which was some parent's or group home's idea of a joke. I am sure the severely intellectually disabled student wearing the shirt had a great laugh over the message he was wearing. I never cease to be amazed at the things I see in special education settings. As the students sat there waiting, many of the aides barked at them to stop this or don't do that, very few actually attempting to converse, or explain to them what the change in schedule was about. As one tall autistic boy engaged in stereotypic behavior, his aide said to him, "That is a good autistic thing to do."
My student teacher told me that they were all just told to go out to the parking lot area for 20 minutes and then come back in. They then assembled in a large room, about 31 students most of whom were in wheelchairs, and people to assist them (about 20 teachers and ambulatory students). As the time came for the earthquake to start, I wondered what would happen. Well what happened was nothing. No drill, no noise or simulation of any kind. The whole thing appeared to be a waste of a half day of school.
It is important to me, however, that my teacher is prepared. She has a class of 9 students and two aides. I asked her to talk with her aides about what they would do in the event of a large earthquake. What do you do? Who do you take out first? She related that she and her aides were instructed to get under a table untill the quake was over and then help her students. I understand the rationality of that, but can you really imagine lying under a table in "safety" and watching while your totally defenseless, severely disabled students sit in their wheelchairs, or in their specialized seating devices, crying and screaming while the building falls down onto them. Do you think that would be the same instruction given to teachers working in a nursery? How about in another classroom. "Just get yourself safe and don't worry about your students till the whole thing is over." Do you think that is how teachers of non-disabled students would be instructed, or is there a double standard? Personally, I couldn't do it, and I think I wouldn't do it. If I am ever in such a situation, I pray that I wouldn't do it!
Afterwards, the students were rolled outside where the aides sat at a picnic table largely ignoring the students who sat there in their wheelchairs as the general ed students went back to class. Just another time for a break. This is typical. Any group setting is apparently time for the aides to be off and either socialize, or text message, or do their make-up. The ones I observed drank coke and talked.
I was so proud, however, of my student teacher and her aides who were really hustling! They got their students into walkers, or walked with them, or moved them into the classroom so they could get to work.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Lessons from Dr. Marc Gold
Perfection and imperfection
why else would something perfect create imperfection but to set an example for us to follow
People with disabilities are not an example of imperfection to the perfect. They are an example of imperfection to the imperfect who think themselves perfect.In that way, they are the example in a refreshing, nonthreatening manner. They do not come to us in their imperfection and say, look at me, follow my example. They come to us in their imperfection, and as we grow to know them and love them and in many ways become like them, we say, "We are all the same." I am imperfect as you are imperfect. But you are also a creation in the Image of God as I am a creation in his image.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
A new member of our group
Over the past few days in thinking through John's presence in class, I am reminded about the story in Mark 2: 2-12 about the man lowered through the roof by his friends in order to meet Jesus, and I suppose to be healed. At least that is what I would think his friend's motivation was. Little did they know what the result of their assistance would be. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'" So they were going for healing and what they got through THEIR faith was much better...forgiveness.
This passage puts a whole new light on the presence of my new friend with profound disabilities. What will God do in his life if I and those around him are faithful? Like the friends in the story, his father had the faith to bring him to church, and ultimately to bring him to our group. In many ways, we now have the responsibilty to bring him to God through our love and acceptance of him. I am also reminded of the verse in John 9:3-5, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But that the Glory of God might be seen in his life, we must work the works of him who sent me." So his presence provides the opportunity within our group and wherever we are with him to have the Glory of God seen in his life. What an amazing opportunity.
I will be honest in telling you that I don't know quite how the principles described in the two stories will be fleshed out in our interactions with John, however, you can believe me that I will be watching to see how they will be worked out. I anticipate seeing him each week, and in between should the opportunity arise, and look forward to seeing how God will act in his life and ours.
