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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Social consequences of disability

I have written elsewhere in this blog about what have been called the "social consequences of disability." That is, how does society respond to the fact that someone uses a wheelchair or has autism, or has an intellectual disability. See for example this posting Social Healing or here Social Role Valorization and Wounding.
Both of these postings provide great detail about the social consequences of disability.

I have been thinking about social consequences in reference to 2 Corinthians 12:10. It reads like this in the NIV.
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This is the closing statement of a section where Paul describes the "thorn in my flesh". I am not a Bible scholar, but I don't think it is too out of bounds to think about the experiences Paul had in his life related to the quote above, at least in part due to his "thorn" his disability.
It is interesting to read the list of the 4 experiences that fall under the heading of weaknesses and think of how his experience of disability at least in part is reflected in those weaknesses.

In insults. There are so many forms of insult that persons who are affected by disability experience. Of course there are the out and out verbal insults, however, there are also the jokes, the mocking and the just general treatment people will receive simply because of their differences.

In hardships. Hardships are part of life for people with disabilities, just about independent of the type of disability one has. Many hardships are avoidable if society were only different.

In persecutions. There is much in literature which describes the experience of persecution that people with disabilities experience. Should they be Christians, they can only expect that experience of persecution to increase. Persecution is without a doubt a social consequence of disability.

In difficulties. Be they intentional or otherwise, the experience of disabilty is an experience of difficulty. One need only look at the various systems designed to help by governments and societies to get a first hand picture of difficulties.

So Paul understands the experience of living with the social consequences of disability. But his response to this is amazing. "I will boast gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." That is his response to God's telling him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
That is my prayer for people who are experiencing the insults, the hardships, the persecutions and the difficulties leveled against them because of differences they have in their lives which have come to be called disabilities. My prayer is that God's power would be evidenced in their weakness, be perfected in their lives through their weakness.
Let me also say, however, that my prayer is that we all will work to lessen the social consequences of disability to the degree we are able. Sure, God's power can be seen in the weakness of persecution, but I needn't be the agent of the persecution or hardship or insults or difficulties that people face. It could be that part of the grace God dispenses in the lives of persons experiencing disability is what I do in attenuating the social consequences.
But it should comfort you if you are reading this entry and you experience a disability that Paul, writer of books of the Bible, great man of faith, knows something of your experience, and in the midst of it, found strength to face the difficulties of his life through the grace of God, even seeing God's strength through his weaknesses to the point of making that a cause for boasting.



Unknown said...

I happened upon your site and I thought you might be interested in checking out a social networking site called Christians with Disabilities. It can be found at www.christianswithdisabilities.com.

Desperate Imitation of Christ said...

wow great post. I am actually leading a bible study on this tomorrow and have been seeing this passage everywhere today and yesterday. I can't actually put into words what this passage has meant to me over the years. Thanks for opening our eyes to help us not be the unintentional persecutors of those with disabilities. God bless you!

Anonymous said...

I tried to go to your website and it says it's not valid. are you sure this is correct ?

Anonymous said...

It's exceedingly difficult to have a disability and remain an atheist. The accumulation of evidence becomes too much to deny. Even if my life serves only as proof of Him, I am ok with that, but it would be so much better for me if I had a church I could go to again.
This blog gives me hope that one day my church will soften their hearts to us from your example. I've stayed away for over 5 years because their attitude towards disability was not gospel-based and very worldly. Too many folks too blind to see and too proud to be teachable.

Anonymous said...

This week after class, and having Mark come in and tell us that he does not have a disability, but believes that those who are angry and like to start fights are the ones with disabilities really got me thinking. I couldn't help but think, if Mark were to look at any of us in that class, in my family, or in my church group, would he think that we had a disability? What kind of disabilities do we even put on ourself out of anger against the world. I would have no doubt in believing that someone like Mark, as happy as can be with life, would look upon us, the social entity around him, and see disabilities of the heart surrounding him. The overall society today, just as this blog said, is who puts on the insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties upon any given person.
And yet, it is in these times that God is seen for His strengths! Just like a favorite child church song, 'Jesus love me this I know, for the Bible told me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but HE is strong!'
After getting to talk to and know Mark at class this week, and reading this blog on social consequences of disabilities, I can only think how foolish we can be at times! To see it so visibly laid out of how we alter with God's strength seems to be a huge reality check. For when we are weak, then He is strong. This is for each and every individual child of God, not just those with physical disabilities. And so for society to alter the lives of people with these social consequences is pretty shocking to read. Instead, to hear that we should be delighting in our weaknesses, that is definitely something to work on.

Anonymous said...

I agree that there are many consequences of disability in society. It’s an unfair cost people with disabilities bare just because society is closed minded or unwilling to show equality to someone unlike them. In regards to the Bible passage 2 Corinthians 12:10, I agree that it most likely references Paul’s “thorn” or disability. I find it amazing in the ways God works through people and in this case Paul. Paul is fortunate to find “delight” in his experiences in insult, hardship, persecution, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. Unfortunately, some people with disabilities might be unable to comprehend why they have social consequences in society or that God may be working through them. It’s our job as Christians in society to help and have compassion and understanding for people with disabilities. We can directly help people just by treating them like people and equals and giving them a moment of our time. We can also help by bringing up the subject of social consequences in society and discussing it will other people so that they can be aware. And for those people with a disability this passage can help comfort and encourage them.

George said...

Paul's writings towards weakness is always so powerful. The way that he calls us to delight in weakness is remarkable and I could only wish that was the way the world was. We live in a world that praises power and success and therefore people with disabilities are devalued and looked down upon. Paul is so clear that through weakness, God's power is shown. I love reading Henri Nouwen and his book called Adam about his experiences with a boy named Adam who had profound disabilities. The way that God worked through Adam's life to touch Henri's heart is astounding. And the only way this was able to happen was because Henri took the time to get to know Adam and love on him.