Social Model of Disability and Christianity

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CW: Christians, Religion, Bible verses

TW: Child Abuse, Ableism in the Church

Disclaimer: I am a Christian. I’m writing this hopefully for other Christians. If you are not a Christian, please do not feel the need to read this. I will be going over bible verses and speaking on theology.

While I was in college, I attended church one Sunday with my parents. I’d been dealing with a great amount of anxiety over the course of the year prior if not more. My parents talked to their Sunday school classmates about my anxiety and someone asked them, “What is her sin that she has this great anxiety?” It’s not an uncommon theme and you sometimes hear it whispered. My parents later told me about it and made it clear to me that they set the classmate straight.

At the time, I was still pretty upset. Because a great deal of my anxiety at that moment in time came from not my sin, but my dad’s. This year he will have been dead for 10 years. And when I say my anxiety came from my dad’s sin, I mean it quite literally. As I’ve talked about before, my dad was an alcoholic. He was abusive. He had become physically abusive towards me in the year or two prior to me going to college. My anxiety was PTSD, though, it wasn’t diagnosed that way. He had physically abused me, and that was a sin in my book. I suffered the repercussions of his attacks.

But, unlike that classmate was suggesting, it wasn’t punishment for my dad’s sins. No, my God is not so cruel. These are the scientifically studied physiological and psychological effects of abuse.

Later when I became pregnant with my oldest, ‘out of wedlock’, and newly single, the same classmates asked my parents if I had asked for forgiveness for my sin. I had not and still haven’t. That would suggest that my son was a mistake, unwanted, a sin. That’s not what he is. But I can always imagine these same people finding out my son is Autistic and suggesting similarly that his autism is a punishment for my sin of not waiting until marriage to have sex. The same with my second child, that is autism is because I once again conceived a child ‘out of wedlock.’

So why bring this up? Well, we heard this week that ‘good people’ don’t have pre-existing conditions. This an idea that if you’re ‘good’, and do everything right, you are healthy… you won’t have a disability or health condition. And it’s rooted in the same mentality that people used in assessing my disability all those many years ago. Only ‘bad’ people, sinful people, could possibly have a disability or medical condition.

Well, if you are one of those people, let’s look at the Scripture (I am using the NET Bible translation, which I was turned on to in college. I like the supported text they give to explain why they chose the wording they did.).

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”

God created us, all of us, in his image. We are created with disability and medical conditions intentionally. We were not created perfect and then sin corrupts our genetics. Disability is and will always be a natural human variation, as God intended.

John 9:1-3 Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents? Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.

Jesus clearly says that our disabilities are not caused by sin. That our disabilities were intentional so that God can work through us. And before you try to make this about how God wants to heal our disabilities or diseases, please know God wants to work through ALL of us, not just people with disabilities of diseases.

Matthew 5: 14-16 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.

We are not unique to having God’s work shine through us. We are called to Christ and His word so that His acts can be witnessed by all. We’re made imperfect, with weakness, on purpose. And we should feel no shame. We should celebrate our difference and disability because through them God’s power is made perfect.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.

And God expects that you will also show His grace through your acts. That you will provide for the most disadvantaged of us.

Matthew 25:40 And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’

Don’t mistake disadvantaged people as charity to be acted upon. You are not doing this because we are weaker than you. Society has deemed disabled people, sick people, poor people to be beneath them. You are showing that we are equal in God’s eyes and YOUR eyes. Because you want to do good, not just to disabled people, but to all people. Not because it will get you into Heaven, but because Christ lives in you, dwells in you, works through your heart.

Titus 2:14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.

In short, we, disabled people, are a natural human variation created in God’s image. We are equal in God’s eyes. We are proud of our disability. And God’s work can show equally through us as with any other able person. We have not sinned to cause our disability or medical condition as a punishment from God. We should have equality whether it’s in healthcare, in access to the community or the church.

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