Several years ago, my friend who is a wonderful Catholic and an elder at Special Gathering, gave me a book. I’m not sure of the title or the author because as soon as I finished it, I lent the book to another friend and it hasn’t returned home.
The book was written by a Quaker pastor, living in a small, upper New York State community. While my views of many things were radically different from his, I have no doubts that this pastor is a deeply, dedicated believer. As a Conservative, Evangelical Christian, I was fascinated by the characterization of my scriptural and traditional viewpoints as seen through the eyes of this liberal pastor.
While everything was crouched in delightfully, loving humor, I was stung more than once to see how others view a presentation of truths with which I am quite comfortable. It was as though a light had been beamed on my attitudes and beliefs that exposed dimensions which were unattractive and downright ugly.
Having been raised in the South and because I lived through the 1960’s Civil Rights movement, I saw first hand the shock and wonder of many white Southerns who did not understand the discrimination that Black people had suffered under the Southern culture for two hundred years. Looking back, there was little restraint from the “Ruling Class” of whites. I believe that was mainly because the caucasion population was basically unaware of the awful discrimination under which the Blacks had suffered. For generations, it was a way of life–not a mark of discrimination. Those of us who were rising into adulthood during that decade embraced the changes.
At The Special Gathering we function within the cloistered, sub-culture of the mentally challenged community. We believe that we owe much to the Afro-American Civil Rights struggle. Living in this environment and without pointing fingers at anyone else, I cannot help but wonder:
How much of what I’ve written and said in regard to the discrimination foisted upon mentally challenged persons could be viewed as hateful, anti-social rhetoric?
How loving am I in presenting my viewpoints regarding the hurts leveled against the population I serve?
Is it important to guard with our very lives the truths of the scriptures? Is making the truths of scripture real to our particular sub-culture ever an excuse for not being true to the text?
When we are enveloped into a cloistered sub-culture such as the mentally challenged community, how often does group-think cause us to go places that do not make sense to other people?
How different do things that are said within our own sub-culture sound when heard by people not familiar with that sub-culture?