Monday, August 18, 2008

Press Pause

Thanks for stopping by. I started this blog to kind of get my juices going about some writing ideas I had. I have a lot of oars in the water right now, so I am taking a break from the blog, mostly because no one is really reading it regularly anyway.

If you have comments on anything here, feel free to email me at dan@elimcs.org. In the meantime, please stop by www.hopepacks.com to see what I'm working on now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What we go through...

Kayren Lynn Chlup of Living with Cerebral Palsy has a wonderful post to encourage each of us in our attitudes about disability, and towards those who have a disability.

Thus, we who have Cerebral Palsy, a learning disability of Dyslexia, and or any other type of disability are; tossed a bone to keep us pacified, and are patronized, and are regarded as a problem, rather than a asset to our world and our community.

Read more...

Is this how you look at people with disabilities? Do you see them as pitiable, as sorry creatures, as neglected or forgotten by a supposedly loving and all-powerful God? Or do you see them as wonderful beings in their own right, different but whole in their own way? Or do you look at it differently altogether?

I think disability rights advocates would all agree with Karen that people with disabilities are often looked on as burdens rather than assets to society. I think too many Christ-followers would have a difficult time agreeing to same, simply because we so often see disability as a sign of the curse of sin.

I've been promising this for some time, but I look at it differently altogether, for my perspective is that people with disabilities are valued on par with people who do not have disabilities. However, they are not valued as such because of their disability, and that is where I will differ with many disability rights activists, something I hope to explain soon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Elim's Not the Only One

Elim has a unique message - people with disabilities need to be cared for, need our help, but they don't need pity. They need opportunity, accessibility, and they need to be challenged.

This is a difficult line to understand for a lot of people, even inside the disabled community. Some vigilantly believe that people with disabilities ought never be pitied, which means that anything nearing pity is an atrocity. This often makes the disability into not only a defining characteristic, but almost the goal of life for someone with a disability. They seem to think that the disability is actually a good thing, and thereby ought not be a cause for concern, empathy, or anything else nearing pity.

Mike Matthews of the Life, Faith and Disability blog (excellent blog, Mr. Matthews!), struggles with that very tension in his most recent post: For Noah:

Noah was born with cerebral palsy... I know a lot people in my field of work would be mad at me when I say it makes me sad to see this little boy going through this. There’s a difference between pity and compassion and my heart just went out to him...I think too many people in the independent living movement and the disability community inside that movement are too hard. If a person would say I feel bad about that person having to deal with their disability than they would get mad and say that your pitying them, and in a lot of cases that is not true. It’s not pity to care for someone else and the circumstances they face. God has called us to community and in a community each member must care about the next. We who have disabilities have a choice to make. We can use our lives to bring glory to God and encourage others or be prideful idiots and be miserable in our own circumstances. I hear it all the time in the disability community from people saying they don’t want to inspire anyone. I’m sorry to tell you, but if your disabled and are living an independent life, you’re empowering people to know they can do it to. So get off your high horse and encourage someone in your life today.

I think that's enough said, thanks to Mr. Matthews - be sure to keep up with his blog too!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Disabled Missionaries

A few months ago, I started posting information about our HOPE Packs program. You can read the latest entry by clicking here. Anyway, I had promised to complete that line of thinking, and with recent events, am incredible inclined to do so, a little bit at a time.

So what's HOPE Packs? Well, you can certainly find out more about it at the website, but this - to me, anyway - is its essence:

People with disabilities are usually seen as recipients of God's grace, but HOPE Packs equips people with disabilities to be minsters of God's grace to others.

Okay, more efficiently this time: The HOPE Packs program equips people with disabilities to minister to the needs of others.

Now really, have you ever heard of anything like that? We actually are equipping those with disabilities not just to "reach their highest potential" but ton actually be a blessing to others. Elim adults are doing missions work, which is more than a lot of us are doing.

