Straws: Because, Ableism

Straws: Because, Ableism

Today, I want to re-take part of a blog I’ve already written entitled, “Ramps, straws, and the General Isolation of Disabled People.” 

I hope you’ll read it as a companion to this piece and also Google: Straws and Disability.

I’m writing this because the onslaught continues. Now, I know logic doesn’t win arguments anymore, but at least I’ll know I’ve tried. So, hear me out or don’t. I’m writing anyway. Here it goes.

This is about justice, equity, inclusion, and excessive burden. 

I know. You don’t need to say it. Reusable… Bring one… Blah, blah, blah.

And, I could tell you about cleanliness, difficulty cleaning, fungus, compromised immune systems, conducting heat, the dangers of reflexively biting down on a metal straw, aspiration (why paper straws don’t work,) dropping the straw, and any number of things only to be hit back with more, Blah, blah, blah.

I could come over to your house and show you 1,000,000 straws worth of plastic, much of it disposable, and hear more, Blah, blah, blah.

Truthfully though, only not about the straws, I probably couldn’t come over and/or navigate your house. …Or your business, many restaurants, the bar… Given the stairs, narrow spaces, and general clutter which always seems strategically placed in my way. 

I could give you a list of everything I have to bring with me already because your world really doesn’t want me in it and I still hear, Blah, blah, blah…

So, here I sit. Prattling on to all four of you who are still reading.

But, since you’re here, I’ll throw another word your way. Ableism.

Ableism -Discrimination in favor of nondisabled people or against disabled people.

Fighting against ableism, something I’m forced to do everyday because your world was built to exclude me, is about justice.

Justice, Equity, and Inclusion is part of our redemption story.

Plastic_straws-by_shutterstock

This is not as easy as taking straws away from me because you don’t need one for you.

The fact you that I have to address this multiple times and face continued pushback rather than just having people listen is all you need to know. After all, I’m not forcing greater burden on you or asking you to risk your life while also determining whether or not I think the risk, no matter how small, is worth it. 

As I wrote in my previous blog on this subject tagged above,

“People with disabilities like me already have it difficult enough. If you don’t believe me, come spend some time. I’m not talking about dropping by for a few minutes or even spending an afternoon on a few hours visit. Come spend a week. If you feel daring, spend two weeks. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got the time. I’d even appreciate the company.”

You might even gain a broader view of my perspective. 

Of course, you still won’t share my experience fully which is why I need you to listen.

If you don’t want a straw, don’t take one. It seems pretty easy. Your helpfulness, in itself not a terrible thing, doesn’t have to kill me and my disabled friends in the process. 

I’m even asking nicely so I don’t upset your fragile sensitivities thus causing you to clutch your pearls. “Please, let me have my straws.”

I used the magic word and everything.

My mother would be proud.

Peace Love and Acceptance

Education and Exclusion

Education and Exclusion

The following guest post from my friend, Tim Vermande, is a continuation in a series of discussions on Inclusion and Exclusion. You can read more about this in my last post, Do You Struggle with Legalism? I plan to continue this discussion, following up from Tim’s words and continuing to focus on disability, next time. Tim’s original post and other work can be found at Flying Kitty Monster.

What does it mean to be “educated”? The author of this meme on Facebook has an idea:
59845774_2401633766535083_3806936720570580992_n
As most people will tell you, education is not just being able to spout information (or misinformation) in response to questions. While that kind of learning can be profitable, as recently watchers of “Jeopardy” might know, it does not mean that one is able to discern how these things happened (as watchers of the same show also found, at least until a librarian with discernment learned to beat the champion at his game).

Along with the signs of history repeating itself, there is a need to understand diverse events and discern their commonality. This is why professors ask students to write essays about apparently unrelated topics (one of my favorites was the link shared by movable type, color lithography, peanut butter, Spam, Clarence Birdseye, and avocado green).

This is also why we like open discussions, because people bring in new connections. One of these connections came to mind during the last week, while discussing church opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act. As it progressed, we developed a feeling that the early church was very inclusive. Jesus was denounced by the religious authorities for partying with sinners and undesirables. The book of Acts and the Epistles tell of attempts to exclude people–all of which collapsed. The Christian world expanded to include Gentiles, Romans who ate meat sacrificed to idols, Samaritans, and a host of other undesirables. Paul, constantly aware of his own past, constantly sought to include everyone.

