Sunday, August 24, 2008


Imagine a world where people accept those with disabilities.

DJ Svoboda does. A 24 year old artist with autism, he has created a website and books that use his experiences to help others. Portions of proceeds help the Autism Society and his home church, Hope Community Church in Raleigh, NC (pastored by Mike Lee, a Talbot alum)

Check out his story on NBC 17 News.

Visit his website.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

NCC Policy Statement on Disability, the Body of Christ, and the Wholeness of Society

The following is the National Council of Churches statement on Disability adopted some ten years ago. I'll be attending the 2008 conference at Hope College / Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI on September 20, hosted by Friendship Ministries, (to which I've just been selected to the board of directors.) Interestingly enough, the NCC (to which the Assemblies of God does not belong) is addressing this area, but the NEA, while attempting to in the past, no longer makes an effort.

Movies like Tropic Thunder and it's excessive use of the R-word, re-iterate why the church must be advancing in this area. While boycotts at this level do not really make an impact, the national attention and conversation that was ever so briefly raised was a valuable part of the overall conversation.

The problem is that once a statement is done, actions often cease. My hope is that in this new decade more change will happen and persons with disabilities will be made a greater part of society.

NCC Policy Statement"Disabilities, the Body of Christ and the Wholeness of Society"
Adopted by the NCC's General Assembly on November 11, 1998

"Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many." (1 Corinthians 12:14)
One in five Americans lives with an impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities. Virtually everyone will live with a disability at some time in life. Concepts of justice for people with disabilities have evolved beyond paternalism toward the ideals of full participation and inclusion in all aspects of life. Disability rights and self advocacy movements have emerged.
At the national level, landmark laws such as the Rehabilitation Act, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seek to assure the same rights to people with disabilities that are guaranteed to all other people in our society.
The religious community also has taken a number of initiatives. Beginning in 1958 and as recently as 1995, the NCCC has affirmed its belief in the dignity and worth of all people, including those of us with disabilities. Most NCCC member communions have issued statements calling for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of church life. In spite of these efforts, attitudinal, communication, and architectural barriers remain. The church has served as a point of entry for many marginalized individuals into the mainstream of society. Now the time has come for the NCC to reaffirm and broaden its commitment to people with disabilities.
This policy statement rests upon four theological principles.

1. All people are created in the image of God
"Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image..." (Genesis 1:26) God creates all human beings in the divine image or likeness. This image is not a measureable characteristic or set of characteristics. God's image is reflected uniquely in each person.

2. All people are called by God
"For we are what (God) has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." (Ephesians 2:10) God calls all human beings to express the divine image through their unique characteristics. Each person's characteristics, including disabilities, are inseparable and valuable features of the unique, indivisible person.

3. All people have special gifts
"Now there are varieties of gifts but the same spirit..." (1 Corinthians 12:4) God supplies all human beings with the unique gifts needed to obey the divine call. The gifts God has given to each person are needed by all other people, and no one is dispensable or unnecessary.

4. All people are invited to participate in God's ministry
"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." 1 Corinthians 12:7 God invites all human beings to rely on and participate in the ministry of the church. God continually empowers each member of the Body of Christ to reflect the divine image in ways that will serve and benefit the church and the broader community.

In the light of these theological principles, it is the witness of the NCCC that all human beings, including those among us with disabilities, are entitled to rights in church and society. A life of dignity and respect includes such rights as access to education, health care, useful work, recreation, as well as the right to friendship, spiritual nurture, freedom and self-expression. The rights of each person, including people with disabilities, are equal to and balanced by the rights of others.

We believe the human community in all its forms is accountable to God to protect these civil and human rights. God requires the church to give spiritual and moral leadership to society in protecting these rights. The church must exercise its leadership by its public preaching and teaching but even more by its example as an inclusive community of faith, using the gifts of all its members.