One final note. A member of our group and a longtime friend, Arthur Seale, grabbed John's father as he was pushing him out in his wheelchair. Arthur said something to the effect, "Your son is welcome and wanted here. He will never be too noisy, he will never do anything that would cause him to no longer be a part of this group." I didn't say anything, but inwardly (and probably outwardly) I was beaming. Arthur nailed it. This is the message we desperately want the church to give to parents and persons with disabilities.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
More on Special Education reforms
In another school, I discussed the focus on state standards with several teachers of severely disabled teens. One teacher indicated that the curriculum is no longer focused upon teaching functional skills that the students will need to be adults who are functioning as independently as possible. Instead, everything is so geared to preparation for the CAPA exam that students are to take a district designed preparatory exam. I am confident that those who designed it thought they were being very innovative. The problem is that the state that mandated the test is so obviously wrong so the practice test is obviously wrong. For example, questions ask severely intellectually disabled persons about noble gasses and planetary orbits which is beyond rediculous. I will tell you that to me, the California Alternative Performance Assessment or CAPA is goofy.
An alternative means of measuring student progress may be what is needed. Something that makes teachers accountable, however, is less norm, standards based. The moderate servere population is just too heterogenous to have such standards. CAPA and other assessments are futile attempts to squeeze people who do not test well on standardized assessments into them. In reality what is needed is criterion referenced assessments, that chart a students growth against his current level of performance. What is needed is for teachers to develop criterion referenced training procedures and then implement them with a data based approach. Additionally, the kinds of things that are being assessed are all to often totally irrelevant to any aspect of the student's life.
But I believe these tests are also the result of poor teaching in far too many moderate to severe disability classrooms. It could be the State's effort to make teachers accountable. I cannot tell you how many times I have visited a classroom where the children of whatever age are simply being babysitted.
I have been in a high school classroom where the lights were off because it was nap time.
I have been in a classroom with 12 profoundly disabled students and a teacher and 1 aide.
I have been in classrooms where 20 minutes of the 6 hour instructional day was spent on IEP objectives.
I have been in classrooms where each student only has 1 or 2 IEP objectives.
I have been in classrooms where students are spending their instructional day in front of the television.
I have been in classrooms severely disabled students literally sit for hours with no interaction from anyone.
And so on and so on.
If I am the teacher's supervisor, these things stop immediately, to the degree I am able to get a teacher to change. But you don't have to look too far to see low expectations, activity based babysitting going on in public schools.
In two classrooms I was in over the past two weeks, there were also two students who were characterized as behavior problems. However, when I worked with the students, and then the teachers followed up with those same students, many of the behavior problems went away. I will never forget the words of one of my student teachers many years ago. She naively observed, "When I made the curriculum interesting, the behavior problems went away!" It is true for students of any age. I think I related how I was working with a young man with severe disabilities in a classroom, who followed me to the door, signing as I was leaving, "More work. More work." It broke my heart.
In another school, I watched as instructional aides took students out to the playground. I then entered a classroom. When I came back outside, I counted the aides. There were 12 on the playground, 9 of which were sitting around picnic tables in the shade, 2 who were kind of walking around monitoring things and another standing and watching. In other words, there was NO interaction between the aides and the students, none of the aides were participating in games or play with the students and all this was occurring in a large grassy playground area in the center of the school where anyone could see what was happening. This is a high priced private school for students with severe disabilities.
It is so sad.
Then I found out this week that one of the teachers that I have trained, one that I took particular interest in has become something of a slacker. I know that she knows what is right, what she should do in her classroom. But she has succombed to the pressure to be incompetent, to do little or nothing. It is funny, because to a significant degree, if you do what your district wants you to do as a moderate to severe disabiltiy teacher, you will not be doing what is in the best interests of your students. If you judge your performance on the evaluation by your principal, that may not be the correct standard as your principal may know nothing.
I am always appealing to my students.
You have a responsibility to expect the best from your students.
You have a responsibility to demonstrate how to interact with severely disabled people.
You must be accountable for the instruction that goes on in your classroom.
You cannot give in to the pressure to be marginal.
But they sometimes do anyway.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
They like Gospel music
Now I haven't the foggiest idea why the people he studied had this characteristic. Perhaps it was the only music they had access to, perhaps the only recorded music, or maybe there was something about the music that they particularly liked. Whatever it was, how cool that there is that input being made into the lives of these persons. I am reminded of the Isaiah 55:11 passage which says,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
(Today's New International Version)
As I say, I don't know why this is a characteristic, however, the fact that it is, is encouraging.
