The journals I review on disability and theology are frequently disappointing because the authors don’t work very hard at understanding the scriptures.
Pastor John recently gave a chapel talk on that very subject, pointing out that laziness is frequently a better explanation for the conclusions people come to rather than ‘courageous’ insight.
But one writer, the parent of two children with disabilities, posted an article in The Journal of Religion, Disability and Health that produced some interesting insights because she worked harder to see and understand what God may be doing in a particularly difficult text: Leviticus 21:16-23.
Entitled Disability as Enacted Parable, Jennifer Cox concludes this about the Biblical text (paragraph format is mine):
People with disabilities are not different from people without disabilities in that each desires meaning and purpose in his or her life. Many, no doubt, seek to make sense of the difficulties they face as a person with a disability.
If disability can be understood as having a positive purpose in Leviticus 21:16-23 there is no reason that disability cannot have a positive purpose in the present.
Many people with disabilities may be understood as living out an enacted parable that “speaks” a word from God to the world. Such a “word” would have far more impact when lived out in the life of a person with a disability than a word that is simply spoken.
Jennifer Anne Cox, “Disability as Enacted Parable” in The Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, Vol. 15, Issue 3, 2011, p. 252.
I agree with that conclusion! My son has no spoken spiritual language, but God is glorified in his life in some really unexpected and unusual ways. God has used him, and others with disabilities of all kinds, to have impact on my life and the life of the church.
I didn’t agree with everything in the Cox article, but I appreciated her engagement with the Word itself, and how it took her to an interesting, positive conclusion about God’s work in the world through disability.
Ironically, in the same issue of that journal, another writer dismisses Leviticus 21:16-23 in a few sentences, even indicting God at several points. I know doing things like that can ‘feel’ courageous, but the contrast with the Cox article simply made this other writer look lazy. This same writer also dismisses passages like Mark 2 (the healing of the paralytic) with a single sentence. Why this is considered good scholarship is a little bewildering.
So, the discipline that Jennifer Cox brought was not because of her editors. But, Lord willing, maybe that contrast will be noticed by others who will then be encouraged to dig deeper, question their own biases and motives (rather than easily and quickly believe they can understand God’s motives), and pray for discernment and insight.