I am angry. I am so angry that I hesitate to write while feeling what I am feeling. But, perhaps putting my anger into words will help me begin to simmer down and be angry but not sin. Righteous anger has its place (Ephesians 4:26).
What has happened to cause my anger? Injustice. Injustice to a friend of mine. I know, the world seems to be flooded with injustice right now, so what is one injustice to one man? One is one too many.
Okay, deep breath. Count to ten. What happened? In a nutshell, a friend, who has a disability, was told that he needed to be removed from the sanctuary in the middle of the service because it was felt that his soft, happy vocalizations were a distraction. My friend, his friends and those supporting them were humiliated when they were told, by the pastor using a microphone in front of the congregation in the midst of a sermon about loving all people, that he needed to leave. His communication style made him unacceptable. Did you get that? In the middle of a sermon about loving all people someone was told to leave. And I am angry.
Yes, his vocalizations may have been a distraction. The support staff who were with him are professionals who are trained to understand how the people they support communicate. They are also trained to protect and promote human dignity. If my friend had been communicating dissatisfaction or discomfort the staff supporting him would have helped him quietly leave the service to address his needs. If they felt that the volume of his voice was a distraction they would have helped him quietly leave the service to protect his dignity in the eyes of his fellow worshippers. In their judgment his quiet, under the breath, vocalizations were not a distraction to the level that he was bothersome to those around him.
I am not angry that he was asked to leave the service. That quietly happens from time to time. I am angry that he was devalued as a person and humiliated in the process. Isn’t there a way that this could have been handled that did not humiliate him? Were his happy sounds so disruptive that the sermon could not be finished and then after the service have a quiet, private conversation to discuss the issue?
I am angry that this man, a person created in the image of God, a man who loves Jesus with his whole body, mind and heart was humiliated by a church leader. I am angry that his friends, who also have disabilities, had to share his humiliation. I am angry that the support staff (who maybe unsure about this whole church and religion thing) felt the rejection and embarrassment as well.
I am angry that in a sermon about love for all people the real message that was conveyed was that disabled lives do not matter.