“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

You can't understand Jesus from the biased gospels

I recently wrote an article for a publication. In the end it was rejected, which is nothing new to me. Honestly? Not a big deal. I have written things that people like and things that they don't like. I have actually had an article rejected for lack of quality and then published by another journal with very little editing. So on some level it is a kind of a game.
But the criticism that led to the rejection of this most recent article I will fully embrace. I am proud of this rejection! On one level is is a clear indication of the anti Christian bias of many in the field of disability studies. I am sorry but that is just the way it is. Anyway, read the following which are a few comments from the rejection. The article, by the way, was supposed to share a Christian perspective on disability, particularly using the example of Jesus.
While I understand that the essay --- is written from an evangelical Christian faith perspective, I am concerned by a number of seemingly uncritical assumptions. One is that we can treat the gospels as more-or-less accurate historical accounts of the life of Jesus.
No bias there.
The evidence marshaled here likely says more about what the authors of these gospel texts thought about disability than about what the historical Jesus thought about disability.
So we cannot use the gospels as a way of understanding what Jesus thought because they are filtered through the gospel writers. I can only assume, then, that they do not want to understand a Christian perspective on disability.
Similarly, other faith claims are treated as more-or-less factual -- e.g., “Old Testament prophesies can be interpreted as foretelling the coming of Jesus”. On the same page, quotations from Isaiah are taken as descriptions of Jesus. The essay also takes a more apologetic tone than is typical in a scholarly context -- e.g., “These healings were evidences of Jesus being the one who had been predicted as the savior of mankind”.
Does one relate a description of their faith as simply opinion? The thing that you have dedicated your life to should be treated as opinion? I would not expect anyone of any religious faith to describe the principles undergirding their faith as anything other than fact. However, if you yourself are uninformed by faith, you will see all faiths as opinion. I can only suspect that the reviewer was someone who did not have a personal religious faith, or held the position that everything is relative (unless you say that you don't believe that everything is relative at which point you are rejected).
But to cover the reviewers tracks for the bias offered thus far,
At the very least, I would ask the writers to say more about their hermeneutics. But frankly, I am not sure this essay is of sufficient quality to warrant publication.
So perhaps recognizing that all that had been said thus far is falacious, the article was of poor quality. I have got no worries there. Criticize the quality, give me the weak areas as to why the arguments or writing are of poor quality. But don't provide biased uninformed arguments about religious faith in general and a total lack of understanding of the Christian faith and then cover your tail by saying something is of poor quality.
If I seem angry, I really and truly am not. I will dust this article off and publish it in an unbiased journal, probably with little changes. But this is a reminder to me of the field of disability studies and its hostility toward Christianity. My desire to to truly open minds. My disability studies students read the best of what the world of disability studies can offer because I want them to be exposed to different perspectives. I want them to be challenged. However, those of other persuasions want nothing to do with anyone who might bring serious dialogue and disagreement. It is those who see themselves as tolerant who are typically the most guilty of tolerantism.


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Seeing people by their outward appearance

In the last several weeks, I have had conversations with several friends regarding people's outward appearance. The first revolved around one friends perspective that I should never look on outward appearances. He felt he could wear his pajamas to church and that should have no impact on the manner in which he was viewed by those around him. If they did have a problem with his appearance, it was their problem in not being Godly, viewing, even judging people on outward appearances and not looking on the heart as God does. We went back and forth on this, I in the awkward position of on some level defending some efforts to try to present myself in somewhat of a positive manner by my dress.
Now those of you who do not know me must understand that my outward appearance is not something that I worry about that much. I dress for comfort, buy my ties at the thrift store (since I was required to wear one in one work setting) and largely have a beard mostly so that I only have to shave 15% of my face rather than 45% of my face. Those who do know me would probably say I don't even work as hard on my appearance as I appear to be indicating here.
Yet I found myself in the position of trying to defend a notion of public appearance. My friend said it shouldn't matter and doesn't matter to him. I agreed that it shouldn't matter and doesn't matter to me, however, to those who might listen to me, who are not a part of the faith, potentially, it could make a big difference. So if I moved about the community in my pjs I am confident there are people who would not approach me or want me to approach them simply due to my dress. My friend understood and left it at that, but he could have brought up the example of John the Baptist and other Biblical characters who would have likely held his position.
Then another friend, a woman with mild intellectual disability was literally incongruous that I would care about outward appearance in any manner. If someone would judge others on the basis of what they look like, well, they are just being discriminatory. I shared my argument with her but she was as unconvinced as my other friend.
I have learned to listen to all my friends, but particularly those with intellectual disabilities because they will just about always tell me the truth as they see it. They are right that society judges on the outward appearance. They are right to question my willingness to participate in that form of judgment of people by the way that I dress or encourage them to dress. In their pure thinking where reasoning is "impaired" by disability, they are unaware of how society perceives them. On some level they don't care. I on the other hand, am brutally aware of how society perceives them and am at least partially aware that it is influenced by appearance. I am also aware, however, that they will be judged independent of their appearance. So perhaps they have it right whether them come to their understanding through logical reasoning or simply because they take Biblical warnings about judging others to heart.
The take home lesson for me, however, is that they really don't care about the appearance of others in a way I can hardly grasp. It goes back to the notion I wrote about in this blog several years ago discussing the saying "don't hate the player, hate the game." Well I will tell you in all honesty, that my friends with intellectual disabilities, for whatever reason, are absolutely unlike society in being able to see people simply as people without looking on outward appearances. Their lack of concern is breathtaking and refreshing.
I will refrain, in the future, from trying to convince them otherwise about how society sees them, or how they need to conform to society. Don't conform to the patterns of this world is what it says in Romans 12. My friends are beginning to teach me that lesson.