It has long been my desire that a characteristic of persons with intellectual disabilities would be that they are church attenders. That is my desire for a variety of reasons; for the benefit they would enjoy from attending church, for the benefit the church would enjoy by having such individuals in their midst.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Special education needs reform
"Please read objective #1."Objective is read."Has any data been taken on this objective?""No.""So you really have no idea where the student is performing on this objective do you?"No response."Please read objective #2."Objective 2 read."Has any data been taken on this objective?""No.""So you really have no idea where the student is performing on this objective do you?"No response."Please read objective #3."Objective is read."Has any data been taken on this objective?""No.""So you really have no idea where the student is performing on this objective do you?"No response.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
If they are treated as a child, they act as a child.
If they are treated as an adult, they act like an adult.
If they are treated as if they can't learn anything, they don't learn anything.
If they are treated with the expectation that they will learn, they do learn.
If they are treated as people who are just intellectually disabled, they act as such.
If they are treated as people who think, have opinions and are capable of thinking deeply they do.
I make concerted efforts, when I am instructing people who have intellectual disabilities, to try to stretch them, particularly if I am talking about spiritual things. I am always impressed how they will raise to the level of the discussion. They will often try to take what I am saying and translate it into a direct application to their lives. "So you are saying that I shouldn't listen when somebody tells me to ..." they will say. One gal I know who has down's syndrome, will pause after you ask her a question, and often give profound insights. Too often, however, she is not given the opportunity to do so because the people around her think her pause a lack of understanding, and their limited expectations cause them to be impatient.
I believe I have shared this here before, but I have a friend who has severe intellectual disabilities, lets call him Fred. Fred would try to get my attention by nagging me with a question, the same question over and over again. Finally, one day, he asked me for a dollar. That got me to stop and pay attention to him for a minute. He learned that he could get me to stop by asking me for a dollar. Well many dollars have changed hands over the years, but at some point I stopped and began to have a conversation with him. I expected him to be able to converse with me on a variety of topics. At first our discussions revolved around his original repetitive question and asking for a dollar, but grew to discussion of his desire to marry his teacher, and his brother who lives in Hawaii, and his interest in baseball, and his favorite foods and so forth. When I treated him as a real human being who would communicate with me on a variety of topics, he rose to the occasion. Had I continued in my interactions with him where I basically ignored him, he would have remained something quite less than what he was capable of.
So I have learned to try hard to raise my expectations of people, independent of their level of disability. Too often their low performance is due to what I do as the person who is in control of the social situation. It is the result of mistaken notions of the limitation of the person with disabilities.
Disability Studies MA mentioned in Christianity Today
If you are interested in this online degree program, you can find more information about it at http://calbaptist.edu/disabilitystudies and/or you can email me, Jeff McNair at email@example.com
We are accepting students to the program for January of 2009, just 3 months away, so contact me and we can get you an application!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Us becoming like Them
As I was working through the revisions, an idea hit me. In an integrated setting where people with and without intellectual disabilities are together, you obviously have two different groups in interaction with each other: those with intellectual disabilities and those without intellectual disabilities. Now those without intellectual disabilities have the ability to learn social skills, and to pretty much reflect what might be called nondisabled society. In contrast, those with intellectual disabilities may not understand social skills and therefore do not reflect nondisabled society. So for example, research indicates that people with disabilities loose their jobs most frequently because of minor social skill deficits. But I also note that my friends with ID have a very different perspective on disability. They may not see themselves as disabled, and may not regard others with disabilities like their own or even more severe, as disabled. I find that they typically just see others as people.
I have one friend with ID who says that a person with a disability is someone who can't get along with other people and gets into fights. So when I ask him whether he knows someone who has a disability, even though I know that he knows people who use wheelchairs or walkers and have severe ID to the point of being nonverbal, he comes back to his definition and tries to think of someone who is difficult to get along with.
