“Disability” is a word tossed about easily in our world. Yet the sheer spectrum of disabilities makes the term ambiguous and even artificial. It is helpful to conceive of disability as a term that points to a limitation due to an involuntary bodily impairment, social role expectation, or external physical/social obstruction impacting participation in communal life. Beyond this definition, the church is faced with a deeper challenge to define disability while wrestling with various theological implications of over-simplifying the term.
At bioethics.com, I curate and post articles from the media that deal with bioethics issues. A typical post at bioethics.com is a title, link, and short blurb from an article in the mainstream media, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reuters, or the Associated Press. Over the past year, one bioethics.com post received more views in a single day than any other post, and it won by a large margin: “The Twitching Generation” by Helen Lewis at The Atlantic (See post here). I posted “The Twitching Generation” on Monday February 28, 2022. On Saturday alone it received 2,512 views, and as of April 2022, it had 5,338 views. Those numbers are just for the bioethics.com post which serves as a thoroughfare to the actual article. The topic is apparently of interest to our bioethics readers, so let’s look at what we can learn from Helen Lewis’s article about teens and technology.
Culture is so easily influenced by the entertainment industry. This is why I am sounding an alarm about a very dangerous message in a film released earlier this summer. It’s simply titled Me Before You.
At our core, we are predisposed to our own self-centered values, and we have no right to place those standards like a template over a person like Dan. We cannot judge another’s “quality of life” based on our one-sided prejudices. We need the biblical worldview to supplant our preconceived notions about life and its value. We need to give up our subjective criteria and accept an objective, transcendent worldview that ascribes true life-worth to someone like Dan.
In the 23 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I have watched its most celebrated ideals erode and crumble under a double standard. I had the honor of serving on the National Council on Disability when the ADA became law, and ideally, it was intended to guarantee the basic rights of Americans with disabilities. Many saw the ADA as a law which would help move society beyond the premise that one is “better off dead than disabled.” I am amazed, however, at how much people’s fears of disability have eroded the most basic of human rights, especially now that so many more people are surviving disabling conditions. And when society’s fundamental fear of disability provides the framework to legislate policy, the outcome can only result in a double standard.
As Christians who believe in the God “who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,” it can be hard to know how to pray for those suffering from chronic illness (Psalm 103:3, ESV). Often, the church starts strong, praying fervently for the healing of the afflicted person’s body. However, as weeks, months, and even years go by, discouragement can set in. Why keep praying for something that does not seem to happen? As other requests for prayer are shared, it is easy to push those with chronic illnesses into the background.
Now, an increasing amount of information can be derived through various tests, screenings, and monitoring of the child through its earliest days. For example, genetic tests have become a standard aspect of pregnancy care in medically advanced countries such as the United States. Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) is one such test, and it continues to grow in popularity. Much as going to college is often the assumed next step following high school graduation, prenatal testing is generally accepted as “what you do” when a woman is expecting. It might be prudent, therefore, for Christians to honestly grapple with some of the ethical considerations these tests raise.
Every day at noon, she poured her heart out with vocal fervency before God. This experience of God as lovingly gentle and as one who invites us into his presence with the full spectrum of our human emotions comforted me throughout my life. I grew up loving God and his Word, attended church regularly with my family, and received salvation when I turned seven. However, that same inviting love and acceptance has not always been reflected in the church, with some holding unintentionally negative or stereotyped attitudes of me as a person with a disability.
If the risen and glorified Jesus is holey, wholly, holy, and our aim in discipleship is to look more like Him, then how do we disciple in brokenness (holey)? How do we embrace the whole, not simply neurological, person (wholly)? How do we form followers of Christ who look like Him (holy)?
What is the purpose of a pastor? Is it to stand in front of a congregation, eloquently preaching from translated and exegeted original language notes? Should his or her leadership model the values of the world, where his congregants follow his lead because he sways them by the intellectual prowess and physical abilities that society so values?