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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Social Ramps: The Principles of Universal Design Applied to the Social Environment

Social Ramps

Bryan McKinney and I have just published an article in the latest issue of the Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability (click on the words "Social Ramps" above to see it). The article looks at applying the principles of universal design to social environments. Using the idea of a ramp, something most people are familiar with as a way that folks who use wheelchairs can access physical enviornments, we wonder about how "social ramps" might be created to facilitate access to social enviornments. We make the point that confronted by steps, someone who uses a wheelchair is denied access. The society has determined that this is something that they want to correct, so ramps are designed and built allowing access to those who have been denied access in the past. The physical environment was created in one way and overtime has been reconstructed in a different way. You might say that we have changed our physical enviornment traditions such that access is easier.

Well, how might we change our social enviornment such that access might be easier? Are social skill traditions, cultural traditions immutable or might they be changed? How might we approach softening the social enviornment, changing traditons deliberately such that those who have been excluded for social skill deficits or misunderstandings might be provided access. Yes, some people can learn to change, but many others cannot change due to their disabilities, etc. If the social environment CAN change such that these folks could be included it might be encouraged to do so. Our social enviornments would then be different than they currently are. More loving more accepting, etc.

Well, please check our our article and think through the issues presented.
God bless,


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Knowing the path versus walking the path

"Neo, sooner or later you are going to realize, just as I did, there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."

Those are the words Morpheus speaks to Neo in The Matrix after he has saved Trinity from the crashing helicopter. I am increasingly, like Morpheus, coming to the realization that I have been taught the path to the point of knowing it pretty well. But at the same time that same teaching didn't really expect me to walk the path. That may imply that actually I didn't know the path either.

The words of Jesus are so challenging. Here is a sampling...

If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

The story of the Good Samaritan ending with, "The one who had mercy on him. Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" Luke 10:37

"Do you understand what I have done for you?...I have set an example for you that you should do as I have done for you...Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" John 13

"In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets" Matthew 7:12

"If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" Matthew 5:46

"Love your neighbor as yourself" Mark 12:31

The challenge is much greater, much deeper. Jesus wants us to follow him on the path he took. Do we really understand the path he took? Or as in the last posting of the poem have we been taught it as unapproachable, not really demanded of us, something for saints and super Christians. We even use that phrase as there is something other than just being a Christian with the same demands for all.

I need to learn that lesson. I need to be sure that those who come after me recognize the demand to follow. For so long I feel like the most important thing for me to do was to get my mind right, get the right theology as if that was the most important thing. What happens in my head is the most important thing not what I do with my life, my body, my mind towards other people.

As I write this, I have my turntable going, playing Kansas. What that means, is that I have a record playing music from a band of the 1970's (for you younger readers). Kerry Livgren, who ultimately came to the Lord wrote the following words. in the song Opus Insert.

But there's too many empty lives my friend
And we just can't let them waste away.
For this life is a precious thing my friend
And we just can't wait another day.

Do you feel the urgency there! Urgency for us to do something. To walk the path. Don't buy the lies you have been sold about what the demands of God are on your life. God tells you the MOST important thing you can do after loving Him with all your heart, soul and mind is to love your neighbor as yourself. And that demands action, work, discomfort, risk based upon faith. It is not just thoughts. Would someone be able to observe your walk and recognize that you recognize that there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path? What evidence would you provide?


Friday, January 23, 2015

Unapproachable - A poem about loving your neighbor


By Jeff McNair

If where we end up,
is based on where we have been,
then what is pervasive,
reflects on how we begin.

The greatest is love.
It is what we sing of.
Sung of so often one might think love is trite,
not the battle demanding in which we must fight.
And we are losing.

Love is taught as unapproachable.
It’s the thing of saints, not me.
Expectations mean, and lean
in the hope, of love seen.

Is the subject of love obvious?
If where we began was right,
the target would be in sight
and we not oblivious.

The evident target is unseen.
My mirror blocks my view.
I step over someone wondering,  “Who is this neighbor I should love?”
That’s been asked before, and answered.

Could love resurrect with a ride, a couple bucks and a hotel?
You assume outcomes about you and he, but don’t know for sure.
Love feigned at its core, when demanded, slinks by
to play at love to an audience who fears it. Unapproachable.

Must I worry and scurry around,
bound by love’s fetter and forcing action
toward those who don’t get better?

Constipated by wealth, I go away sad
reeling from the frightening answer to, “What must I do?”
No pervasive love expectation
because it’s amazing, saintly, unapproachable.

My choices challenged,
I agree neighbors should be loved.
But my self-standards are too low.
I think my Bible tells me so.

My loveless leaders confuse me.
Guiding Sunday school to seminary,
they have fed my fears with ease about love
and fed my ease with fears about love?

Should I love my neighbor as myself?
No, it is unapproachable.
 “You don’t have to love that neighbor.”
I take my ease among the reproachable.

I learn no neighbor love demanded.
God’s love for me is confusing.
I love myself unchanged and unchallenged
because neighbor love is just a high ideal, unapproachable.

So, I do nothing.

Monday, January 19, 2015

We have a plan for you at Love Your Neighbor!

"Hello, I am here to love my neighbor."

"That's lovely! We have a variety of plans. What do you have in mind?"

"Oh, I don't know. I have just been thinking that I might want to love my neighbor so I was wondering what might be available."

"Well YOU have come to the right place!  At Love Your Neighbor, we do have a variety of plans which you might find interesting for loving your neighbor. Are you familiar at all with what we offer?"

"No, not really."