But getting back to my point, as I am spending time with friends with intellectual disabilty, I find that I have the ability to change in a variety of ways while they don't always have the ability to change. So, in order for there to be social interactions with them, I have to change. Actually (and this was my revelation), I think that I become more like them, I become more like my intellectually disabled friends. Specifically,
- I don't worry so much about social skills and their are few things someone might do, socially, that would shock or alarm me. I become like them in that way.
- I begin to see people as people whether or not they have a disability. They are not characterized in my mind as my friends and my disabled friends. I become like them in that way.
- They are very forgiving of others who are unkind to them. Hopefully I become like them in that way.
- I will also say, unapologetically, that they are more loving toward others than I often am. Hopefully I become like them in that way.
These and other changes are not forced on me in any kind of willful acts on their part. It just kind of becomes the rules of the game if I am going to be able to interact with them. So they change me/I become more like them. In order for the enviornment to soften to include them, there is a level at which the enviornment becomes like them.
In the words of the title of my article, the indispensable nature is at least partly the positive ways that I become like them as a result of being with them.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
How far have we come?
Monday, September 22, 2008
A real life metaphor
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Teacher interactions with parents of children with disabilities
"In your interactions with parents," I said, "your standard should be to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly." Let me repeat a bit of that advice here.
As a teacher you need to do justly, which although it might sound easy, is not. I always tell the new teachers that I work with that you need to think about what you are willing to loose your job over. I had dinner with some friends last night, who are also professionals in special education who told me that they know of a local district who literally have a staff person who's main responsibility is to not give parents what they are after in terms of programming for their children. I was speaking to a program specialist, a person who supervises and assists special education teachers, and an old student of mine, who told me that in her district, the have a special program which is state of the art for children with autism. However, you cannot get your child those services unless you threaten to go to "fair hearing" which is kind of like taking the negotiations for a child with disabilities' educational program into the legal system. In these and other cases, school districts are frustrating the doing of justice. You don't need to talk to many parents to find out how difficult it is to get the services you are supposed to get, from the state. You have to fight. As a teacher, you should not be on the side of those who frustrate parents. You should not be only and always on the side of parents. You need to be on the side of justice as best as you can understand it. And yes, there are things worth losing your job over.
As a teacher you should also love mercy. Parents of children with disabilities are "wounded" in similar ways to which persons with disabilities are wounded. See this blog entry for more on wounding. Because people are wounded, they can be sensitive, hostile, aggressive. However, when I approach a situation where I remember that I am the professional in the situation, and I remember that those with whom I am interacting are wounded, and I know what I know about issues of justice described above it should cause mercy to well up in me. I approach people differently when I realize they are in the need of mercy.
Finally, I need to walk humbly. As teacher, as a professional, my problem may be that I think I know more than I actually do. I can be too quick to minimize parent input, or vilify parents, or just do a lot of blaming. But more than just about anything, as a teacher I need to walk humbly. I need to recognize my limitations, recognize the exceeding importance of parents and family in the life of a child with a disaiblity. I need to recognize that I represent the State, and as such a representative, I am not always on the just side of the argument about services. I have sat in on IEP meetings where haughty, self-impressed professionals bully parents. I cannot be one of those people. I need to be humble in my interactions with all people, but in particular as a professional in interactions with parents, children and families.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Softening the environment
- soften in its social skill demands,
- be more open to differences in people to some extent not even really seeing disability,
- needs to be more friendly and more loving,
- needs to become less indivualistic and more open to interdependence among people.
- do not make high social skill demands of others,
- are more open to differences in people to the point of not even seeing disability,
- tend to be friendly and loving,
- and perhaps due to their disability are less independent and more dependent or interdependent.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
For myself, I visit friends at a group home once per week. I involve myself with people at church every Sunday and at times when there are other events (which is pretty often). But it occurred to me that my "disabled life" occurs largely on Wednesdays and Sundays for about 7 hours a week. Often I talk with friends on the phone and other times we meet together just as friends do. With effort I get together for coffee once a month with friends, sometimes initiated by me and sometimes initiated by my friends, and I try to help people with problems as they arise. I understand that many people, particularly parents and people with disabilities themselves cannot compartmentalize which is a huge difference between them and myself. I can become unavailable if I want to for some reason, they must always be available. Groups attempt to provide respite care for parents such that they can explore other aspects of their lives, but even when they are benefiting from respite, they are still "on call" such that they are only physically absent for a brief while.
