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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thoughts about the sovereignty of God

In thinking about God's sovereignty in people's lives, I think we can sometimes focus exclusively on individuals. This implies specific plans for specific people. But in the same way that a king is the sovereign over his country, God is sovereign over his kingdom. So, he will have specific plans for individuals which fit into his larger plan for the entire "country." If I see myself as a part of the larger county then I will work to fill my role as it will impact the larger plan. But I might also think that the king's plans for me are for me alone disconnected from the country. So my job is for me alone, not for the benefit of the larger country or anyone else other than me. My money is for me alone, not for the benefit of the larger country. My time is mine alone and not for the benefit of the larger country. If I think this way, it leads to a variety of practices that are outside of sovereignty as it touches me which is meant to be applied to the "country." I may live extravagantly, using the money I have sovereignly received only for myself. I may see my time as something meant to be spent exclusively on myself. I am not sure the phrase, "I need some me-time" is generally a very good thing.

Part of this provision I think is meant for me to share, and if I do share it is because I choose to share it in order to further the kingdom. But if I am forced to share by some government or other group having power over me, that is not the same thing. I am to be wise in how I use God's sovereign provision in my life. Helping can hurt if helpers are not careful. People can become dependent on help when they have the ability to use God's provision of abilities in their own life and act responsibly taking on responsibilities for themselves as agents of what they have been provided. This in not socialism that I am describing here. This is the understanding of how what I have received according to God's sovereignty is to be managed well BY ME in obedience to Him. Part of the problem with government entitlement programs is that I feel that I have no responsibility toward my neighbor because I pay taxes or that i am entitled to be served rather than serve. Why is it unreasonable to expect me to use my lfe for others rather than just for myself? It doesn't matter whether I have or have not, my life as a Christian is not exclusively my own.

This idea grows out of a perception of God's sovereignty being part of a general "country wide" plan versus just for me alone.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Inclusion offers people dignity while exclusion removes their dignity

"Fear is the root of all forms of exclusion just as trust is at the root of all forms of inclusion"
At least that is what Jean Vanier says in Becoming Human (p. 71).  It is an amazing book that I would recommend.

If fear is the root of all forms of exclusion, when people exclude people with disabilities from church, either through rejection or exclusionary programs, what do they fear? 

Might they fear people with disabilities themselves because they have no one with an impairment in their lives? I know many people who had never had a conversation with a persons with intellectual disabilities prior to my arranging a meeting between them. They are my students at Cal Baptist university.  They will often relate in reflection papers after the evening that they were afraid entering the evening.  They were afraid because they didn't know what to expect because they had never met anyone with that characteristic before.

Are they afraid they will have to change? One of my students once wrote, "How can we help others without changing our lives?  People don't like change, so they fear interaction with people who might be needy in a variety of ways.  Their fear of being encumbered causes them to exclude others.

Are they afraid of what they may loose if they include persons with societally determined less desirable characteristics? Churches may have separate programs because they are afraid of losing congregational members if they were inclusive. The change that would be brought over them causes them to fear.

Are they afraid they won't be able to do things in exactly the same manner as they have in the past?  I heard a great quote the other day, I am not sure of who to attribute to.  It was a comment from a pastor who was responding the presence of someone with tourettes syndrome in his congregation.  The person would periodically make noise during the sermon.  His response to those who felt uncomfortable about that person and the sounds they made, was to say, "That person didn't interrupt the sermon, they were the sermon." The implication being how we treat people is most important.

Maybe they are afraid that if they include people, people with be unkind.  That is always a possibility, but persons with impairments are not children and the vast majority are able to speak up for themselves.

Whatever the fear, exclusion is not the answer.

Could it also be that we exclude because we don't trust people? Don't trust their social skills, don't trust other behaviors, don't trust...who knows? Trusting involves risk, and there is dignity in risk. Maybe we could push this a bit further and say inclusion offers people dignity while exclusion removes their dignity. Wow that is a powerful idea. Are you a part of dispensing or removing dignity from others?

I used to coach basketball. In teaching about offense, I would say, "If you are standing still for 5 seconds, you are probably doing something wrong!"  When it comes to the church and individuals with whatever characteristic, if you are excluding them, if you are segregating them, you are probably doing something wrong. I get it...there are children's ministries and women's ministries, etc.  But I would echo Vanier's statement with a question. If we are excluding people what are we afraid of?