The Ancient Sin of a New Generation
Today on The Feed, we hear from Brooke Pernice who writes about the experience of blind church members. In her piece, she expresses the grief and hurt these people feel and challenges churches to address this sin.
By Brooke Pernice
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isaiah 58:6-7 NIV).
Over the last several months, I have spoken with several individuals of diverse backgrounds, but we all had two things in common. We are all believers in Christ and blind Braille readers, so a great deal of trust and familiarity existed from the outset of our conversations. Because of these common traits, they told me things they would not tell most people. Tragically, I found another commonality held by many of my new friends: being forgotten. I was horrified when I discovered that the church was one of the larger forces contributing to this isolation.
From Pennsylvania to South Carolina, from New York to Alabama, I have heard this phrase repeated: "My church doesn't want my help. They don't value my input." Sometimes this is done in subtle ways, such as never following through with the request or idea of a blind congregant. Sometimes church leaders patronized the blind people. Occasionally, this discrimination is blatant. A few parishioners I spoke to have been told, "You're blind, we don't need your help."
Being blind myself, I was shocked. I am an undergraduate theology student, and have primarily had wonderful experiences with churches of various denominations. The idea that a church could treat any congregant that way makes me fear for the church as a whole. I and the friends I spoke with are no less human, no less intellectually capable, no less zealous for the faith, and certainly no less redeemed than our sighted brothers and sisters in Christ. The time has come for the church, every believer, to awaken and turn from our sin.
I believe there are significant factors in the contemporary church that have contributed to this mistreatment. We have cared far more about having the most "relevant" music, than inviting all members of our congregations to lead in the singing of praise. Our focus has been upon "congregational growth", and so we have forgotten the needs of our brothers and sisters already in the church. We have neglected to be the church, and I for one am deeply troubled. I fear that one day, the Lord will say to us, as to the Israelites long ago: "Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps." (Amos 5:23 NIV). We raise our voices to Jesus Christ, then neglect our brothers and sisters he has also saved.
In this devaluing and discrimination toward these blind brethren around the country, we have forgotten what it means to be the church. Jesus Christ tells us what the conduct of those who truly love Him will be: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." (John 15:12-14 NIV).
Even in the midst of the church's transgressions, we still have hope. The church itself may still be redeemed from our sins. This is not the first time that the people of God have needed to turn back from their ways, nor will it be the last. This is an ancient sin, going back more than 2000 years, it is only a new generation and a new context. Like the church before us, we have the opportunity to remedy this mistreatment by loving this community as God loves us all.
We began with verses in which God commands us to live as those who love God. We end with this promise: "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard." (Isaiah 58:8 NIV).
Brooke Pernice is a rising senior at Belmont University, majoring in Religion and the Arts and minoring in english writing. She just completed an internship with The Upper Room in Nashville, TN. You can also see Brooke on Moyo performing "Be Thou My Vision" in a Reflection.