“Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?’
“So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, ‘Go, serve the Lord your God. Who are the ones that are going?’
“And Moses said, ‘We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.’
“Then he said to them, ‘The Lord had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desired.’ And Moses and Aaron said, ‘Cool, dude. That totally works for us, because the kids haven’t reached the age of accountability yet, so we don’t let them feast.'” (Exodus 10:7-11, NKJV*)
As I listened to almost the whole Pentateuch over the last few days while recovering from a nasty cold, I was struck by the fact that of all the many factors that might keep a person from participating fully in the life of the covenant community–certain categories of parentage or ethnicity, certain physical injury or illness, various bodily fluids, proximity to death, and gross abhominations that warranted not only liturgical exclusion but death–there is never the slightest mention of intellectual or mental capacity. Little children are not excluded. The elderly with dementia are not excluded. No one with developmental disabilities is excluded. Surely no one thinks that limited or diminished mental capacity was unknown to ancient people, so if it was never mentioned in regard to liturgical participation in a context where liturgical participation was highly regulated, it must be because it was a totally irrelevant factor.
So those who exclude anyone from full participation in the life of the church, including full welcome to the baptismal font and the Lord’s table, because of mental incapacity are inventing categories of exclusion that never crossed God’s mind even in Israel’s infancy when all sorts of “house rules” were in place that are no longer in force. The appalling arrogance!
I will concede that for most who follow the man-made traditions of intellectual pharisaism, it is largely a matter of ignorance rather than arrogance. And, fortunately, God is more gracious to the ignorant than the ignorant are to the ignorant. But really, the church needs to repent of these Talmudish accretions to biblical teaching.
*NKJV=New Krazy Joke Version