Why Evangelical Christianity is Ableist

Below are some reasons I think Evangelical Christianity is ableist (prejudiced against individuals with disabilities).

Biblical portrayals. In the Bible, individuals with disabilities are portrayed as objects of pity who are broken.  This is particular true in the gospels.  After a cursory reading you come away with the idea that the only way to be accepted in society is by a miracle of healing.  This kind of thinking trickles down to the churches where modern notions of individuals with disabilities as people OK the way they are generally haven’t taken hold.

False hope of healing. Some churches believe if you just pray hard enough and have enough faith, your disability will be healed.  This adds a whole new layer of hurt on a life already burdened by disability.  Suddenly your faith is being called into question because you didn’t have enough to receive healing.  Miracles rarely, if ever, happen.

The Pollyanna effect. There’s this current within Christianity to try to focus on silver linings and try to use them to justify the clouds because, after all, life is supposed to make sense backwards. It’s easy to have a romantic notion of suffering when you observe it from afar.  After all, life is a story and there are challenges but those who suffer learn something won’t be worse for the wear.  Unfortunately a disability actually makes your life worse in ways that cannot be romanticized, partly because of all the relationship and vocational opportunities you’ll lose out on.  Also, there is this idea that individuals with disabilities are supposed to put on a happy face, despite the circumstances and are supposed to somehow overcome and do something heroic with their challenge (like the guy with no arms and no legs who pulls himself up in front of a crowd).  Individuals with disabilities are just people like you and me.  They aren’t heroes and they aren’t wallowing in self-pity and despair their whole life.

Intolerance. Christians generally have an aversion to people who are different (which individuals with disabilities definitely are).  Part of this makes sense because if you look different that means you might think different and thinking different is frowned upon (especially when you think differently about God).  Another part of it is just xenophobia and the fear of the unknown.  It’s easier to function in a comfy little bubble and pretend brokenness doesn’t exist except in third world countries.  Christians want to be happy and upbeat—there’s almost an aloofness in the whole thing.

Experience of God. Following the voice of God to me is just beautification of intuition.  But to Christians (particularly Evangelicals) it is a way of life. It works well for the mentally healthy, God tells them what drapes to go with the new carpeting and stuff.  Once you start telling mentally ill people to heed the voice of God things get very different.  You are just giving them fodder for their next psychotic break.  It’s a sad state.  I think it has to do with the fact that religion wasn’t made to survive every test case (like when you engineer a car battery that has to work in a huge range of temperatures).  Religion was just made to appeal to the experience of the dominate majority.

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