"Now there are varieties of gifts but the same spirit; and varieties of services, but the same Lord..." 1 Corinthians 12:4

NCCC Human Rights: The Fulfillment of Life In The Social Order (Adopted by the General Board, November 17, 1995)
Approved: NCCC General Assembly, November 11, 1998
For additional information:NCC Committee on Disabilitiesc/o Ministries in Christian Education National Council of Churches of Christ475 Riverside Drive, Room 848New York, NY 10115

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tropic Thunder Statement

Rayne Project joins many other national groups in the following statement:

We, as organizations and self-advocates representing members of the disability community, recognize the dignity of individuals with intellectual disabilities, the challenges they and their families face, and the meaningful and powerful contributions they make to their families, their communities, and their country,

Acknowledge that individuals with intellectual disabilities have been subject to discrimination, abuse, and exclusion from society throughout history;

Recognize that the more than 200 million individuals with intellectual disabilities worldwide, and more than 6 million individuals with intellectual disabilities in the US, have suffered severe consequences including: institutionalization, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse,denial of education, employment, and healthcare, segregation, and targeted hate crimes;

Acknowledge that "attitudes and expectations of the public, in part, determine the degree to which children, adolescents and adults with intellectual disabilities are able to learn, work and live alongside their peers without disabilities." (President's Committee for People withIntellectual Disabilities, 2004);

Understand that for over four decades, the media has consistently mischaracterized people with intellectual disabilities; (Pardun, 2005);

Realize that over 80% of U.S. adults surveyed feel that media portrayals are an obstacle to the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. (Pardun, 2005)

Recognize that many people, including those with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends, consider the "R-word" just as offensive as the"N-word;" and

Declare that under the guise of "parody," whether intentional or not,Tropic Thunder demeans, insults, and harms individuals with intellectual disabilities by using the "R- word." Furthermore, it perpetuates derogatory images and stereotypes of individuals with intellectual disabilities including mocking their physical appearance and speech, supports the continuation of inappropriate myths and misperceptions, and legitimizes painful discrimination, exclusion, and bullying;

TOGETHER, we declare our intention to make the public aware of the need to create and foster inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilitiesas a matter of social justice by:

Boycotting the film and explaining to our nation's children why the film is harmful;

Educating the public, especially young people, about intellectual disabilities through far-reaching awareness campaigns to ban the use of the"R-word," and other initiatives to permanently change attitudes and promote inclusion;.

Calling on Hollywood studios, writers and executives to pledge to make this the final chapter in a sullied history of demeaning portrayals of individuals with intellectual disabilities and assist in public education campaigns;

Requesting that Congress investigate and conduct oversight of how Hollywood portrays individuals with intellectual disabilities and the effect these portrayals have on our nation and around the world.



American Association of People with Disabilities
American Foundation for the Blind
Arc of the United States
Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
Best Buddies International
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.
National Council on Independent Living
National Down Syndrome Society
National Down Syndrome Congress
Special Olympics

Sign the Pledge Today -- Stop using the R-Word!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tropic Thunder - What should the response of the church be?

The church and movies have had a fascinating relationsip since the beginning. The 1950's finally saw movies on Sunday during traditional church times. Since then, those of us who enjoy movies, put up with a lot of stuff in them that don't necessarily fit our belief systems.

Movies like Facing the Giants or the new Fireproof movie starring Kirk Cameron are attempts at the church to develop quality movies that express Christian values. (non, really of even near Oscar performances).

But then occasionnally comes a movie that is so over the top that even many within the secular field are concerned. While I'm a fan of spoof movies as much as anyone, occasionally humor gives way to viciousness. Such is the case that has happened with Tropic Thunder. A whole class of people become the express butt of jokes which denies peoples humanity and spirituality.

As many have heard by now, the largest disability organizations in the country are organizing an unprecedented boycott of this movie. Why Steven Spielberg, who got it so right with Schindler's List is now perpetuating such bile sterotypes is beyond me.

Yet the real question is what should the church do? The problem is that the church has abdicated for the most part it's role in the life of persons with disabilities. It becomes a silent complicent partner with the perpetuation of such myths by not having people with disabilities as part of its daily congregational life. If the Christian world wants to do something in response to this movie, it needs to begin examining itself and seeing how it can change first on Sunday, before it can it expect its people to change in the theater.