Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities

Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities

Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities

Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities

Synopsis

Attention to embodiment and the religious significance of bodies is one of the most significant shifts in contemporary theology. In the midst of this, however, experiences of disability have received little attention. This book explores possibilities for theological engagement with disability, focusing on three primary alternatives: challenging existing theological models to engage with the disabled body, considering possibilities for a disability liberation theology, and exploring new theological options based on an understanding of the unsurprisingness of human limits. The overarching perspective of this book is that limits are an unavoidable aspect of being human, a fact we often seem to forget or deny. Yet not only do all humans experience limits, most of us also experience limits that take the form of disability at some point in our lives; in this way, disability is more "normal" than non-disability. If we take such experiences seriously and refuse to reduce them tomere instances of suffering, we discover insights that are lost when we take a perfect or generic body as our starting point for theological reflections. While possible applications of this insight are vast, this work focuses on two areas of particular interest: theological anthropology and metaphors for God. This project challenges theology to consider the undeniable diversity of human embodiment. It also enriches previous disability work by providing an alternative to the dominant medical and minority models, both of which fail to acknowledge the full diversity of disability experiences. Most notably, this project offers new images and possibilities for theological construction that attend appropriately and creatively to diversity in human embodiment.

Excerpt

Chances are very good that you know someone with a disability. Chances are also good that you have experienced—or will experience—some degree of disability yourself. in the United States, the Census Bureau estimates that approximately 18 percent of the population experience some degree of disability, and 12 percent experience a disability requiring assistance from a person or device. Two in seven families are directly affected by disability. Nationwide, 2.7 million people use a wheelchair, 1.8 million are reported as being unable to see, 1 million are reported as being unable to hear, and 14.3 million are reported to have limitations in cognitive functioning or a mental or emotional illness that interferes with their daily activities. Overall, 11 percent of children aged six to fourteen have a disability; 72 percent of people eighty and older have a disability. the World Health Organization estimates that about 600 million people worldwide live with disabilities of various types. Because disability is an “open minority” that any of us might join at any time, and which we are much more likely to join as we age, it has been suggested that it makes little sense to try to distinguish between able and disabled, but rather that any difference is simply between disabled and temporarily able-bodied. It is clear that disability is a common and ever-present experience that is worthy of theoretical and theological reflection.

To write about disability is to reconsider our understandings of human embodiment. in recent years, there has been an explosion of writing on the body—as Robyn Longhurst observes, the academy . . .

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