In a recent blog post, Ellen Stumbo noted that someone found her blog by googling “Do churches care about the less privileged and disabled?” She talked about the question and suggested as she concluded that, “If you asked the disabled if they believe the church cares, your heart might break knowing many in the disability community give a resounding, ‘no.'” She’s right.
If you ask me, the answer is certainly no, and I don’t have to look hard to find other disabled adults that think so as well. Why? It’s because we are people, and responding to this appropriately is more than a matter of verbal constructs like “person with disability.” Like other people, we tend to have a need to be connected with others and to belong to a community. I think Ellen did a great job of highlighting the reasons disabled people might not feel valued, so I’d like to talk about the question I’d really like you to ask: “How can we show disabled people we care?”
Get to know us as people. Find out what we are interested in and what we enjoy. Find out what gifts and talents we have and where we might like to use those. Help us find our places in the body of Christ and not just a spot in a separate room for those who are different. Really, that’s what it comes down to. The Bible tells me in 1 Corinthians 12 about the body of Christ. I read that the body is made up of many parts and that no one can say that a part doesn’t belong. I even read that those parts which seem weaker are indispensable, but for what purpose? What is it that makes me necessary? Where do I belong?
The answers to these questions should bring us to a place of doing ministry together. In reality, my experiences have gone the opposite direction. I seem to have no purpose except as a project for others, and I do not seem to belong anywhere outside of that context.
I’ve had people think it is helpful to tell me why no one likes me. The reasons given tend to align with the diagnostic criteria for autism, which is unsurprising, given research that shows non-autistic people tend to avoid interacting with autistic people based on snap judgments. Can we talk about this so that you understand me better and can help me fit?
I’ve been told that my paralyzed arm remains paralyzed because I lack faith and have been pushed away as a result. I do find this surprising, given that Paul asked for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh” three times and God said no three times. Why is this the standard for faith? What if my faith actually means I’m trusting God that I don’t need that arm to do what he wants me to do?
Can we start there? Can we do this together?