Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Now I have to deal with one very important caveat to the inclusive practices I've been encouraging in my recent postings, and that is safety for all concerned. I believe the basis for this consideration can also be established in scripture. In Leviticus 13 God establishes practices in the people of Israel for dealing with infectious skin diseases. Verses 45-46 gives a clear directive, "The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp." To our modern ears this sounds harsh, but in the days before antibiotics, steroidal drugs, and hygienic processes this was the only way to protect the health of the larger community. One disease that was particularly feared, and for good reason, was leprosy. This devastating skin disease is still not completely understood and is not easily treated even with modern medications. In the days of the Old Testament a disease that lead to debilitating injury to extremities, skin, nerves, and eyes; and can be spread from one person to another through some still unknown mechanism would be a fearful thing. In order for the community to feel safe a person infected with such a disease would need to be quarantined, and because left untreated leprosy is chronic, the remainder of the person's life would be one of isolation except from others in a similar state.

There is hope, however, even in Biblical times. There are several stories of God healing lepers, including Miriam the sister of Moses (Numbers 12) and Naaman the commander of the army of Aram (2 Kings 5). In the New Testament Jesus touched numerous lepers and healed them (e.g. Luke 17:11-19). Clearly the heart of God was for these outcasts to be returned to society. In modern times a leprosarium known first as Carville and later as Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Center in Carville, LA was established as a refuge for individuals infected with the disease. The picturesque campus served as both a home and a research facility to develop treatment for the disease. Thanks in part to these efforts, there is now a method for diagnosing and treating the disease that allows infected individuals to re-enter society without risk to the greater community.

Can we extrapolate both the security of the community by isolation and the hope of re-incorporation to special needs children? There are times when either for the safety of their peers or for their own safety special needs children may need to be pulled aside. It is hard. We recently walked through a season of this with our own child. However, I believe the goal should be always to work toward re-incorporating the child as soon as it becomes safe for all concerned. The time of isolation should not be spent in ostracizing the child or further restricting their activities. Rather it should be spent in developing skills and strategies for them to re-enter "normal" life in safe ways.

Part one Inclusion
Part two Inclusion
Part three Inclusion
Part five Inclusion


Janet Ann Collins said...

Some people think the disease now known as leprosy is not the same as what people had in the Bible. The modern version, technically called Hansen's Disease, makes people unable to feel pain. As a result, they damage themselves and get infections, which eat away their flesh. Reading "The Gift of Pain" by Philip Yancey and Paul Brand helped me realize my own chronic pain isn't evil and helped me deal with it.

Daniel Curran said...

You are doing good writing. A professor of mine up at Regent College calls your writings "theolgical reflection". I like how you are looking at the whole of scripture and trying to identify where your current life situation/topic is addressed in the Biblical texts. Edith Shaeffer says that "a family is art in motion, ...a mobile blown by the winds of the Holy Spirit". Keep interacting with the text and letting it be your guide and your family will continue to be art blown by the winds of the Spirit.

KDL said...


Thanks for the comment. I'll have to read more about leprosy, but if it is not the same as the modern version (Hansen's Disease), it must have been fairly similar: a chronic communicable infection manifesting as a skin disease that led to ostracism and eventually death. I guess Hansen's is caused by a specific bacteria - who knows it may have mutated significantly since it was first recognized centuries ago.


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