But somewhere, that was lost. Part of this was self-survival. Creeds arose to draw boundaries. In the process, they did not just define a boundary, but to exclude (writers such as Elaine Pagels have explored this idea further). The Apostles Creed was a low-level form of this tendency, but the Nicene creed spelled out a great many doctrinal points and anathematized anyone who diverted from them.

Along the way, such definitions came to merge with cultural ideas (for an example in one field, see my review here), and in the late 1900s, disabled people found themselves excluded from the provisions of the ADA when it came to churches. Nearly every day I read on a disability site about this. As I and others have found, you can get in trouble faster for insisting that the accessible parking (if it exists) at a church be reserved for people with disabilities than for preaching heresy–I distinctly recall one incident related by a friend who was told that it “wasn’t very Christian” to call police for a violation (I asked if they had mentioned that it wasn’t very Christian to park there without the proper permit). And, as this article asks, why are so many excluded from ministry positions? Will we face the challenge, and will our allies rise to join us?

By the way, if you’re wondering about the exam question, here’s a hint: the link has do with technology that was popularized and made profitable by someone other than the inventor.

Do You Struggle with Religious Legalism?

Do You Struggle with Religious Legalism?

Hey All,

I’m sorry I missed a day or two of posting. I’ve been struggling. I intend to do better.

My depression has kicked up. My sadness. My inability to understand the exclusion in our world.

Maybe it’s being at church meetings. The United Methodist Church is on the verge of breaking apart over the issue of sexuality.

Maybe it’s frustration about my disabilities. I’m not always the inspirational overcomer many nondisabled  people want to see.

Maybe it’s because I don’t check many boxes so easily which makes it more difficult to gain an audience for the words I hope to share.

It’s probably all of these things.

Do you ever feel like you’re struggling. Like you don’t quite fit in? For whatever reason. Your reasons don’t have to be my reasons. It can be anything. Be you.

There are two things I know for sure. 

  1. You are created to be you.
  2. Love always seeks justice and inclusion.

Love loves you no matter what anyone else says or does. Love is. Period. Even when you’re struggling, even when others question your worth or belonging, you are loved.

And, they are loved too but, again, Love always seeks justice. Love always seeks equity. Love always seeks to bring people from the margins into its circle.

I’m a Christian and I know for certain Jesus tells us everything begins with Love and that we are called to do live this way too. (Luke 10:25-37)

This is what I don’t understand about religious legalists.

Of course, they often use terms like traditional so it sounds better, like saying they hold a “traditional view of scripture.”

That’s what’s so nefarious about it. It’s made out to be ok, even good. It’s made to seem like theirs is a higher view of scripture. At least, it’s an acceptable difference of opinion. At worst, theirs is a righteous cause for holiness. It’s none of those things. It’s exclusion and hate that harms people, both directly and indirectly, disguised as caring.

Further, I’m here to tell you, there is nothing traditional about exclusion. That’s not what Love does and it’s certainly not what Jesus does regardless of what you believe or don’t about faith. It’s actually the opposite.

Jesus always tells us to put people above rules.

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So, the next time someone makes you feel like you don’t belong because of their internalized legalism lived out, stay strong. You are not alone. Love loves you and so do I.

You are worthy of Love.

It’s time to call bullshit on anything less. The forces against Love don’t have the right to spin this story whether brought about internally or externally.

Wherever you find yourself this day, thanks for journeying with me and remember in the world of justice and Love, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and AcceptanceLastly, Before You Go (And, It’s Not Money!)
Writing helps me. I hope my words help you too as this is why I’m out here. Your input also help sustain me. So, please let me know what you think about my post by leaving a comment because my hope is to begin a conversation. Love always works in community. Thanks!

 

 

 

I’m Scared: A Final Earthly Goodbye to Rachel Held Evans

I’m Scared: A Final Earthly Goodbye to Rachel Held Evans

This weekend, along with others around the world, I watched the funeral of Rachel Held Evans and I have a confession to make. Her life’s witness scares me. Ever since her passing, which I heard about on my way to a church conference in Atlanta, I’ve been scared. I’ve been scared and I’ve cried a lot. You can read about my initial reaction here.

Moreover, I cried as much yesterday as I did when I initially heard the news.

How can this be? How can someone I never knew beyond her books and blogs have such an impact on me? Well, I know how, truthfully. She was vulnerable. She was open, and honest, and now I’m scared because it’s up to me to be that way in a world without her voice in it.

I’m scared of my questions.

