Why do we sideline the “special needs” community?


“When they eventually learn that behaviour it will be in “that place and that context”. So you have to take that learning and teach it in every place, all the time, and everywhere. Because only then do you make that learning “non-place and non-context specific” – and that’s how you make that learning “them”.”

A conversation regarding special needs and behavioural change.

(and that observation in itself is “space and context specific”: We are not “special needs” – so that doesn’t apply to us)

Which aroused my curiosity … how much of what we all learn is “space and context specific”. How much of what we “ordinary people” carry with us as “this is how things are” is also “space and context specific” … ?

(Stuff we apply in one part of our lives but not another kind of “stuff”. Stuff which applies to you because … but not to me because … Stuff I switch on and switch off because …)

Now let’s talk rules.

“Then the Pharisees and the scribes said to Jesus, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.” Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.'” ” Luke 5:33-39

Those last four words got me: ‘The old is good.’  And I went comparing different bible versions. Looked at some commentaries. And sampled some biblical wine: “The Wine of Israel and Wine in Biblical Times”

The old is good.

And in the commentaries the assumptions and guesswork take over.  Why did Luke alone add this in the gospel accounts ? Probably because Jesus felt sorry for the Pharisees.  An inclusive “afterthought”.  Which is neat.  Ties up everything nicely. Allows us to move on without a question left hanging unanswered …

The old is good.

And then … something else for me …

Old as “before” all this cobbling together?  Old as “before” the “Law” became the “Rules”?  Old as in Jesus did not come to do away with the law but to fulfil the law (but never included the “Rules”)?

Old as in the old was the Law and the Law was good.  Old as in the new is the Rules and the Rules are not good. Old as in the new is (Rules) patches stuck to the old.  And the whole thing falls apart. Has fallen apart. Has broken.

Is broken.

Because the “Rules” are space and context specific. So we will always switch them on and off.  Because that is how the rules are taught.  On the Sabbath this is what you must not do (but every other day is okay).  When you come to the Temple this is how you must behave (but everywhere else is okay).  When you pray this how you must stand/kneel/sit (but only when you pray).  When you sing a hymn of praise this is how you must sing (but every other piece of music is not worship so different rules apply). When you tithe this is how you must do it.  When you arrive for church this is how you must look, sit, speak, smile, dress, behave … And everywhere else the rules are different.

Special needs?

Isn’t the reality simply that we label “the needs of the majority” as normal. Which means  we have no special needs (move over Maslow) – whereas special needs have lots of needs – they have “special needs”.  And because learning is something we normal people just “do” – whereas special needs just … don’t …?

The old is good.

Isn’t one reality that we prefer not to see “the normal” in God. We prefer to see special needs. The special needs of the Pharisees. The special needs of us followers. The special needs of the gentiles. The special needs of women. The special needs of the afflicted. The special needs of this group and that group (and that group over there – we can see you).

This morning He wrapped that other conundrum: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17, with “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” Luke 5:39

Maybe God and Jesus is the old.  Maybe the rules (not the Pharisees) are the new.  And when we cobble the two together – we ALL split ALL asunder – and we keep on splitting asunder – even today.

Because we take a verse like “The old is better” and assign that to the past – the new is Jesus!  The new is fluffy and bright!  The new is Love and not the Law!  And the consequences … ?

The “traditionalists” (who become that as every generation ages) see themselves side-lined and discarded. The old cannot join the “new” – the new way of following – the “true way of following”. Because the old are the “old” – the “old way” – the old “law”.  And the new is the future. So we must (sadly) journey without the old if they will not change to join us (NB: those are the rules. Irony rules!)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

The Law is Love. The Rules are not. The old is good. And when the young look at the old as arrogant (in their tradition) – when the old look at the young as arrogant (in their selfishness) … haven’t we all missed the point?  Aren’t we all conditioned to “space and context” learning?  Haven’t we all learned to switch on and off – and in so doing keep God at bay and never allow God and Jesus to become “who we are”?

And doesn’t that make us all “special needs” together?  Which is really cool!  Because  isn’t that where we find Love … when we are all together?

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