The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God
by Amos Yong
Eerdmans, November 2011
161 pp., $20.00
From an able-bodied reading of the Bible, it is easy to assume God wants to heal every person with a disability. In the New Testament, every person who encounters Jesus blind, deaf, or lame is restored to health. But theologian Amos Yong wants the church to read the Bible differently, seeing good news for people with disabilities as they are, and not as God might change them.
In The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God (Eerdmans) Yong draws upon his theological training, his Pentecostal faith, and his experience as the older brother of Mark, who has Down syndrome, to form an insightful critique of the assumption that disability is inherently negative. He challenges the church not only to reimagine the body of Christ as including people with disabilities, but also to understand these people as central to the church’s mission.
Early on, Yong states that people with disabilities are “created in the image of God” and that they are “people first who shouldn’t be defined solely by their disabilities.” Beyond this, he writes, “Disabilities are not necessarily evil or blemishes to be eliminated.” From this perspective, he proposes a new reading of the biblical texts and offers suggestions for the church’s life together. Moving from Old Testament narratives to the Gospels, Paul’s letters, the Book of Hebrews, and the eschatological visions of Revelation, Yong tries to unsettle our conventional understandings by showing how these texts can incorporate the perspectives of people with disabilities.
According to the Levitical code, priests with blemishes and other impairments could not make sacrifices at the temple altar. Holiness codes might seem to imply that disability is a curse from God, but Yong uses the stories of Jacob, Mephibosheth, and Job to demonstrate textual complexities that refuse a straightforward analogy between disability and sin. Then, with reference to the healing of a blind man in John 9, Yong writes, “Jesus severed the connections between sin and congenital disabilities.” And although the Gospels do not record any instance of a person with a disability following Jesus without being healed (unless we count Zacchaeus’ short stature as a disability), Yong points out the inclusion of the lame, the blind, and the weak in Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast.
Source: Christianity Today | Review by Amy Julia Becker