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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The way we have always done things - Precedents of Practice

The way we have always done things is a significant barrier to change. What might be called "precedents of practice" can be reason enough to eschew change. Sure there are reasons why practices develop as they do. Many of those reasons are Biblical reasons and we should embrace those firmly. The Bible should be taught. We should sing praises to God. We should welcome strangers. We should assist people in need. We should love our neighbor. We should observe communion. We should bring tithes and offerings. With each of these statements, you probably have a specific practice in mind as to how each of these are done. We need to do these things but we needn't do them in a manner that reflects an immutable precedent.

Our precedents may be sinful (see previous post on the sin of the environment). As I quoted in a post from 2007, there is also this fact.

Collective unconsciousness can be so vast that even the most global societal policies may be undeclared, unexplicated, unacknowledged, and even denied. Thus for many people to all work toward a bad thing requires no
deliberate or conscious conspiracy. While this is well-known by social scientists, most citizens are not aware of how they themselves can be totally unconsciously acting out undeclared, large-scale, societal policies in their own daily lives. (from "A leadership-oriented introductory social role valorization (SRV) workshop, February 27, 2007)

When we simply accept our practices, whatever they might be, without being reflective about them in changing times, we risk doing wrong things. Church cannot look the same as it did in 1930 or 1960 or even 1990. We reflectively learn, hopefully mature, and continue to grow. Precedents of practice might need serious change. Disability ministry has been one of those bright lights that has shown on our traditions and practices. If we dare to look at what that light is illuminating, we should own any ugliness that we now see and seek to change, creating new precedents which will no doubt need to be revised again as we continue to mature.

I believe the worst thing we can do is stubbornly dig in our heels and refuse to change. If you do reflect on precedents, you realize that the main need for them to be changed is how they keep us, in a comfortable way, from loving our neighbors. The spotlight of disability ministry on precedents of practice make us uncomfortable because of the demands precedent changes would bring.

I am reminded once again of  1 Peter 2:19-21 which 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."
We need to embrace the discomfort and feeling of insecurity when we change our traditions that need to be changed. If we reflect on our precedents of practice, perhaps out of obedience we will begin to move in a different direction leading to a different practice.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The sin of the social environment

In Mark 7:1-13 there is a telling interaction between Jesus and a group of Pharisees.  In verse 5, Jesus is asked, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders…?”  They were asking about the fact that the disciples didn’t ceremonially wash their hands before they ate. Jesus responds by quoting Isaiah saying, “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (ala Romans 12:2).  That is pretty damning.  But Jesus follows up by saying in verse 8, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”  He goes on to tell of how in this case, they do not honor their parents.  “Thus you nullify the word of God by your traditions that you have handed down.”  He concludes in verse 13 by saying, “And you do many things like that.”  Their traditions, in this case, did not honor a group of people they should have been honoring.  There are traditions which contribute to functionally impairing people, socially and otherwise, via an unwillingness to make the changes to the environment, the traditions, that would better reflect the commands of God.
If we as “these people who honor me with their lips” do exchange the commands of God for the traditions of men, we are guilty of the sin of the social environment. Fill in the blank as to what that particular social environment might be. It could be the school, the restaurant, the church or the local park. Our traditions seem to teach us to treat people with disabilities as different from those without disabilities. We also seem to have a hierarchy of persons with disabilities as well in that people affected by disability can also fall into this kind of social environmental sin. I addressed this a bit with a post back in 2007 called "Don't hate the player, hate the game." But to blame our behavior on the way we have been socialized or that everybody acts in a similar manner, is childish. I am responsible for my own actions and if the social environment is behaving in a wrong manner, that is not an excuse for me to behave similarly. 
I am responsible for my behavior toward others.
I am responsible for my language toward others.
I am responsible for my exclusion of others.
I am responsible for my not choosing some people as friends. 
Your personal characteristics, whatever they might be, didn't MAKE me do anything. I just took the opportunity of your presence to express a form of ugliness that resides within me. I took the opportunity of you being someone different from me in some way (personal characteristics, ideology, etc.) to embrace the the ugliness within me and celebrate it. In my novel, Meowoof, I talk about this as the Grumble. It is something that lives within us. So in reality, I am the ugly one, not you. I am the intolerant one, not you. But if my blaming you for my ugliness is not called out, then it will be encouraged and only continue. 
Take responsibility for your own participation in the sin of the social environment and stop it. 

Radio interview with Judy Redlich on "Encounter"

Today an interview I did with Judy Redlich, is being broadcast on the radio program "Encounter" Join Judy Redlich Tuesday 1:30 p.m. 

You can tune into Encounter weekdays at 1:30pm on KSIV AM 1320 or FM 95.9 for Christian perspective, world view and stimulating conversation. Judy also works for the Joni and Friends office in the St. Louis area. Please tune in for an interesting discussion. Here is how the interview is described.

"Looking for a Sunday School curriculum that could reach developmentally disabled adults at your church?  Meet Jeff McNair, its author, and national disability advocate.  Learn about new tips for advocating for persons with disabilities and their families."

Thanks for listening in!