I’m currently taking a class for my Masters on Entrepreneurial Leadership and how it relates to the church. However, I can’t help but carry the thoughts of my son who has autism into my analysis of the reading material that I’m working through. His very existence is a critique of much of these systems of doing church. The market sensibilities of capitalism exist in constant opposition to his value as a human being. Do we really want more of that in church?
Here’s the thing: in a startup/entrepreneurial paradigm it is neither efficient nor desirable to create meaningful participatory and inclusive spaces for people with disabilities. It makes a lot of sense from a “compassion/justice/grace” viewpoint but it’s not good for branding and “product development.”
From a “marketing standpoint” you will lose a lot more “customers” than you gain in doing the hard work of creating meaningful participatory experiences for people with disabilities. Perhaps that’s why churches that cater to so-called “normal people” flourish in an entrepreneurial model as laid out in the material I’m struggling through. The pivot towards the disability community needs to go a lot further than “we have a wheelchair ramp.”
When it comes down to it, the only “metric that matters” is a Godly compassion that leads to Godly action. I’d invite you to consider the words of Conor Arpwel, an autistic man, about the experience of being thought of as a burden:
As an autistic person, I’m especially sensitive to these kinds of dynamics. I have spent my whole life trying to please others — constantly struggling against a sense that my mere presence is a burden for others. Thanks to the intense therapy and conditioning I received at an early age, I’m able to pass in a lot of contexts and navigate most social situations without experiencing explicitly ableist violence.
But no one should have to train like an Olympic athlete growing up — and engage in the constant sacrifice of pleasing and satisfying neurotypical people around them — just to be accepted. This burden is profoundly unfair, and the ability to pass is often not possible without access to immense privilege and intense training. Consequently, within our social order, many neurovariant people are left behind and discarded, and systematically prevented from living dignified and fulfilling lives.
Y’all should read his essay called “Passing in the Context of Disability”