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Disability and Incarnation
The understanding of incarnation – the core concept of Christian faith – is one which is central to a healthy theology of disability. What does it mean to say Christ is human and to say that that humanity is in the image of God. If our answers to these questions are grounded in physical and mental capacity, we will automatically exclude disabled people as aberrations awaiting a cure. But what is the alternative?

Nancy Eiesland famously wrote of The Disabled God and, in so doing, first articulated the (then shocking) idea that disability was an integral part of Christ’s identity – the wounded hands and side which, in their very impairment, declared Divinity. Others, drawing heavily on the Parable of the Banquet in Luke 13, have since spoken of an obligation of hospitality upon the Church with regard to disabled people. While the Church has, in recent years, moved away from a conception of disabled people as objects of charity and spoken more and more of disabled people moving from “internal exile” to active participation in the Church, there has been little theological discussion of the nature of disability itself. The unspoken assumption has still been that a non-inclusive Church (“us”), merely needs to relax its guard on the gates somewhat so as to allow disabled Others (“them”) to enter.

But what if this is not so? If – as many disabled people would argue – disability is purely a social construct, then the various impairments which affect all humans at some stages in their lives are merely aspects (and integral ones at that) of what it means to be human. To offer to “include” disabled people in the Body of Christ would be as strange as to offer to “include” redheads or left-handed people or 42 year olds.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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