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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Fear of Dissidents

One of my favorite books by Jean Vanier is Becoming Human. It is great book for anyone to read, not just those interested in disability or disability ministry. It is just as the title implies. It is a book about what it means to be human. When discussing the movement from exclusion to inclusion, Vanier has a section called "Fear of Dissidents." Let me provide a few quotes from this section.
There has always been a fear of the dissident, that is to say, of the one who seems to threaten the existing order. Those who fear the dissident are those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of that order; frequently, money and power, or the need to control others and to feel superior to them, are at the root of such interests (p 74).
The dissident can also challenge comfort and tradition. These are also power bases of a different sort which can be extremely difficult to change.
It is the nature of power to resist change... (p 74)
Change is clearly what we are after. Cultural change within the church. As I have mentioned in the past in this blog, Foucault, the philosopher, has stated that when you experience resistance, it implies that power is being expressed. Power can be expressed from bottom to top and from top to bottom. The resistance we sometimes feel in church leadership is clearly evidence of power attempting to be expressed from the bottom (see The Power of Those Who Seem Weaker article).
There is a deeper issue here, beyond the self-aggrandizement of the powerful. Leaders consider themselves as generally in the right. It is part of the paradigm we have  created: if you have succeeded in making your way to the top, then, by definition, by the law of natural selection, the values for which you stand have been authenticated (p 74).
The path to this leadership also did not include information that those with disabilities would desire to be present in the place the leader would be occupying, the local church. Because there was little to no training in this area, they are even more confident that they are right!
The only point to be made about all this is that it is important for leaders to listen to dissent and try to understand where it is coming from and what is true in it. If history teaches us nothing else, it is that power is borrowed...The principle at issue is the temporary nature of power, and the necessity of service and humility, the necessity of seeing what truth is being cried out in an act of protest ( p 75).
Oh that the Lord would give our leaders the wisdom to consider the dissident within their church. This is a bold statement, but I am positive that the desire we dissent from the church about, our desire to see devalued individuals included and valued is clearly the heart of God on this issue. We will not someday change from our dissenting position to a position of exclusion. But we should expect those in leadership to one day be among the dissenters.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the statement that it is individuals in power that are the most resistant to change. I believe this to be true mainly because I think they fear the unknown, and the effects change could have over their status. What if they are inadequate to lead or control once change has been set forth? What if, during the change, people no longer wish to be their subordinates? What if newer and more adequate leaders were to arise that over shadows them? I believe it is the "What ifs" that make people less inclined to welcome change when they believe that everything in their world is fine, and should be left alone. "Don't fix what isn't broke" is an expression that I have heard several times when talking to my friends who are educators. Many of them seem to be set in their ways once they have found a method that works. I have asked older teacher about what they would do if their method was to not work for a student or even a group of students. They seemed somewhat surprised that I was even questioning their ways but it is the truth. Many people refuse to change their way of doing things, and would much rather believe that something is wrong with the individual because the method has worked with students in the past. Admitting to the fact that change is necessary is almost viewed as failure on the leader's part because if an idea or method was flawlessly constructed, then there would be no need for change. I am viewing this post in a school context, but this is a much larger issue that everyone has been guilty of doing. Whether it be with parenting, coaching, or governing over a state we are all at fault for not accepting change when change is necessary.