I’m scared that someone might look to my words for comfort or guidance.

And, there is so much I can’t say for certain.

I don’t know about an afterlife. Not for sure. Not in an embodied sense anyway. – That scares me.

I don’t know about forgiveness no matter what I assure others. – Make no mistake, I believe it for you, wholeheartedly. – If there is a heaven, you’ll be there.

That’s what Love does. It brings the loving parts of ourselves, after everything else is stripped away, into itself. (1 Corinthians 13) I believe that. I just know my own brokenness as well.

Still, I guess that’s a start.

Sure, I know brokenness. I see it in my life every day, though, I’m in recovery. – At least I hope I am. I see it in the world every day too and I hope for the same recovery.

I believe that Love is bigger. That I do believe – I also know it’s participatory – That’s the scary part. Love asks me, and you, to work with it even with questions. – All of them.

That’s how you become the most like Love; participation with it.

I’m reminded here of Rachel Held Evans’ words in the beginning of her book, Searching for Sunday, where she was recalling her baptism.

(Full disclosure:I went to her book looking for what I thought to be a cooler quote, one more befitting a credentialed theologian like myself, but I think that would be “faking it” as she said on page 69 since this quote is much more suited to where I am in this moment. I encourage you if you have questions like me, read the whole book by the way. In fact, my post is late today because I found myself rereading her book again in its entirety.)

“I wondered if perhaps my Pentecostal classmates were right and I needed a second baptism of the Holy Spirit, or if I had not been solemn enough or prepared enough for the baptism to work.

I hadn’t yet learned that you tend to come out of the big moments—the wedding, the book deal, the trip, the death, the birth—as the exact same person who went in, and that perhaps the strangest surprise of life is it keeps on happening to the same ol’ you.”[i]

So, here I am. The same ol’ me complete with my fears, questions, and all the rest but knowing that not only does Love outlast all those things it also shapes me into its image as I go.

Even when I’m scared just as I am now.

Thank you, to Rachel Held Evans for providing comfort even in death. Thank you to each of you for reading me words and journeying with me. Wherever you find yourself this day, scared, questioning, doing fine, or somewhere in between, you are not alone.

Love is with you, and for what it’s worth, so am I as I can be.

Always remember too, in the realm of justice and Love,

Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

[i]Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday (p. 14). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

 

What Side Are You On?

What Side Are You On?

“Social Justice Warriors”
Millions of social justice warriors
Throughout history
Exact numbers unknown
Working to end oppression
Fighting for inclusion
Not just for some but for all
Each our own way
Our own path
Our own focus
Yet, united, we stand, stroll, or roll
Eclectic bodies
Equipped for the fight
Uniquely collected
Like a patchwork quilt
Sewn together
Combined to change the world
A protective cover
To shield in spells of darkness
Each as we come
Ongoing
Unable to be stopped
For even if some are ripped away
Others, stitched in
Become part of this grand fabric
Our aggregate coat of arms
For millions of social justice warriors.

Gandhi - 5-27-2019

Have you ever noticed that bullies who are so critical of anything remotely inclusive never really bring anything to the table besides anger and hostility?

I get so tired of these detractors, who would do nothing except tear apart, acting as critics for those of us who seek kindness and inclusion. I can hear it now, “Snowflake,” or some other bullshit-speak while they are truly the ones most sensitive about any kind of questioning.

Seriously, suggest even for a second that they ought to rethink their stance and they’ll wail like petulant children. They go on the offensive. “Snowflake! Lock her/him up!” and so on. Just a week ago, I heard somebody gleefully declare that soon we inclusives will be locked up for any kind of dissent. “What are you afraid of?” I attempted to ask but even this small questioning act of mine was quickly shouted down.

Maybe they’re right too. We live in pretty dangerous times. I have no doubt some voices will be silenced along the way. This has always been true.

Yet, as difficult and scary as this is, I have hope. Hope that Love is bigger. My voice will no doubt be stilled, either by action or natural order, but the same cannot be said of Love. They’ve tried for thousands of years. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen.

Gandhi - Love

In the words of Gandhi,

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but, in the end, they always fall – think of it – always.”

Besides, I’ll gladly enter into rest with Love rather than sit silently with oppression any day. I’m a Love proclaimer

Thank you to those who resist with me. I’m grateful to call you sisters and brothers.

For those who find comfort in complacency I ask, “What are you waiting for?” They’ll come for you tomorrow even if you’re silent today. Oppression always need an enemy. There is no safe end in silence.

