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

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger 1

I have been reading The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger, which is a book of Dr. Wolfensberger's writings on disability from a theological perspective. Dr. Wolfensberger is renowned for his work in areas related to human rights, education and other issues impacting particularly persons with developmental disabilities. However, this book (edited by Bill Gaventa and David Coulter) is an absolute must read for persons interested in notions of mental retardation and disability from a theological perspective. The next few entries will interact with some of the thoughtful discussion provided in this volume.

In "The Prophetic Voice and Presence of Mentally Retarded People in the World Today" (a presentation made by Dr. Wolfensberger in 1976) the following statements (they really should be read in context) are made.
"So I asked myself, what are the prophetic signs which appear to be unique or very special to our day, which are very different from what they have been at other times. . . Where and how is the Spirit active today in a way that is different from the way it may have been in other eras?
As I posed these questions to myself over the past few years, I began to read both the signs of dysfunctionality and of prophecy in a different and clearer fashion, and I read one very, very powerful prophetic message, coming from mentally retarded people. For instance, I considered that it should not be unexpected if divine messages about the present patterning of offenses should come from people who, in their roles and identities, are exactly the opposite of what our era idolotrates. Who and what is the opposite? The opposite is a person who is not intellectual, not scientific, not technological, and not academic; who does simple instead of complex things; who cannot cope with complexity, and technology which passes him by; and who, possibly, is despised for lack of modernity and intellectuality. Is that not the retarded persons of our age?
But if it is, is there any evidence that God has thrust retarded people into a prophetic role? I submit to you that there is indeed . . .

The article goes on to list 10 signs to substantiate the possibility that persons with cognitive disability are indeed carrying a prophetic message.
-Mentally Retarded Persons are Becoming Much More Public and Visible
-Retarded People are Becoming Internationally Known
-Non-Handicapped and Handicapped Persons are Sharing Their Lives, Often Living Together
-Retarded Persons are Gentling Others
-The Prophetic Manifestation of the Presence of God via Retarded People
-Retarded People Speaking in Tongues
-Retarded People may Withstand Their Culture
-Retarded People May Be Parodying Intellectualism
-The Dance of Spiritual Joy
-Retarded People Are Beginning to Be Persecuted and Martyred

No doubt Dr. Wolfensberger's writing on this topic will cause you to think through, to consider his position. For each of the signs he describes the sign and how he has seen it evidenced. His perspective is very interesting.
Under the sign, "Retarded People are Beginning to be Persecuted and Martyred," he makes the statement,
"The logic is compelling: the world has always tried to put to death God's prophecy, and it is the nature of God's will that prophets must be prepared to be martyrs, and disproportionately they are. The moment retarded people in significant numbers become bearers of the word of God, the principalities and powers will converge upon them to fight and stifle that form of prophecy that is so specially powerful all because of its much more miraculous nature, and because in some ways, it goes beyond what any other type of prophecy has said before (my emphasis). . . we have never been told in systematic prophecy that human intellect is universally bankrupt, and that millennia of technological development is at an end."

There is a connection here, I believe, with our earlier discussions in this blog of down syndrome, prenatal diagnosis, etc. It is not unusual for persons with developmental disabilities, yes, mental retardation, to change those around them. Personally, I recognize a kind of a prophetic voice about the importance of love and caring and genuine friendship. These kinds of principles fly in the face of the calculations which are driven by technology . . . "Will this person have a good quality of life?" . . . "Is it cheaper to test infants for PKU, or just to deal with the disabilities which will result if we don't?" . . . "What do the percentages tell us about whether or not parents carrying a particular gene will produce a child with a disability?" . . . "Is is more cost effective to spend millions of dollars on political campaigns, or to provide housing subsidies to persons on fixed incomes?" . . . and so on.
And where is the moral compass in this situation? Where is the salt that gives the world its flavor? Where is the light on the hill?
Wolfensberger makes the claim that persons with mental retardation are prophets to the culture, to the church. You may not agree but it makes you think.

I am confident that Jesus would be hanging out with the unwelcomed people with mental retardation and other disabilities in the group homes and care facilities.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

May God Bless you.

For you were His vehicle to send me a message of comfort.