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

Monday, July 15, 2019

Inclusion of persons with disabilities in the church

As had been mentioned before in this blog, my wife and I lead a ministry to adults with disabilities at my local church. Its called the Light and Power Company. Each week we have a typical bible lesson to the 50-80 adults who are present. This past week, we studied the passages from 
Luke 6:6-11, Matthew 2:9-14, and Mark 3:1-6 where Jesus healed a man's right hand, on the Sabbath, in the synagogue. The story is interesting on a variety of fronts. But the aspect that struck me this time, was how the leadership would refuse to see the obvious positive nature of Jesus healing the man's hand. This was no doubt a person in their community, familiar to them, who perhaps experienced hardship because of his impairment. To their credit, he was in the congregation, hopefully not just invited on this one occasion to try to "trip" Jesus up. 

When Jesus does heal the man's hand, their response it to want to kill him. Their theology is wrong on so many levels. Wrong in not loving their neighbor, wrong in putting their traditions over the commands of God, and wrong in their response to Jesus doing an obviously beautiful thing for the man. But Jesus' actions didn't fit into their tradition straight jacket they had been conditioned to believe. Because we have not done something in a particular way, because I haven't be trained about this response, perhaps as with the Pharisees I have been trained to think this change in tradition is wrong, I will resist it.

We continue to stand at a crossroads in ministry. Will we love all our neighbors and embrace the changes that need to occur to love them and include them? Or will we, like the Pharisees, literally conspire to do evil in the process of resisting change. Hopefully we are not plotting the kinds of things the leaders in Jesus' time were, but we can still engage in evil when we exclude people on the characteristic called impairment. 

Its sad how we can see the blindness in the Pharisees when they can't see something clearly presented, but cannot see our own blindness. A similar story could be told about where some of us are in our stranglehold on tradition.



Anonymous said...

Prior to taking Introduction to Special Education, I had no idea how much Christianity or religion in general outcasts or ignores people with disabilities. Although the Bible writes in multiple areas the importance of acceptance and about how Jesus healed so many like the story referred to in the post about healing a man on the Sabbath. The church officials were more concerned about the idea that it took place on a sabbath day than the fact that a man was healed of a major issues in his life. Jesus did not believe that people should be ignored because of the day of the week or because they are different but accepted just as all of Gods people are. Although today people would probably not try to kill someone who healed on the sabbath, they may not be as open to help as they would for a ‘typical’ person. I do not think that this is because there is a purposeful, conscious disregard or dislike for people with disabilities, however there is still a major disconnect on the value and inclusion of people with disabilities lives. It is interesting that we as Christians can acknowledge the flaws of people back then, but ignore that it is a happening still today. People deserve to have a relationship with God and the church regardless of their differences.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I have to be completely honest, before I started working with people with disabilities, I did not understand their suffering. I tend to ignore them when I see them in churches and in other places. Looking back, I now understand that I have been blind to my wrongdoings. People with disabilities are our neighbors, and have the right to enjoy a social community as much as we do.

The Pharisees in Jesus' time were the high priests, they want to be the leaders and the lawful in the land. Jesus healed the sick and helped the poor, and this was unlawful according to them. They believed that people with impairments should be cast out from society. It is sad that this is a reflection of our current society. How many of us are like the Pharisees, who, with our desire for greed, turn a blind eye on our neighbors? How many of us did not try to understand our neighbors and continue to do evil by secluding them in our circles? How can we be better Christians if we do not welcome everyone in our church?

I am praying that change will start from us. That our churches and schools be open for everyone. Tradition is difficult to break especially if it is embedded, but we have to start. We have to love and understand our neighbors and to be there for them, the same way Jesus was with us. I have to start by being their friend. The way of the heart means understanding that all of us are broken and we can find happiness by sharing ourselves to those who are in need.

Thank you for the realization, Dr. McNair.