We live in a society of trigger warnings and social warriors. It feels as though each day brings a new grievance for people to rally behind, while terms like “privilege”, “prejudice”, and “safe space” are popping up like daffodils. This new cultural movement has been especially hard on Christians, many of whom are finding themselves at a something of a spiritual crossroads. Do we stand with the dispossessed and risk becoming hypersensitive, or do we stick with traditional attitudes and turn a blind eye to potential injustice? With so many difficult questions getting tangled in the chaos, it’s ironic that a show called Speechless is providing such helpful answers.
The latest dramedy to hit ABC, Speechless follows the eccentric DiMeo family as they attempt to start over in a new suburb. Led by Maya (Mini Driver), a well-established mama bear, the family hopes their new school will provide a better environment for the oldest son J.J.(Micah Fowler), who was born with cerebral palsy.
“You’re just in time for tonight’s big school fair. The theme is ‘inclusivity’.” Croons the school principal as she greets them at the door, “You’ll find we take great pride in our progressive and thoughtful environment.”
Unfortunately, things take an awkward turn when Maya discovers the only ramp into the school is one the janitors use to throw out garbage. For all her talk of diversity and inclusion, the principle never bothered to build a wheelchair ramp at the main entrance of the building. The rest of the day proves equally fruitless. Upon entering his classroom for the first time, J.J. is given a standing ovation and immediately nominated for student body president.
“Why?” he asks bewildered, “You don’t know me.”
It’s not long until the DiMeo’s realize their new community is better equipped for the idea of diversity than they are for actually applying it. Sure, the people know all the right pronouns, avoid trigger words, and welcome J.J. like a hero, but they can’t seem to treat him as an actual person. A single action made in love would be worth more to J.J. than all their talk of inclusion.
“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” – Titus 3:14
Speechless reminds viewers that most minorities don’t want to be celebrated, they want to be acknowledged. For Christians, this means we have a responsibility to come forward as good neighbors. Much like the Samaritan in Luke 10, God is calling us to step out of our comfort zones and respond with practical solutions. Do you know someone with a physical disability? Offer to help them get a round, or maybe petition buildings to become wheelchair accessible.
The world doesn’t need another “safe space”, what it needs are Christian men and women with the courage to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to demonstrate it by loving their neighbor as themselves (Mark 12:30-31).
In a world beset by troubles, now is not the time to be speechless.