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

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Sometimes you have to make a ruckus"

Another student of mine (I have great students!) also presented on a Biblical passage. Hers was from Mark 2 where the story is told of Jesus healing the paralytic. As you remember, the paralytic man's friends could not get into the building to get him to Jesus because the place was so crowded. And of course social mores would prohibit them from fighting their way to the head of the seating to be close to Jesus. So what do you do? You make a hole in the roof and lower the man down in front of Jesus. Pretty awesome idea. The end result was that their friend was both forgiven of his sins and physically healed such that he could pick up his mat and walk home. There was also now a hole in the roof and probably some pretty upset people.

My student's conclusion from this passage, which is absolutely true, is "Sometimes you have to make a ruckus on behalf of your friends with disabilities!" You have to do things like tear holes in the roofs of buildings in order for them to gain access and meet Jesus. We don't know if the man and his friends were shunned from attending. All the passage says is that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd. But this reminds me a bit of Ezekiel 34:21 where God rebukes the leaders saying, "...you shove with flank and shoulder butting all the weak sheep with your horns until they are driven away." Now I don't know if they were shoved out but they certainly were not given access. So what is the response when exclusion rules the day? You make a little ruckus! I spoke about this in an old post from 2006 .

What I am recommending is advocacy, sharing of information, persistence, making oneself available and in the end not worrying if you ruffle some feathers and make people uncomfortable. My wife Kathi and I have been pushing on these issues for many years, and I know depending upon the audience we are with, we will either be celebrated or considered a pain in the neck.  I know of people who have attempted to start ministries that include people with disabilities and are shut down by the leadership. In frustration they leave and go to another church. That may sometimes be the answer, but I suspect it rarely is. The answer is to stay where you are and change things by what you do. Bring friends to church. Compel them to come ala Luke 14. This is the kind of ruckus that is often required to facilitate access to Jesus through the local church.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

"I bring awkwardness to the situation"

A student of mine made a presentation in class this past week. He was relating a Bible passage to the experience of disability. Just in passing, he made a comment that on one level was obvious but on another was really profound. He said that when he meets someone with a disability, "I bring awkwardness to the situation." This is really pretty profound. The person with the disability by themselves is not necessarily awkward in their social interactions with familiar people. The same with my student. However because of how he has been socialized, or because of his preconceived notions, or his unfamiliarity with people with disabilities, when he interacts he brings awkwardness, something that would not be there if he didn't bring it, to the interaction.

That is an important observation as once again, it is reflective of who people unfamiliar with people with disabilities are, it is not reflective of people with disabilities themselves. Now clearly people with disabilities are just people themselves so they may feel awkward in a social situation just like anyone else. But in the context we are considering, one person has a characteristic called impairment, and the other person once again is unfamiliar with that characteristic so they bring awkwardness to the social situation.

The good news is that familiarity with people who are different from yourself, whatever your characteristics are and whatever their characteristics are will lead to a break down of the unfamiliarity leading to awkwardness. So you can change! You don't have to be awkward.

Just remember if you could make the same statement as the title of this post, that is a reflection of who you are, not a reflection of who a person with a disability is.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Providing opportunities for the expression of gifts

The 1 Corinthians 12 chapter describes the manner in which people are gifted, by God, for the edification of the body. That is, your gift is not exclusively for you, but it is also for me and for the larger body. Now many of us, because of our strengths which accompany our gifts, are able to seek and find opportunities to express that giftedness in a variety of ways. But what of those who because of disabilities are overlooked, perhaps even thought to not be gifted?

In 1 Corinthians 12:22, Paul begins by saying "On the contrary" implying a correction about the fact that those who seem weaker are indispensable or those who we think are less honorable are worthy of special honor. If people are gifted in such a way that they are called indispensable, and are described as being worthy of special honor, what might this imply in terms of those of us who do not seem weaker or are not thought less honorable, working to to facilitate the expression of the gifting of others?  How do we make room for people to express their gifting who likely have not been given the opportunity to do so?

As I think about how the church might be different if persons with disabilities were truly integrated, I think this is one area of difference. How settings, programs, etc. would be structured would be different such that the giftedness of participants would be facilitated. Why? Because each person has been gifted for the edification of the body, "every one of them" as verse 18 states, just as God wanted them to be. If that is the case, then the expectation would be that gifting would have the opportunity to be expressed. It might take special effort to assist people who would not be able to reflect on themselves and their giftedness to find their gifts. It would also take special effort to provide them with opportunities. The exclusion of persons with disabilities is in part wrong because of the exclusion of specifically gifted people from using their gifts because the larger group sees them as disabled.

Being thought of as indispensable and worthy of special honor causes me to want to do something that has perhaps not been done in the past in this regard.