To those of you who choose the path that keeps others out, what part of Love don’t you understand? Especially if, like me, you claim to follow that Jesus guy.

I look forward to your response.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

A lot of self-righteous people are going around these days telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. In some cases, these hypocrites have legislative power which can be a very dangerous thing.

Moreover, the hypocritical legislators can be swayed by other hypocrites too. Watch out when that happens because, as much as I hate this type reasoning, it happens from both sides. I feel this keenly as a disabled person.

We witness this in many ways.

Reproductive rights, exclusion from full participation whether in church or society, healthcare, straw bans, the list seems endless. I am going to explore each of these areas in my next several posts.

(Shameless Plug: I write every Monday and Thursday.)

But, rather than dwell on any one of these topics today, I want to offer for consideration what I believe is the best way forward no matter the subject at hand. My hope is that this will provide our basis for deeper discussion in these sensitive areas.

Note: Please chime in. I already know what I think. Be open. Be respectful. Listen and I will too.

Anyway, here it is, though, if you’ve read any of my other posts this won’t come as a great shock.

(If you haven’t that’s ok. I still love you. Shameless plug #2, please start reading, comment, and share. See: I already know what I think.)

Love always expands the circle. Love is inclusive. Love seeks justice and equality. Most of all, Love meets you where you are, knows one size doesn’t fit all, and Love love’s you just as you are even when you fall short.

I think of my experience with my daughter, Hope, and each of us are far from perfect. From the moment I held her, I knew nothing could ever stop me from loving her no matter what. She could kill me and, even though whatever pain she projected onto me would bring me great sadness, I would still love her.

Love just is. Love lives beyond what can be easily understood in our humanity. When I, as a Jesus follower ask, “What would Jesus do?” I’m really trying to discern, “What would Love do?”

Love is true, no matter what you believe or don’t believe as a matter of faith, even when the answers aren’t so easy. Perhaps that’s why we’re told Jesus said, “Love is greater than any of the other rules.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28)

Love is a good starting point even for old hypocrites like me. Let’s try it.

Tell me, what do you think?

Let me know if you have other discussion topics too. As long as you’re willing to respectfully participate, I’m willing to discuss. There is no shortage of questions. Who knows? Call me an optimist but maybe the answers can be found in our sharing together.

Wherever you are this day, thanks for joining me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

The following post is a reflection based on the lectionary readings from May 19, 2019 of John 13:31-35, Acts 11:1-18, and Revelation 21:1-6. (https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=137#hebrew_reading)

Calm Love

It’s been a long week.

I had a great time and I learned a lot at a church conference in Atlanta. Then, on the way back, I visited family in Tennessee which was awesome (and a cool story about connection and restoration in its own right.)

I even wrote a blog post from the car about the tragic passing of blogger, speaker, and writer, Rachel Held Evans which had me marveling at the abilities of technology even as I mourned the loss of her voice while also thinking how it is more important than ever to speak up for justice and love when you lose leaders like her. (And, feeling some pressure as I try to find a platform for my own voice right now.)

So, maybe it’s really been a long few weeks.

Travel is not easy in this broken body for one thing. I came home and just crashed. But, it’s more than physical although it certainly is that.

I came home sore, tired, and drained; both physically and emotionally. And, I went to bed for like two days. I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.

However, as I began to awaken from my travel stupor, I was overcome with great sadness. I began to hear again the ongoing stories of division in our world, of anger, injustice, and hate…

I don’t know, maybe I just blocked them out for a time. Maybe, I had just grown numb to them and, as I woke up, instead being refreshed they just hit me. – HARD.

Do you ever feel like that? Hit hard by the world around you? It can be you personally or collectively. It can come from yourself or others. Just the weight of it all. Like it’s all collapsing onto you?

What do you do? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? It seems like the best thing to do might be just to go back to sleep.

Except, you can’t sleep forever. Life carries on. You have work to do. Bills to pay. Maybe you’re at a life stage like mine where you have kids looking to you asking, “What do I do?”

My daughter, Hope, came to me just a few days ago and opened up about some of her questions and struggles. So, I listened. We talked. It was beautiful really to be able to relate on this level even as part of me wanted to say, “I just don’t know!”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the struggle. Wanting answers and not always having answers. Do you feel that?!

It doesn’t have to be just with kids either. I’m sure you have someone asking you questions no matter who you are even if it’s just yourself asking them. Because, these questions aren’t coming from just one of these directions. (Kids, others, or ourselves) they are coming from ALL of these directions.

