“Mom? Can you go get Alexa? I don’t want to miss this stuff.” – A5
We’re listening to an audio Bible. We’re in Leviticus.
Conversing more on #disabilityinchurch has me pondering this section of I Corinthians 12. Do I believe this was put in the Bible specifically to address disabilities in church? No. But the analogy here is poignant, and a corrective to a mindset that excludes our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I know this is a rather long quote, but please read it. . .
For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason [c]any the less a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?
But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it.
But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
One of the things which jumps out to me is, “the members of the body which seem to be weaker. . . which we deem less honorable. . .” It is no surprise that both the broader culture and even within the church, those with disabilities are often deemed to be “lesser” or weaker people. (Just consider the push for the abortion of babies with disabilities for a dramatic way this plays out in the broader culture.)
Yes, our brothers and sisters with disabilities may be weaker in some senses, and really do need our support (physically, emotionally, spiritually.) “[I]f one member suffers, all members suffer with it. . .” Can we share in their suffering? Or work to alleviate it?
At the same time, many of these same brothers and sisters are strong in the faith. God has used their weakness for them to be strong in Him, as I’ve seen in many people in my life (especially older saints who have walked with the Lord for years.) On the other hand, we shouldn’t assume that people are strong in the Lord simply because they have suffered — one person shared with me that people only saw her physical disability and neglected care for her soul.
Interestingly, this section of Scripture is just prior to the famous “love chapter” in the Bible. Perhaps that is also a reminder of how to treat one another in the Body of Christ?
I don’t believe any one local manifestation of the Body of Christ is going to be able to remove all barriers, accommodate all people at all stages of life. But I do believe we can learn and grow and serve one another in Christ, especially those who God puts in our paths.
I’ve recently been in a discussion about #disabilityinchurch. While of course there will always be room for improvement, I’m so thankful for how sensitive the churches we’ve most recently attended have been.
What I’ve seen? Good sound systems, hearing assistance devices, or t-coils. . . And the seniors in church joking with me about my “old man hearing aids.”
I’ve seen plenty of large print bulletins and large print Bibles–not just on one side of the sanctuary to pick up if you need one, but placed in every pew. I’ve seen requests in the bulletin to avoid wearing heavy perfume.
I’ve seen assistance, ramps, and drop off points for those with limited mobility.
I’ve seen coaching from the Sunday school leaders how to help engage all the kids, when illiteracy is a factor. . . working hard so that no kid is embarrassed by that. Encouraging teachers to deal with disruptions gently, because those disruptions are often masking invisible disabilities.
I’ve seen dishes at potlucks clearly labelled for people who have dietary limitations — and people being conscientious to bring a variety of foods so all can participate in the meal.
Pastors being transparent about mental health struggles, and pointing to good sources of counseling, community, and medication. Communion being offered with both grape juice and wine; regular and gluten free bread.
Pastors saying, “Please stand, as you are able.” Pastors not showing any signs of distraction when kids/adults can’t sit still throughout the service.
I am sure that were our family more directly impacted by various abilities, I would be more aware of what could be done or is already being done. I know that I have blind spots. I am thankful for the sensitivity and inclusion that I’ve experienced in our churches in Bahamas, Florida, and DC.
I know that many people and families still experience barriers in churches. I know there are struggles to get to church for corporate worship, challenges to be part of the daily life of the church. I see people with disabilities having to go the extra mile to participate — and I wish we all in the church would be better at going the extra mile instead.
I can’t imagine a church or environment with no barriers for people with disabilities. But I can imagine growth in relating to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord regardless of abilities, and working together to minister side by side.
Elseweb, a friend commented: “Jesus is used to people being carried in to be healed by Him. Maybe the difficulties in access are in fact being used to bring the able-bodied into His presence as they carry in (or improve access for) those who aren’t? If all the access problems are solved, the disabled, who have other problems besides access, might be assumed to be able to go it alone. God’s ways are mysterious.”
Among other things, this discussion on
#disabilityinchurch is a reminder to me of our complete dependence on God, and our interdependence with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Lydia was a little girl who was adopted from war-torn Liberia. She was one of nine children, six biological and three adopted. In so many ways, her family was lovely and loving. And yet, she died of rhabdomyolysis, in which her muscle tissues were broken down by repeated spankings from her adopted parents. It is hard to hold in mind the tension of parents who are active, involved and loving — and beating a child to death. Yet, I believe it is important to see that dichotomy so we can prevent it from happening in our own communities.
Michael and Debi Pearl wrote “To Train Up a Child,” a book which espouses child training methods that purport to be Biblical, but are really their own methods of discipline which commonly lead to abuse. They appeal to parents who are strongly committed to their families and following the Bible in their homes. At times, their writing is winsome and folksy. They cite the Bible enough for people to lower their guard.
Some advice is commonsensical, but underlying it is the philosophy that parents must make a child submit to parental authority at all costs. All defiance must be spanked out of a child. Any remaining opposition must be met with complete parental control until the child submits. (Read this philosophy in context, quotes from TTUAC.)
While Lydia’s situation was likely complicated by her adoption and possible attachment issues, her death is an extreme example of a common application of the Pearls’ methods.
Loving parents are persuaded by this false teaching that they MUST make a child submit totally, that “consistent discipline” via spankings for disobedience until complete submission is Biblical. This easily crosses the line from minor spanking to ongoing abuse. No matter how well-intentioned abuse is, abuse hurts children and families.
Celebrity websites this week have been posting clickbait stories about one of the Duggar girl’s in-laws hosting Michael and Debi Pearl at their Fort Rock Family Camp. People have come out of the woodwork defending the Pearls and their harmful teachings, including some of the Duggars
My stomach is twisted in knots, remembering Lydia on the anniversary of her death. . . while the tabloids run these stories and people promote the Pearls.
Our children deserve better. Parents deserve better. This has to stop.
So in little ways in my local life, I will keep encouraging the parents I know to nurture their children with gentleness and grace. And as loud as I can shout it online and in my community, I will point out the false teachings that lead to abuse.
(Note: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the Pearls, and won’t be the last. Some of the more detailed analysis has been lost in the crashes and spam of the site. But google is your friend, and you’ll find much more about the Pearls harmful teachings with a quick search.)
Once upon a time, I had a noisy little Honda Accord hatchback and four noisy boys. The noise of the tires on the road was loud, and the normal noise from the kids was loud. It was a bit overstimulating, and I tuned it out.
And then I was diagnosed with hearing loss. It’s bilateral, moderate, mid-range sensioneural hearing loss — nicknamed a cookie bite because that is what it looks like on an audiogram. That means while I can still hear the sounds around me, I’m not picking up a lot of the sounds in the speech range. I hear the rhythm of your speech, I hear some of the sounds, and my brain puts together what it thinks you are saying.
It was a relief to get a hearing loss diagnosis (it’s not all in my head!) and hearing aids seemed like a gift rather than a stigma. In reality? My hearing aids were life changing.
But the most profound moment after being diagnosed?
Driving down the road I realized, “Wow, my kids in the back seat are actually talking to me! Not just being noisy!”