27 January 2016
KZNCC on Theology of Disability: Texts of Promise and wellness
Issue No. 1
You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:14)
To people living with disability the KZNCC writes a Theology of Disability openly confessing that it is doing it from the sightlessness of the so called ‘abled people’. In this pastoral letter to both the so called ‘abled’ and the ‘disabled’ people we share our reflections the liberation theology of disability. We will release a series of subtopics on this subject as is indicated in the last paragraph of this letter. For now let us look at the liberatory side of the theology of disability and follow up later with others.
Emancipatory Biblical and Theological Views on Disability
“The inclusivity of People with Disability (PWD) is seen in God’s plan for the restoration of the Israelites. We find God assuring the remnant of His people, Israel in Babylon that the land of their captivity would be restored to them and that they would return back to Jerusalem: “See, I will bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them the blind and the lame” (Jeremiah 31:8, 9). Micah 4:6-7 sets out God’s plan concerning the people of Israel: “In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will gather the lame, I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought grief, I will make the lame a remnant, and those driven away a strong nation.” The eternal kingdom, which God will establish, will favor above all others the weak, the lame, and the outcasts. They are God’s chosen ones, his remnants” (Etieno 1988).
Isaiah 35: 1 – 10 is one more emancipatory text of the Promise of Wellness: Joy of the Redeemed.
In the old Testament, these verses show that in the restoration God ensured that all PWD would also be brought back. God did not want the blind and the lame left behind but to be restored. There is no indication that the people living with disability is a punishment from God as a result of their sin or perhaps even their parents’ sins.
When we look at the New Testament, we see that Jesus healed everyone thereby implying that anyone who has faith. The passage in John 9: 1ff is very liberating. It is the one which teaches that the blindness of one blind person is not because he or his parents have sinned but that the glory of God might be manifest.
Examples are many; the man who’s blind in Mark 8 asked Jesus for healing; he showed faith and Jesus healed him. The woman with unending menstruation showed faith by touching Jesus’ gown and she was healed.
Paul also wrote about how his own personal infirmity, the thorn in the flesh he calls it, his weakness, which is a term for sickness in the ancient world. He says that this is a positive thing and that he’s perfected in his weakness.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9. In these Bible verses disability serves positive functions for Jesus, the disciples and by extension, the Christian communities. It is for us now to change our minds and attitudes towards PWD. The church and all institutions of society must begin to embrace PWD. PWD should not be seen as a problem but a blessing to all humanity.
Generally as it may apply in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and other cultures there is a way in which vulnerable and disabled people would be neglected though this may not be seen as such in these modern days. “Vulnerable children would not be exempted nor excluded from participation in African institutions of passage. Besides the semblance of the romantisisation of African traditional communities, though there was a level of marginalisation and negligence of vulnerable children on the part of some, it was not the norm. Vulnerable children in African stories are portrayed as saviours and heroes of their people”1(Ngoetjana 2013 Research on African Models of Caring for Vulnerable2 Children in Traditional Communities: Towards a Proposal for Caring for Vulnerable Children in Modern Communities).
Churches in KZN are encouraged to consider deepening the positive theology of disability through involving them in every aspect of church life. There must not only be sermons about disability but must let PWD, to teach, and preach in the church.
This is Issue No.1. of the Theology of Disability. Issue No. 2. will be about: Disability and Sin: A Hamartiological Problem. Issue 3. will be about: The Healing Narratives in the Gospels and Disability. Issues No. 3 will be about: Theology of Disability and Interdependence. Issues No. 4. will be about Disability, Accessibility and Knowledge of God. Issues 5. Disability, personalization and the personification of God. Issue No. 6. GOD ad God are ultimate symbols of religious imagination.
1 Conversation with Dr. D. Dziva, Programmes Director of the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council on the 01st March 2005. The researcher is looking out for such African stories on vulnerable children.
2 The definition of vulnerability in this research seeks to include the physical, the psychological, the spiritual and sociological aspects. Should there be other relevant aspects of vulnerability, this research will endeavour to include them, more so as they relate to vulnerable children.