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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Social genocide

Joseph Barry is a student in the Disability Studies MA program at Cal Baptist university.  He's a sharp guy.  In a recent paper, he wrote the following.

Wolfensberger states, "We need to take a stand against the genocides of our time" (p. 101).  Not only should we take a stand against the documented genocides of past and present, but we should also continue to stand against the social genocides that exist as well.  The placement of values on persons with disabilities based on their disability status and the resulting objectification of them continues to have damaging effects on such persons.  The Church can be a leader or a hindrance in this battle and its role cannot be under emphasized.  Not only should all of us address basic issues one at a time, we should do so without wasting another minute." (Barry, J. Objectification and Value Assignment: Christian Responses to Disability, 2012).

Barry's statement is perceptive and powerful on so many levels.  We typically think of genocide as the outright taking of life, but the term might be tweaked in the manner in which he did.  Social genocide is a form of life taking that too many societies either overtly or purposefully have participated in.  Clearly I should do what I can to influence society such that it doesn't destroy people socially.  I need to do that.
But his comment about the church is straightforward.  The church can be a leader or a hindrance.  I believe at times it has been both.  I believe now it is being both.  The first step in change is awareness.  I have often stated that the first step in churches developing what has been called disability ministry is repentence.  I don't want to be a part of the problem.

I am reminded of the Luke 14 passage about the master telling the servant "Go out to the roads and contry lanes and make them dome in, so that my house will be full."  Earlier the master has said, "Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame."  The servant is told to make them come in (other versions say compel them to come in).  Perhaps they need to be made or compelled because they have been the perennial victims of social genocide.  How many times must I be killed socially before I no longer believe you?  Or perhaps I am just socially dead and need to be awakened socially in order to drag my socially deadened self to a place where there is social life.

If someone were to look at your life, would you be on the side of the social killers or the social life givers?



Anonymous said...

Whether we are children or adults, how we treat others is often shaped by how we see people of authority or influence treating these people. As children, we see how our parents and teachers treat others. As we move into adulthood, our behaviors are influenced by our friends, colleagues, and leaders in our church. For us church-going Christians, we could only hope we are exposing ourselves to the best of influences. We tend to think that those non-Christians are the misguided ones, but when we look at the topic of disabled Christianity, as pointed out by this blog entry, the church can easily be a hindrance. What I think this means is that the church does not communicate to its people enough or at all on the topic of people with disabilities, with an emphasis on the Christian's responsibility to these people. If the church, our most powerful and significant influence, is not directing us how to behave, those other outside influences will. As a Christian, I feel as though we should help and include everyone in need. It seems like there are a lot of “trends” in volunteer efforts and people are sticking to what they know and what people are interested in. The church is hindering its people by not properly exposing them to what they could be doing for people with disabilities.

F. San. said...

Barry’s short paragraph packs a punch. I understand now more than before the lack of attention the church has on these types of problems. I was blinded by what I lacked knowledge of, but after spending time in classrooms with disabled students I began to see through the fog. I am guilty of being a social killer. Before taking a class on this subject I never noticed the disabled, and if I did I was appalled by their behavior. Now I am aware of the students that are hidden from the others, not only students but also adults.
Beyond the disabled that use handicapped accessories (wheelchairs, ramps, hearing, and viewing aids) are individuals that are not seen because of their severe symptoms. And after reading this passage I ask myself whether I’ve ever heard my church say anything in regards to helping out those individuals. After sitting down with one member of the church I realized their ignorance. Their answer to how they spread the word of God to disabled individuals was, “wheel chair access, larger area for upfront parking, the auditorium is equipped with excellent sound for the hearing impaired, etc. Materialistic nonsense.” Never was there any mention of children that are autistic or suffer from Down syndrome. In fact, this church never has such a case where attention for one was greatly needed.
This made me feel as if my church selected only abled body individuals. Although they welcome everybody, in the 5 years that I’ve attended I’ve never heard anyone comment about these issue. They speak of the Book of Luke, but I haven’t seen Luke traits in my church.