disability and theology #1

Until a month or two ago, I had never reflected deeply on disability. I am now very sorry about this. But I was lucky enough to be able to read and write about theology and disability recently for work. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share with you some of the things I learnt.

But first I’d like to share with you what the experience of engaging with this literature was like:

  1. It was uncomfortable. I was rebuked. A lot. I have not gone out of my way to befriend people with a disability, and for this I am (belatedly) very sorry.
  2. It made me sad. People with a disability suffer. A lot. I am sad that the church isn’t more radically counter-cultural in looking after people with a disability.
  3. It made me angry. Not at people with a disability! But at the way evil is perpetrated in this world against the powerless.
  4. It was confusing. More on this over the next few weeks, but suffice it to say, I am rather sick of the phrase ‘hold in tension’.
  5. It was encouraging. There are lots of people — and lots of Christians — who do care deeply. This was a great encouragement.
  6. It filled me with hope. I was reminded again and again of my own helplessness before God and the wonderful message of Scripture that God chooses what is weak and despised in the world to bring about his purposes.

In short, it educated my heart.

For some reason, despite growing up under excellent teaching, I had the impression that in order to be equipped to engage with ‘topical’ material, I needed to have a firm grasp of more esoteric theological systems/ideas. But I found that in engaging with such a tangible part of our present reality I was more challenged and delighted by theology than I think I ever have been before. I could see the practical implications of the doctrine of providence, God’s sovereignty, sin and suffering, theological anthropology, and the all surpassing importance of love. More importantly, though, I’ve heard the call to action.


    1. Thanks Dan – I’ll do my best to take you on my journey, but I’m afraid it will be much abbreviated. I’ll try and give you the flavour at least!

  1. I really enjoyed the blog 🙂
    Good work… Its nice to know that there are people out there that actually care about these issues and that hopefully we can help others to learn more about disabilities so that they can be more open to people with disabilities as well.

    I have written a blog about people with disabilities also, check it out and let me know what you think…

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Please do not be so pessimistic about people with disabilities. The vast majority of people with disabilities do not “suffer”, but lead full and “normal” lives. They do not want people to pity them, or feel sorry for them. They just want to be accepted for who they are. I go to a wonderful church that is all inclusive and very accepting of everyone…they have a sign language interpreter for the deaf, wheel chair cut-outs in the pews for people in wheelchairs, large print program for people who are visually impaired, and are a very welcoming groups for anyone with mental health issues or developmental disabilities. (One parishioner is a young woman with Down Syndrome, and she often chooses to go right up on the altar and stand next to the Pastor while he is giving his sermon. His response to her intrusion is to smile at her and put his hand on her shoulder. Accepting all people, feeling comfortable with all people, and making all people, disability or not, feel welcome in a church is the Christ like thing to do!

    Lindsey Petersen

    1. Hi Lindsey – thanks for stopping by and entering the conversation.

      I praise God that we live in a time and place where people with disabilities can live full and normal lives. I hope that what I write will wholeheartedly endorse that, pointing to our common humanity and interdependence as the body of Christ. Your church sounds fabulous – I wish there were more out there like it.

      However, it’s my understanding from what I’ve read in the literature that the freedom to live full and normal lives has been a hard won battle. Indeed, there are many places in the world where that’s still not easy. And I suspect there are still many in our community for whom that’s not a reality.

      I’m very conscious of how easy it will be for me to put my foot in it as I write about disability – I hope you’ll keep reading and keep me line!

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