This post is a collection of thoughts and reflections on comments from Dr. Debbie Creamer, PhD, author of Disability and Christian Theology Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities, during her lectures at Ministers Week at Brite Divinity School at TCU and University Christian Church.
Dr. Creamer’s first lecture addressed four modes of reflection on disability: 1) moral, 2) medical, 3) social or minority group, 4) limits model. These four models have strengths and weaknesses. They impose limitations and blind sides to our perceptions, while also shedding new and different light. They reflect normative views in our culture and over time. Dr. Creamer’s work, along with others referenced below, is to discover new ways to imagine and articulate disability and God and our relationship/experience of both.
Churches think of themselves as inclusive, when what they often are at best is accessible. Inclusive means that people have full access so that their involvement is not a bother or problem for others. They are not only invited and welcomed, but can initiate. We often provide cutouts in pews, but how often to we readily enable access to positions of leadership in worship, such as the chancel and pulpit?
From access to inclusion – the insights of Brett Webb-Mitchell in Beyond Accessibility: Toward Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Faith Communities
She then spent time “playing” (her word) with images of disability that might surprise and enlighten us.
“Disabled God” Nancy Eiesland – “The Disabled God” the image of a God who uses a powered “sip/puff” wheelchair. Powerful, mobile, assertive. What would it feel like to imagine God as disabled?
“Interdependent God” Kathy Black, Healing Homiletic: Preaching and Disability – dispelling the illusion that we are independent. What if God is interdependent as well. God tells us stories of community where Jesus relied upon and needed others in his life and ministry.
“Bold God” – Disability requires people to be more assertive, and in this boldness we may see the image of God.
“Authentic God” – what if we think of disability as normative, as what it is to be human? We all are or will be disabled at some point, unless we die young and suddenly. We are made in God’s image, and thus what we are somehow reflects what God is. There are things that God can’t do. Limits can be good.
This was a helpful conversation, and I commend Dr. Creamer and her work to congregations and others who are interested in exploring and responding to these issues and to discover anew our common experience of God in the world.
A helpful brief article by Dr. Creamer is Theological Accessibility: The Contribution of Disability in Disability Studies Quarterly.