Do you want to help - just stop by hopepacks.com today!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quibbling with a Life worth Living

There are so many things we can learn from Harriett McBride Johnson, who died earlier this month at the age of 50 from a congenital neuromuscular disease. Surely, she was a champion for the rights of those with disabilities, but she was much more than that. Here is a sampling of the truths we can learn from her, all from the Wall Street Journal article:
  1. She challenged philosopher Peter Singer by saying "The presence or absence of a disability doesn't predict quality of life." 
  2. She worked with groups like "Jerry's Orphans" who challenge the Labor Day telethon, and she also worked with Not Dead Yet, a disability-rights group formed to challenge the assisted suicide movement.
  3. Her work has encouraged our society to question "the rapid near-disappearance of people with Down Syndrome. Between 80% and 90% of women who find out they are carrying a child with the chromosomal abnormality (which can be tested using amniocentesis) choose to abort. A Harvard medical student who surveyed 1,000 women who were pregnant with Down Syndrome babies reported that many were urged by their doctors to terminate their pregnancies; one woman's physician told her that her child would "never be able to read, write or count change." This at a time when new developments in medicine have nearly doubled the average life span of people who have the condition to 49 from 25 years. As a culture, we have made what Amy Laura Hall of Duke University Divinity School calls a "democratic calculus of worth" regarding Down Syndrome. And that calculus has resulted in a society hostile to people who refuse to make the culturally acceptable choice of ridding themselves of a disabled child before she is born."
Yes, we can learn much. But as with all truth, and she definitely had latched into a truth, it comes from God and belongs to God. A society that values people with disabilities does so for reasons other than the fact that they can 'enjoy happy, productive, and fulfilled lives.' This is true whether you believe in God or not. But for people who believe that God did create people in His image, it is easy to understand why people with disabilities are important: because they, like us, reflect His image. They, like us, are conceived with an intrinsic value - not because of their disability, but because they can (and they often do a better job than the non-disabled) reflect God's image and glory in their lives.

Disagree? Read John 9:3 and tell me why.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

ADA Gets a Touch-Up

Despite not yet signing on with the United Nations Treaty on Disabilities, the U.S. House of Representatives this past week succeeded in improving and defining the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act, first signed into law under President George Bush Sr.

The improvements have many ramifications, most notable among them is expanded legal protection afforded by courtroom-interpretation-bypassing steps like further defining what constitutes a disability. Why?

Lawmakers said Wednesday that people with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other ailments had been improperly denied protection because their conditions could be controlled by medication or were in remission. In a Texas case, for example, a federal judge said a worker with epilepsy could not be considered disabled because he was taking medications that reduced the frequency of seizures.

The next step is for the Senate to adopt a similar measure. And with Sen. Tom Harkin on the case (considering his overall zeal for the cause of people with disabilities), I am sure they will act "in the near future."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Kennedy Family Member Almost Gets it

According to a new story in the Boston Globe, hundreds of thousands of refugees are not getting the care and oportunities they need for a simple reason: they're disabled.

Jean Kennedy Smith (a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland) does an admirable job of pointing attention to this plight, but she misses something that a lot of people miss. Read this excerpt and see if you notice it too:

We know from witnessing many examples of remarkable people who have overcome the barriers surrounding disabilities that they, too, possess skills, knowledge, and experience that can help them remake their lives and rebuild their communities.

Now, let's not be unfair, because she comes so much farther in her article than many people. Most folks think of people with disabilities as "those people" eligible for little more than pity. Ms. Kennedy Smith apparently knows the reality (that people with disabilities are valuable), because she had an immediate family member with a disability, her sister, Rosemary.

But we're still missing that last little step in realizing the worth of people with disabilities. Ms. Kennedy Smith believes that they are valuable because 'they too, possess skills, knowledge, and experience.' Oh, she comes close. But truth is truth: people with disabilities are not valuable because of the things they can do (nor are we), nor are they valuable just because they're disabled. They are valuable because they reflect the image of God and thereby have an equal and immeasurable capacity to reflect His love and grace, to be living testimonies, just as we are called to be.

But let's not quibble too much, for Ms. Kennedy Smith's got a big head start on most of us. Most folks don't even realize that there's any value at all to the life of someone who's disabled. Not only has Ms. Kennedy Smith realized this truth, she's passed it on to her son William, who started the International Disability Rights Monitor. Not only that, but she herself started a group called VSA Arts. We can learn a lot from the Kennedy family.

Oh, and William's work on the International Disability Rights Monitor reminds me about the UN Treaty on Disabilities. Click here to read about it, and click here to get your legislative representatives to get the United States signed up. We STILL haven't signed on. Let's get this done!