How would we be different?

This question emerged for me today: How would the church be different for people with physical and mental disabilities if it were more like the kingdom of God?

In talking about this with my wife, our first two thoughts were these:

1) We would not use the language of “they” and “those” nearly so often, if at all. We would not treat people with bodies or brains that function differently as somehow radically unlike everyone else.

2) Related to the above, we would not see people with physical and mental disabilities as objects of pity and recipients of ministry, but as fellow Christians with their own ministry and calling.

I am not entirely clear how to work this all out, but here are a couple starting hypotheses or proposals.

Please join in with your thoughts and reactions.

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8 thoughts on “How would we be different?

  1. Hi John,

    My first thought was in relation to widows, orphans, and aliens. They are named — singled out, if you will. But certainly included. If anything, given a special place. What do you think? Is this similar, or does this call for a different response — a sort of disability-blindness?

    1. Good question. I think there is a difference between these social/economic groups and ability, in part because with disability we sometimes speak of people as if they are not fully people but are somehow categorically spiritually different from “us.” I don’t want to deny physical or mental differences, but the binary seems to me to obscure our own disability compared to Jesus.

  2. I remember visiting in South Africa – with a United Methodist minister out in a rural area. He used to be the minister of Agriculture for the new South African government. He said “all liturgy is written by city people” – I asked him what he meant. He said that out here a woman was not a woman unless she had a chicken and a man was not a man unless he had a cow – and yet there were no liturgies written to celebrate the birth of chickens and cows. So – I suppose something I would add is that we would build liturgies that would celebrate what those labeled as disabled noticed and rejoiced in – as readily as those who do not see themselves as disabled. All sorts of things suggest themselves: one is a liturgy to celebrate friendship (so many of my friends who are labeled as disabled – rejoice, rejoice, rejoice at the gift of friendship – much more than my friends who are no so labeled); another is perhaps a liturgy to celebrate and bless the gaining of a prosthetic device; perhaps a liturgy to celebrate one who signs for theatrical events in the larger community (and worship)….etc…

    1. Thank you, Mike. I love the chicken and cow story. And I think you raise a great point about liturgies.

  3. We would enable them to serve. We would enable them to participate. We would think of them as having spiritual gifts.

    This is a problem we are facing with my oldest daughter. She is excluded by the fact that she is not following the normal route of marriage and children, and then doubly because she cannot drive. My husband and I cannot always take her places. But what if someone or a group of someones made it their business to make sure she knew she had transportation to services, to events, to serve?

    We need to do more than just “think” about how we think of people with disabilities, although that will help.

    1. Ann, you sound a bit like my wife. She also finds my penchant to think a distraction from doing. Thank you for telling a piece of your story here.

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