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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Amos Yong on theology and disability

Dr. Amos Yong of Regent university, was recently honored by being appointed to the J. Rodman Williams chair. In the speech he provided upon receiving the honor, he spoke about issues of church and disability. He spoke about the centrality of people with disabilities to the church. I found his presentation really remarkable, and would encourage anyone who follows this weblog to view his remarks. Go here, and the video will load.


If you are interested in remarks regarding the chair itself and the man who is its namesake, you can just let the video run.

But if you are interested in Dr. Yong's remarks, move the cursor on the control bar that indicates the loading/movement through the presentation to the first red line on the right of the bar. That is where his presentation begins.

The presentation is excellent. As I wrote to him, I suspect many theologians have never thought the ideas he shared, let alone spoke them.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Corporate Faith

In relation to persons experiencing various disabilities, discussion must be made of aspects of corporate faith versus individual faith. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that one can speak in tongues of men, be a prophet, move mountains, give everything to the poor, even sacrifice one’s own life, but without love you gain nothing. For those with disabilities who look at the Christian church, and for those within the church who have the awareness to self evaluate, one must ask what we have to offer those with disabilities in terms of faith development because we have lacked love, toward them. We focus on all these things which are described as less important in comparison to love and think we have the ability to grow their faith. We show favoritism to particular people in the face of warnings against such favoritism (James 2:1-13) and then expect to grow their faith.

For many, perhaps most churches, corporate faith development has to precede individual faith development of individuals with disabilities because as a friend with severe physical disabilities once commented to me, “Why would I go to them for help when they have already indicated they have no interest in me?” The church’s corporate faith is in many ways a prerequisite to developing the individual faith of members with disabilities. Many who have endeavored to include persons with various disabilities in local churches for the very purpose of increasing their faith are often frustrated by the lack of faith, the lack of understanding of who God is, their lack of trust in God and dependence upon themselves and their ignorance and actual disdain for God’s desires for all people evidenced in the leadership of churches. What is revealed about what faith is when faith leaders are comfortable with the exclusion of persons with disabilities? Would one go for piano lessons from someone who cannot play the piano or plays poorly with no interest in improving and doesn’t even particularly like the piano? For faith development to occur at local churches there needs to be a change in the understanding of what faith requires in local churches. Why would I possibly want to learn the faith of a group who would exclude me? To tweak the famous Groucho Marx line a bit, “I would not join any group that would not want me as a member.” People with disabilities will not be drawn to a Christian church that does not want them as a member. People with disabilities will not be drawn to a Christian faith that is comfortable with their exclusion. Why would people with disabilities want to learn and grow in the Christian faith if it does not see them as a priority? It doesn’t take Bible knowledge to understand that such a stance is evidence of a lack of faith, whatever the faith of the group is. For the Christian faith, such exclusion indicates that at worst, the faith is not at all Christian, and at best sinful behavior.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Favoritism Forbidden"

The NIV version of the Bible that I have, provides the heading to chapter 2 of James with the phrase, "Favoritism Forbidden." The passage then goes on to the say the following.
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine chothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or Sit on the floor by my feet, " have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen my dear brothers: Has not God chosen thowe who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?"
Later it says,
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself" you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."
A friend and leader in disability ministry who has a son with severe disabilities told me a story the other day. A couple of weeks back, he dropped of his son who does not have a disability at the Sunday school of a church he was considering attending. He asked one of the helpers about whether there was a program for his other son who had severe disabilities. At that moment, the pastor walked by. The Sunday school worker stopped him and asked about whether there was a spot for the son with severe disabilities in the children's program. He responded, "We are not equipped to serve children with autism."
Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I wish this were less common than it is. I think that just as faith without works is dead (the next chapter of this section of scripture) I would argue that love with exclusion is dead. This child with severe disabilities is being excluded through no fault of his own. He has done nothing that should cause him to be excluded. But because of who he is, arguably because of the way that God has created him, he is deemed by the church to be excludable. This is disobedience. And as the second quote states, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." Is it not obvious that this church is therefore, this PASTOR is therefore guilty of breaking the law. Yet this behavior is still considered acceptable.

It never ceases to amaze me that people will say things that are so evident of disobedience. I might think disobedient thoughts, but to share them with a parent who has experienced the challenges of raising a child with disability such a dismissive statement based clearly on favoritism is somewhat breath taking.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MA in Disability Studies at CBU

California Baptist University to launch its new MA degree in Disability Studies in January of 2010. The degree is entirely online. We are accepting applications for the first cohort now through the end of November. Applications need to be completed by December 1. Spring classes will be taught by Dr. Jeff McNair, and Prof. Kathi McNair. For more information, check out the website, http://calbaptist.edu/disabilitystudies or you can contact Dr. McNair directly at jmcnair@calbaptist.edu or by phone at 951-343-4489.

This program received WASC accreditation Summer of 2008 and has received significant input and support from the Joni and Friends organization whom we consider our partners.

So please contact Dr. McNair with questions or to request an application or you can visit the website above for more information.