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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"...a splinter in your mind"

I love the movie The Matrix. I have quoted it elsewhere in this blog. When Neo "awakens" from being inside the matrix he has the following conversation with Morpheus.

Morpheus : Your muscles have atrophied, we're rebuilding them.
Neo : Why do my eyes hurt?
Neo blinks
Morpheus : You've never used them before.

The point of the story is that virtually everyone in the world is not living in reality. They are living in a world that has been created for them, in this case by computers who are controlling them, that blinds them to reality. Morpheus awakens Neo to this reality when he disconnects him from the matrix such that he now understands reality and now is living in reality. Upon awakening to the truth, Neo is confused. He doesn't have muscle control and when he looks around, his eyes hurt. As Morpheus says, they hurt because, "You've never used them before."

I sometimes feel like I live in that same kind of unreality. In many ways I have been blinded to reality and in a variety of venues, even Christian venues, I have been taught unreality. When I try to love my neighbor, it "hurts" in part because I for that moment traverse the world of unreality into reality and whatever part of me gets used that hasn't been used in the past hurts me.

Earlier in the conversation between Morpheus and Neo, when Neo is presented with the pills there is this dialogue.

Morpheus sits down in the armchair opposite from Neo
Morpheus : Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Neo : No.
Morpheus : Why?
Neo : Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my own life.
Morpheus : I know..._exactly_ what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something _wrong_ with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there...like a splinter in you're mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you _know_ what I'm talking about?

Of course in the movie, Morpheus is talking about the matrix, the unreality that people live in of which they are totally unaware. But there is an unreality of which we may be unaware in our lives as well. I feel the unreality in the church. Perhaps you can resonate with the lines above. 
"You are here because you know something." Do you ever wonder why you know something or see something that others do not?
"What you know you can't explain." I know that something is not right, it needs to be changed.
"But you feel it. You've felt in your entire life." The feeling is consuming and overwhelming. When you share it with others, you feel like and sound like a broken record. They listen kindly, but perhaps don't fee the urgency that you feel, have felt, for as long as you can remember.
"That there's something wrong with the world." That there is something wrong with the church. You know it, get glimpses of it, are desperately trying to put your finger on it.
"You don't know what it is, but it's there...like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad." You are trying to understand why what is wrong is wrong. You feel like it might be about what the vision is. Like a splinter that you are trying to get out of your finger, you are desperate to get this splinter out of your mind. It is like if you could describe both what is wrong and what should be, you would finally have some peace as the splinter would be gone. Once you got it out, you could look at it, and with some degree of relief, you could point to the splinter and feel like "That is what I have been trying to get out of me!"
"It is that feeling that has brought you to me." Well not to me per se, but to this kind of information. Perhaps you come to a blog like this hoping to get what you know affirmed. To know you are not alone in your thinking. When Neo meets Morpheus, all that he suspected is affirmed.
"Do you know what I'm talking about?" Of course you do, reader. You are struggling with the same things that I am.

If our eyes hurt, that is a good thing as we are finally using them. If you have the splinter in your mind, that is a good thing as God is perhaps trying to get you to do something, to understand something. If you are being hurt as you try to understand what God has put on your heart, that is also a good thing.People around you likely will not understand you. I have felt this. I try to humble myself to be sure that it is the message that they are rejecting and not the attitude of the messenger. But clearly, even as we grow in the development of ministry to and with persons with disabilities we will continue to face opposition as we push the envelope (1 Peter 2:20-21 says, "...But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before god. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you and example, that you should follow in his steps).

But whatever you do, do not lose your vision but ask God to clarify your vision. That has been my prayer in recent months, that God would give me a clear vision for the church as it regards loving our neighbor. In particular, loving people who have had devaluation done to them.


Thursday, February 04, 2016

"Being seen"

I had the privilege of hearing Katherine and Jay Wolf on Tuesday. They are an amazing couple with a website, and a book http://www.hopeheals.com/#welcome . I would recommend you go there and read the book.

Their presentation about their life experience was amazing, filled with trials subdued by hope. As they have come to understand disability, they made a point about a realization that had come to them. Basically it is that people with disabilities need to "be seen." It is a very basic starting point, but it is easy to understand that it is the beginning of everything. If I see you, you are in my presence and I am no longer avoiding you, at least on some level. If I see you, I begin to enter into your experience, understand a bit about what your life is like. Particularly in the case of individuals with disabilities, I am no longer sheltered from you. I can no longer say, "I didn't know" when someone describes your life experience. Being seen has the potential to be the beginning of manythings.

If people with a particular characteristic are not being seen, that leads to other, potentially negative outcomes. I remember the joke, "What the eye doesn't see, the cook gets away with!" That is, who knows what goes on in a kitchen when no one is watching. Well, what the eye doesn't see, human services gets away with. What the eye doesn't see, group homes get away with. We are often aghast at what people will record on video cameras. But the take home from that is not just that someone was caught doing something, but that the kinds of things that are not seen have been going on all of the time because people are not seen. Don't hear me wrong. I am not advocating increased video surveillance or the use of technology to in some way moniter people. Quite the opposite.

What I would advocate is that you see people with disabilities in your life and advocate that others see them as well. You have the ability to facilitate that by what you do. If I take someone out for lunch, I facilitate them being seen in the community. This is not always easy, though, as much of human services are a barrier to the friendships between people that would allow this to occur. But it is not just human services.

How well is your church doing in ensuring people with disabilities are being seen in a variety of Christian community contexts? Sometimes ministries can be so segregated, it is almost as if those in them are spirited in and out, with no opportunity for interactions with others in the environment. I don't think this is right. I am also not saying that people with disabilities should be put on display somehow. Rather, if they, like everyone else, are simply in the enviornment, singing songs, drinking coffee, listening to teaching, they become like everyone else. I guess "being seen" is a simple test for a level of being integrated.

Are people with disabilities being seen at your church? It is a simple test for integration. If people are being seen, that is a good starting point for many good things that could grow out of that.