Category Archives: Church

Do Churches Care for the Less Privileged and Disabled? – A Response From a Disabled Person

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?

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A confession and a challenge to my fellow Christians…

I have a confession to make. I haven’t written anything here in quite a while, but not because of a lack of ideas. It’s because I’ve been struggling with some of the same junk I’ve struggled with my entire life. Like most aspies, I’m well aware that I’m different from most other people. Even if I were unable to observe for myself that there are differences, people often point them out to me. I have often thought that I simply do not fit anywhere, and because I do not fit, there is no place for me. Because there is no place for me, I should not exist. I have been thinking up ways to end my existence since before I was a teenager.

I have been wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-20, the Bible tells me:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

It is true that I do not function like most of the people around me, but neither does the nose function like any other body part. The conclusion that I do not fit does not follow from the premise that I function differently. I confess that I was wrong to walk away from the body as a young man, but I realized that and I am back. However, I know that I’m not the only one that left because of feeling different.  Many have even been asked to change or leave. Continuing in 1 Corinthians 12, we read:

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

My challenge to my fellow Christians is this: Reach out and reconnect with our missing parts. Help them find that place where they honor God by functioning as they were made. Recognize that, if they don’t seem to fit, you may be the part needing adjustment. I invite you to learn more at http://www.keyministry.org/.

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