"Well then, let me go through our options! As with any product, some options are more expensive than others. But I am sure we can find something that will work for you."
First is our "Appear to love your neighbor" plan. In this plan, you do things that could cause those around you to think you love your neighbor. We will give you training to say the right things and talk about the right things. You will learn phrases like, "God bless them!" or "I will pray for you!" or even, "There but for the grace of God go I!" Each of these are likely to make those who are observing think that you actually do love your neighbor. All this at no cost to you! We are sure that over time you will feel much better about yourself and others will as well."

"That sounds interesting. God bless you for that plan!"

"HAHA!" He points at her. "You are really getting the hang of loving your neighbor already! Maybe you should consider our next level. The" Open your wallet plan." In this plan, you actually write checks for charitable organizations. That way you can both love your neighbor and get a tax deduction!"

"That one sounds a bit scary!"

"It is by far our most popular plan. Yes, you do have to make a financial investment, but everyone needs tax deductions. You also get praise from those to whom you send money! But I'll tell you the real pay off. When you get your taxes done, people will ask you why you give away that money. And your response, of course, is..."

"I love my neighbor!"

"Correct! AND you never have to have an interaction with someone who would make you feel, you know, uncomfortable."

"Does it matter how much money I give?"

"Well, if you want the tax preparer comment benefit, you probably should give like 5%."

"I think I could do that. Wow! And then I am really loving my neighbor."

"Well yes. Maybe. But there are other plans but most people aren't interested in them. There are stories of people who wanted to know about the other plans, but were not really prepared for the answer when they asked about them. Asking about other plans is pretty scary.  Also those plans are kinda expensive."

Hesitation. "Well I do want to know how to love my neighbor. What question do I need to ask?"

"The neighbor question." he responds nervously. "You know the neighbor question."

"What is the neighbor question?"

"Not what, who. The who question."

"Oh, you mean, Who is my neighbor?"

"Are you asking me that question? I can tell you the answer but it is a pretty expensive answer, err plan."

Boldly, "Who is my neighbor?"

"Well since you asked, let me describe the Who Is My Neighbor plan. Well he could be a guy who is disabled by being beaten up or treated badly by other people. Someone with a disability or a mental illness or something like that. You could use plan one for that kind of person, but if people find out, you won't be though well of. People won't think you really love your neighbor.  So under this plan, you do things like take emotional risks, spend your time helping the person, visiting them to be sure they are OK. You also do a lot of plan two. It IS expensive."

"Wow that is expensive. But at least the people get better, right?"

"Well, maybe." Shakes his head. "Could be you help them and they don't get better. Could be they stay the same or get worse. But you wanted to know how to love your neighbor, and who your neighbor was so I told you. Loving your neighbor is not about if the person gets better, it is about what you do."

"Wow! Then that is really expensive. I guess thats the highest plan, huh?"

"You might think so, but not really. Nobody ever gets past plan three. I'll tell you, they tiptoe around that plan and go back to plan one or two. But there is a plan four. I have never seen anyone buy it so it is a bit of a mystery to us here at Love Your Neighbor."

"What is it?"

"Sell everything you have and give it to the poor." He blurts out and coughs. "Most people when they hear that go away sad. They say they want to love their neighbor but when they find out the cost of doing it, well, I don't know. I guess they just figure it isn't worth it. But I am also not sure that plan is for everyone. I am totally sure plan three can  be done by just about anybody. They just have to have the desire to do it."

"You know, its funny. People don't really expect me to love my neighbor. If I say nice things they get kinda surprised. If I give my money, they can't believe it, or talk about how they wish they could do that too. But if I were to really choose a couple of people as my friends and really enter their lives. I think I could love them, but they might also learn to love me. I might help to lessen their difficulties, but they would also help me too, in ways I probably don't know about because I haven't tried to love my neighber in a plan three kind of way."

"Well just be careful about what you commit to. Please don't expect too much."

"Huh? Now you kinda sound like my pastor."

A friend of mine, Toby Hoff once shared a Steve Camp lyric with me that guided him. It says,
"Don't tell them Jesus loves them till you're ready to love them too."

Friday, January 16, 2015

A new website whatwouldbebetter.com

In 2012, Marc Tumeinski and I wrote an article bridging some of the principles of social role valorizaton with the development of devalued people within the Christian church. You can read the article here. The main thrust of the article was to provide criteria for ministry development, encourage people in ministry to consider the criteria, look at what they are doing in reference to the criteria and then ask themselves, "What would be better?" For example, the article states,

What does our shared vision of Christian community look like? Who is present in our biblical vision of community? How can the inclusion of vulnerable people better reflect the Gospel vision and therefore strengthen our church community? How can we more closely approach this vision here and now within our church? Given the actual makeup of our membership, might we unintentionally or unconsciously be putting some groups of people outside of this vision? What would be better?

The article implies that one has a vision or a goal for ministry in mind. However, the circumstances may be such that the local church of which you are a part are not prepared to embrace the vision as it is to threatening, or too costly. So rather than scaring people with our whole vision, we take small steps that make us "better" in some way. In the end we move toward our vision.

In proposing this idea, and seeking dialogue about what might be called "maturity in ministry" I have developed this website. I invite you to visit, make comments, propose articles, tell stories of how you have moved toward maturity in your ministry. Visit the website here.


Friday, January 09, 2015


The concept of universal design is one that has made a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities, particularly in America. Much of the changes in the physical environment that were brought about by the Americans with Disabilities Act can be traced to universal design principles. But something more is needed.

I have been thinking for a while about the application of universal design to social environments. Early thinking on this has led to an article about to be published in the Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability called, "Social ramps:Application of the principles of universal design to social enviornments." The article, by Bryan McKinney and myself, will appear on the universalsocialdesign,com website sometime in February of 2015, but if you are interested in some pre-release thinking about it, you can visit the website. There are also places there where you can offer your ideas or reactions on the subject.