Where’s the Outrage?

I wonder what would happen if I were to invade a meeting of the Connectional Table…. I could march in with a few of my like-minded friends and begin singing about the fact that people with Down Syndrome, including children, are routinely denied organ transplants. Consider the case of Annie Golden Heart (you can find her on Facebook). This child is dying and cannot receive a heart transplant. As I’ve blogged about before, the lives of people with disabilities–and particularly intellectual disabilities–simply don’t rate as highly as those considered typical.

If I disrupted the business of the Connectional Table with this matter–or with the problem that the standard practice of pre-natal screening results in termination of up to 90% of pregnancies when Down Syndrome is detected–would I get three days of dialogue? Would I get national coverage from the news outlets of the UMC? If I shut down the bar of general conference because of this, would I then get to make demands regarding legislative priorities? Somehow, I’m doubtful.

Bishop Dyck recently vented her spleen in public on the matter of homosexuality and the possibility of the division of the UMC. Where is the righteous indignation from our bishops over the welcoming of families who have children with autism, Down Syndrome, mental illness, or other cognitive/intellectual disabilities? Apart from Bishop Johnson, who is advocating for these people? Despite the many so-called “progressives” who espouse a deep concern for social justice, I just don’t see people lining up to address life-and-death matters that relate to people with disabilities. Progress–real progress–will come when we teach and live out the theological claim that people of all abilities matter equally.


25 thoughts on “Where’s the Outrage?

  1. David – I for one would be happy to join you in hollering about paying attention to persons with disabilities – especially children. It is, without question, an overlooked area of concern.

    In fact, I have done so in several appointments and at annual conference.

    However, as others have pointed out, the UMC has not passed language for the Discipline specifically excluding them and then maintained that position in the face of ongoing evolution in the church and in society.

    I understand your frustration but it’s not either/or.

  2. Let’s be clear, though some seem to prefer “muddling” because muddy language is a form of thought control. The church does not exclude “persons,” but affirms all persons to be of sacred worth; it’s not a chargeable offense to be a person.

  3. Thank you David for posting this. My uncle was born with cerebral palsy and the “professionals” at Vanderbilt told her that she needed to just hand the boy over to them because they could handle them best. She told them, “No – I can’t do that; he’s my son.” Tears still come to my eyes when I think about the day she relayed that story to me when I was young boy. The simple yet profound reply she gave to that doctor resonated in my young soul that day and was really a tremendous means of prevenient grace in my life. There was just so much goodness in that response.

    Your post points to the fact that we have got to end this conversation on homosexuality because it is preventing other meaningful conversations from taking place. There is only so much time, energy, and attention that we can devote to things. If we focus too much on one thing then something else will suffer.

  4. I guess I’m burned out on outrage. Everywhere I look people are outraged about something.

    Could we do a better job with the disabled? As the father of an adult child with autism I know we can.

    Could we do a better job loving those marginalized for other reasons? Surely.

    But as long as we’re all outraged we stay stuck in a feedback loop of emotionality that gets us no where.

    But then maybe I just think this way because I’m an INTP with inadequate feelings (of empathy, sympathy, whatever).

  5. Those alternative issues you mention are not as black and white as acceptance or rejection of homosexuality, nor are the stakes as high.

    For example, you compare that decision to deciding who gets an organ transplant. I’m extremely familiar with the criteria for organ transplants, so please let me describe the complexity. (Heartbreak, rather than outrage, is usually the response once people understand the complexity).

    Only 1 patient in 10 will receive an organ – the other 9 will die while waiting because there aren’t enough donated organs to meet demand. Also, the financial costs are astronomical. Therefore, potential recipients must be placed in a hierarchy. The transplant criteria are: 1) Urgency of need; 2) Likelihood of surviving the surgery; 3) Social support/network; 4) Mental health; 5) Financial ability to pay; 6) Quality of life (which includes lifespan). For example, a donated heart becomes available. Would you give it to the 65 year old man or to the 18 year old woman? What’s the morally right decision? You have to choose – the other person dies. Another criteria is financial. If you don’t have quality insurance that will pay $577,000 (average transplant cost) plus $70,000 per year for the anti-rejection drugs for the rest of the recipient’s life (20 years = $1.4 million), then no hospital will even list you for transplant. Should a teenager who’s parents are wealthy be eligible for a kidney transplant while a teenager with parents who’s employer has lousy insurance be ineligible? You have to make a choice.

    Should someone who’s health predicts they have a 50% chance of surviving the operation be given priority over someone who has a 90% chance of survival? You only have one opportunity to use the organ. If someone doesn’t have adequate social support to help him maintain his health, he cannot get a transplant. Therefore, people without good families or lots of friends don’t get transplants. How severely disabled (mentally, physically, etc.) can a person be and still be eligible for a transplant? If you have a history depression or mental illness or just have a history of irresponsibility, you are deemed a bad risk for maintaining the health of the organ and are thus passed over.

    If you were an alcoholic, should you be eligible for a liver transplant? What if you live an unhealthy lifestyle? Or live in a dangerous neighborhood? Or skydive? Everybody can’t have an organ. In blunt terms, an organ is rare and precious so the idea is that since everybody can’t get one, which person would make the best use of it and/or who is the best risk? Everybody deserves an organ, but only 1 in 10 can have one. Regarding children, every time you choose one child to get an organ, you are literally choosing to let someone else’s child die.

    I don’t know what the best transplant criteria should be, but there has to be one. I don’t envy those who have to decide. Bottom line: all moral issues and decisions are not equal. Nobody dies if the Methodist Church accepts or rejects LGBT people. Lives are at stake in transplant decisions. Let me add, have you, your family and friends signed up to be organ donors? If so, great. As you know, it’s pointless for a person to complain about who gets a transplant if they’re not doing everything they can to help alleviate the shortage of organs.

    • I’m going to say that if we continue to say that LGBT people are “incompatible with Christian teaching,” then we are contributing to a culture that makes those people targets of violence as well as self-harm.

      • You know that’s not what the BOD says or communicates. You assume that sexual urges that arise up within people determine their identity. The Bible (which the BOD follows suit with on this issue) proclaims their identity is rooted in being created in the image of God. I can go on and on but I am sure that you have already heard the arguments.

        You sort of prove David’s point in that you continue to focus on LGBT(and all the rest of the letters) issue but ignored his post about how we are failing as a denomination to seriously address such an important issue as human disabilities.

      • We, as a denomination, have no direct control over policies on organ donation. You can always argue that churches can do “more” to address ministries to and with the disabled. By contrast, discrimination against LGBT persons is written into the Book of Discipline. You (and possibly David) have to be deliberately obtuse to fail to acknowledge the difference.

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