I also wonder, at times, whether life with people who are intellectually disabled, when it is a choice because they are disabled, is little more than philanthropy? That implies a one way street in the definition of inclusiveness. I think that perception is the reason why many efforts to facilitate inclusive programs fail. Those without disability may see it as all giving on their part. They don't see the involvement as mutually beneficial. Until they do, efforts at inclusion are destined to live or die on the basis of philanthropy.
The moral "where with all"
A second presenter used the phrase "traditional moral philosophy" as kind of the point of appeal for personhood, implying that traditional moral philosophy will bring us to the awakening we need to love our brothers and sisters in spite of their perceived, negative, personal characteristics. I felt like she was Peter Pan asking me to throw myself out the window because she says I can fly. I raised the question, "If just about everywhere in the world, pretty much forever, people have been excluded on the basis of their disability, to what traditional moral philosophy are you appealing? Our traditions have failed us at every turn. Our secular and at times religiously informed moral values have been traditionally unhelpful and problematic. To imply otherwise is to evidence an intellectual disability. You are therefore appealing to a morality that is basically not present." Strangely, she agreed.
Such morality is not present in the majority of parents until a child with a disability is born to them and even then not always so. It is not present in schools where special education teachers force inclusion on children but do not live lives inclusive of their own peers with intellectual disabilities. Our only hope is to appeal to settings where the morality we desire is present although perhaps dormant in many situations like the Christian church. We have the opportunity to lead the way in the development of values that will value people with disabilities. In many ways it is not natural for societies to have such values...they must be taught. Or better yet, they must be modeled by us for society because we as Christians can at times talk a good game, but can't back it up. At least not yet, and for sure not universally. Pockets of brilliance do not an argument make, however, but as the pockets grow, more will want to reflect what they see.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
IASSID Religion and Spirituality Division
Friday, September 05, 2008
South Africa: So what do you do?
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Hello from Cape Town!
So, should you make a comment and I am a bit slow in posting it, please be patient. I will share more of my experiences here later.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Will we move of on a direction where we totally segregate people with intellectual disabilities from the traditional church as if they were some pariah, claiming we are doing what is best for them? I hope not. If we do, people without disabilities will continue to grow up in churches without any experience with people with disabilities. The church will also largely remain unchanged rather than becoming all it might be by including essential parts (1 Corinthians 12:23).
Will we borrow our practices from the public schools, instutiting inclusion classes within the Sunday School program? I hope not. If we do, we are building programs with the same problems that the public schools face (one reason why some research indicates that only 10% of schools have inclusive classrooms in the US). In addition, we are following a knowledge based model, which may not only not be the best for those with intellectual disabilities, it may not be the best for any of us, children or adults. Social integration has largely NOT been the result of public school inclusion programs.
Will we borrow our practices from psychology, expanding the pastoral counseling role? I hope not. If we do we will perpetuate that people with disabilities have something wrong with them, when they are just perhaps not as typical (in terms of intellect, the manner in which they move about the community, or the way they perceive the world). There is a difference, in my mind, between having something WRONG and having something different. We as the church can lead the way in helping the world to see people as having differences not wrongs.
All this is to say, that Lord willing, we will be looking at the practices of the church in 100 years, and wonder how they got the way they are relative to persons with disabilities. I would advise the church to step back and look at the way they do all programs. How would the presence of persons with disabilities cause those programs to be different? Perhaps that is the way they should have been in the first place.
We can literally do just about anything, unrestrained, without limits in terms of the manner in which we will include those who have been excluded in the past. Lets dream big, go deep in prayer and come up with crazy solutions that have never been dared in the past. Lets think about the ideal situation and plan for that. I will admit that too often I have only dreamed as big as what I think I will be permitted to do by my church, or those in leadership over me. I have not pushed the envelope as I might. As a result, I fear that the traditions that I have been involved in developing within my church will be soon outdated. Not because I didn't have bigger dreams, but rather because I settled for what I would be permitted to do, not fighting for what I had dreamed.