Category: Least of These

The Body of Christ and #DisabilityInChurch

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.

I Corinthians 12:14-26

 

 

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.

 

We Remember: Sean

Sean Paddock, 2001 – 2006

Sean Paddock was just four years old when he died.

 

My youngest son is four. As I write this, he’s dressed in his Spiderman costume, showing me how he can climb over the fencing on the porch. He’s jumping from couch to floor. He’s hiding in the Amazon grocery box. His energy never stops.

 

His energy never stops, but mine does.

 

A part of me has sympathy for Lynn Paddock, Sean’s adoptive mom who is responsible for his death. Maybe she was exhausted? She was looking for help from a trusted source, and found deadly advice. She wrapped him tightly in blankets to “discipline” him so he couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t breathe. He died. “Disciplined” to death.

 

Let me be clear — Lynn Paddock was not just a tired mother who “made a mistake.” She was found guilty of felony child abuse and first degree murder.

 

And while they have not been found to have legal responsibity, moral responsibility for Sean’s death (and that of Lydia and Hana) also lies in the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl.

 

When Sean died, we had been back in the U.S. for just under a year. God had worked on my heart in ways that changed my attitude and actions towards my children. By that time I understood that the Christian conventional wisdom about spanking was more a cultural value than mandated in the Bible.

 

And then Sean Paddock died.

 

Sean died of child abuse in a Christian home. Died at the hands of a mother who others described as always wanting to do the “right” thing. Died a young four-year-old boy, acting simply as four-year-old boys act.

 

Why?

 

Why did his mother, who may have been well-intentioned at least at the start, abuse her child to death?

 

Part of the legal defense points to her own abuse as a child. Another part of the legal defense and the broader investigation point to the influence of Michael and Debi Pearl and their book, “To Train Up A Child.”

 

Within many churches and home school circles, copies of this self-published book was handed out to every new parent. Fans of the book would buy it discounted by the case. Well-meaning pastors’ wives would hand it out to new members.

 

I read it in the early ’90s while babysitting for a lovely family, a family I still admire. Just enough sounded good or Biblical to bypass my defenses. Build relationships, “tie heart-strings,” nurture your children. Just enough Bible references are scattered throughout for Christians to lower their guard and buy in to its harmful teachings.

 

Michael and Debi Perl promise fewer spankings and instant obedience. These promises can lure in loving parents, who are charmed by the Pearls folksy common-sense stories, and deceived by their shiny website with faces of happy families. Some are not only sucked into their false teachings, but promote them actively to others.

 

But then Sean Paddock died. Slowly the few voices that had warned about the extremism of the Pearls’ teachings grew. I thought it would shock enough Christians that the Church as a whole would stop promoting these teachings. But not everyone was listening. . .

 

Sean Paddock died.

Then Lydia Schatz died.

Then Hana Williams died.

 

Stop a moment. Digest that.

 

Three children died of abuse at the hands of their Christian, adoptive parents.

 

Perhaps others have also died, but the connection has not been made to TTUAC by the media.

 

How many hundreds or thousands more children have been abused at the hands of their well-intentioned, loving and Christian parents? I know many of them.

 

Did you catch that? Physical abuse can happen, even when you love your child and intend to discipline and not abuse.

 

God have mercy.

 

February will always be a hard month for me, a month to remember.  Writing about Sean, Lydia, and Hana at the anniversary of their deaths is both a ritual of mourning, and a issuance of warning.

 

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” – Mark 10:14-16

 

*****

More about Sean and the Pearls:
Challies.com
ThatMom.Com
Her.Meneutics
WhyNotTrain.Com
Christianity Today
WorldMag.Com
State vs. Paddock
Salon.Com
WRAL

 

In Remembrance of Hana Williams

Hana Williams, Kidane Mehret

Hana Williams, 1997-2011

It’s been five years since the death of Hana (Alemu) Williams.

In the past five years, the media has not reported on any deaths linked to “To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl.

Still, I hear people recommending this resource to new parents — though more hush-hush than before.

We mourn.  Mourn the lives of Sean, Lydia, and Hana.  Mourn the children harmed by their parents, influenced by the Pearls.  Mourn for the lost innocence of the children and church alike.

I have posted little on the blog this year beyond mourning.  It’s been a hard year plus for our family.  Yet we are here, together. . . alive and loving. . . struggling and healing. . .

I’m thankful for that.

And still my heart is pulled to weep with those who weep, to remember those who are gone.

God, have mercy.

 

 

 

Tools I Gave My Children to Protect Them from Harm

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Matthew 19:14

93% of child sex abuse victims know their perpetrators. We need to destroy the myth that those who prey on children are strangers. Do the math, only 7% are strangers.

Who are perpetrators? They are usually friends, relatives, church leaders, coaches, people involved in the child’s life that the children know and trust.

There is a pedophile in my family. He was a missionary. Where did he prey on children? In his own home, in his backyard pool when his sons brought their friends over to play, in public parks, in church restrooms or any public restroom.

I tell my kids that we don’t know who pedophiles are, but they are usually people they know and trust.

Worth reading.