We live in a time of division. We live in a time of injustice, and we live in a time of questions.

In fact, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, I bet we can agree that life comes with no shortage of questions.

Truthfully, though, we’ve always lived life amidst questions. That’s nothing new; not now or in Jesus’ time. I think the only variable is how much you feel these questions at any given moment.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, we hear from Jesus about what matters most when confronted by these questions we all face right here in John 13.

This passage is part of a collection of passages known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, though, Jesus is trying to focus them and us forward to live into our mission as his people.

 And, they need it just like we need it. Think for a moment about everything they’ve been through over the last several weeks… Palm Sunday, “Hosanna!” Savior! (Matthew 21:9)

We are going to claim our power over injustice! …And, then, they watch Jesus get killed…

“Well, somebody has to anoint the body” and, in typical male fashion, we read the women go. “Us guys, we’ll just stay safely locked up in this room.” … “Wait. What do you mean he’s not there?!” (John 20:1-2)

“Wait, Jesus is back! Savior, again!” (Thomas, “I don’t believe it…”) … then, “My Lord and my God!” …We really are saved! (John 20:25, 28)

Except, ultimately, Jesus leaves again which the disciples aren’t ready for.

(Though, remember, they are waiting for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit, wait not required.)

Still, whether it’s the original disciples back fishing in John 21 or later retreating into the upper room in the beginning of Acts 1 or it’s us today, Jesus has already offered these words from John 13 to remember in our questioning times.

Jesus says, “Listen, I’m gonna go…” (John 13:33) And, they say just like we sometimes do, “What do we do now?” …Because, that’s the point. What are we, followers of Jesus, going to do in our world of uncertainty?

But, Jesus’ answer is simple… Even if not always easy to live out – Love

When uncertainty comes – And, it will come – Love

When you don’t know what to do… Love

That’s what we see in Acts 11 today. Some disciples weren’t so sure what to do about the non-Jewish believers…So, of course, they were fighting about it because that’s our human brokenness. We’d rather fight to keep people out rather than let everyone in. That’s not Love.

They said to Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:13)

But, Peter had a vision …A word from God…which told him just as it tells us, “Don’t worry about what you think the rules are. Love meets you where you are, no matter who you are just as I did because I am Love. Go do the same.

Remember, the disciples didn’t come to Jesus and ask to follow him.

That’s how it was done in those days. You’d go follow a rabbi for a time until you’d generally be sent home. (or you’d go become a rabbi yourself.)

But, Jesus did something different. He went and told these people (who would have been already told by another rabbi they weren’t good enough) “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says the same thing to us. “Come follow me” because Love accepts you no exceptions”

That’s what Peter’s actions in Acts 11 demonstrate as well.

It’s also what so many people who profess Christian faith seem to get wrong so often today.

The Good News is you can begin again today even if you’ve always gotten it wrong. It’s never a bad time to Love.

When you have questions, when you doubt, when you’re scared and uncertain as you look around at a world filled with injustice, unfairness, hate… and everything else…or even if you, yourself, are just not sure what to do, Love.

Just as I have loved you, love one another. (John 13:34)

Because, in doing so, in being loving in a world so often characterized by not Love, people will know who you are and whose you are.  “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They’ll know you belong to Love. (John 13:35)

And, you’ll change hearts.

 Ultimately, love will win too so have courage to keep going. That’s the true significance of the vision in Revelation no matter what some folks try and turn it into. (Rev. 21:2-6) It’s love over injustice.

My home will be among you. I’ll dwell with you and wipe the tears from your eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The rest will be stripped away”

All things will be new. And, you can remember my words.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will provide the water of life.

In the meantime, Jesus says, hold onto love even amidst the questions, the hurts, and everything else and others will know Love because of me.

We are unified by Love, whenever we Love, and in case you need to hear it again so you remember it in your most difficult times, Love Accepts You No Exceptions. – Love always expands its circle. Anything else, isn’t Love.

Love is NEVER in limited supply. So, speak out for Love. Embrace it. That’s true discipleship; 2,000 years ago or today. 

Imagine if we lived this way? You can live this way. It even multiplies as you do it, and another, and another… That’s the power of love!

That’s Jesus message. Love. Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through, remember Love. Live Love out. Again and again, one action at a time. One person at a time. Until Everyone is included. That’s True Love. Amen.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance