Theology of Disability

Do you have a “theology of disability”? Probably not. I didn’t either until I read Julie Clawson’s post. Julie has a theology of disability and this is what she says about it:

“I want my theology of disability to be that God made me to be me and uses me as I am. But the Bible seems to contradict that and tells me that I am unwanted and incapable of serving God because of my arm. I have chosen to just go ahead and serve God (as a disabled woman that obviously isn’t in the Orthodox church), but some days that choice can be hard to align with scripture.”

The thrust of that post (if you didn’t click through and read it first) is that Julie read Leviticus 16:21-23 and it really disturbed her. It made her ask these questions about disability and God: “How does not being physically perfect disqualify a person from serving God? How does this (disability) make me any less holy than others?”

I originally wrote a post that tried to answer those questions, but I’ve decided not to share it. Instead, I’m going to articulate the beginnings of my (unoriginal?) theology of disability.

In the beginning (because that truly is where everything started) God made human beings without disabilities. No, the Bible doesn’t explicitly say so but there is no reason to assume that Adam or Eve were missing limbs or were disfigured in some way. I’m not aware of anyone ever suggesting this was the case. (However, I did meet a man in Ukraine who thought that Adam and Eve were able to fly!) Then came the Fall. The whole of creation became corrupted both materially and spiritually. Disabilities, deformities and defects entered the picture along with death disease and man’s inhumanity to man.

I believe that generally (which allows for exceptions) God doesn’t make people disabled, defective and disfigured. And while he may allow such things to exist/happen (and on occasion afflict particular people with them) God doesn’t desire humankind to be disabled. Nor do I think that God ultimately rejects people because of their physical imperfections.

What is God’s attitude toward the disabled? I think we need to look at Jesus (the exact representation of God’s being) to find out. When we see Jesus interact with the disabled, we don’t get the impression that they were unwanted by Him. We get the opposite impression: He wanted them to come to Him. He wanted to heal them. (“Lord if you are willing…” “I am willing…”) And I think that reflects God’s attitude toward the disabled. He longs to restore them to the wholeness that humans had before the Fall. He didn’t make humans to be blind or deaf or deformed. He doesn’t make them that way now. True, He allows physical defects but the miracle healings of Jesus point to a time when He will no longer allow the Curse to afflict His people that way. When the kingdom of God comes in its fullness, the people of God will receive their new bodies. Their imperishable and incorruptible bodies. There will be no disabled people for there will be no disabilities. The old things will pass away and He will make all things new.

And that is the beginning of my theology of disability.


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