#AccessIsLove: God Is Disabled

sorrowful mystery

[This painting is entitled, ‘Crocifissione”(”Crucifixion”) by Gerardo Dottori and is in the Vatican Museum. Image description: Jesus is hanging on the cross with his head tilted to the left side. The cross and his body are shades of blue in front of a red background. There is a beam of light coming down in the shape of the triangle, lighting his body and two women who are kneeling at the foot of the cross. One is looking up and to the left. The other is looking down and to the right.]

Today, we close a five-part series entitled #AccessIsLove. This series is part of the larger #AccessIsLove campaign initiated by Mia Mingus, Sandy Ho, and Alice Wong, three disabled activists who invite us to frame accessibility as an act of love and a priority for moral inclusion — not an afterthought, not a burden, and not an inconvenience to be avoided. Each day this week, we’ve extended that conversation to discuss issues of accessibility in churches, and we’ve explored accessibility from a variety of angles.

A Proclamation

I want to close this series with a theological claim we can make from the Christian tradition:

God is Disabled.

Yes. This is the beautiful proclamation of Nancy L. Eiseland in her book, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.

God is Disabled.

One day, while searching for something in the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary library, I remember discovering Nancy Eiseland’s book. I was a student in my mid-20s, and I decided to check it out and give it a read. I’m so glad I did, because it moved me deeply. It has stayed with me all these years.

God is Disabled.

Nancy Eiesland, herself a disabled theologian, resists the ways that disability has been framed and defined throughout history — as inherently flawed, equated with human sin, or not fully human. She names the grave injustices that have been done to disabled people through these theological and cultural understandings

Instead, Nancy Eiseland proclaims Jesus to be God-With-Us as he endures trauma, injury, and disfigurement during the crucifixion.

Jesus — God-With-Us — becomes Disabled.

And when hope surprises on the third day, the resurrected Jesus appears still bearing the wounds of the crucifixion. These have not been removed. Jesus is revealed to be the Disabled God. Likewise, in this story, Jesus reveals his true, full personhood. Disability is included in what it means to be fully human. And people with disabilities bear the image of God.

Nancy Eiseland writes,

“In the resurrected Jesus Christ, they [the disciples] saw not the suffering servant for whom the last and most important word was tragedy and sin, but the disabled God who embodied both impaired hands and feet and pierced side and the imago Dei [or image of God]. Paradoxically, in the very act commonly understood as the transcendence of physical life, God is revealed as tangible, bearing the representation of the body reshaped by injustice and sin into the fullness of the Godhead. (pp. 99-100)”

— and —

“In presenting his impaired hands and feet to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God. Jesus, the resurrected Savior, calls for his frightened companions to recognize in the marks of impairment their own connection with God, their own salvation. In so doing, this disabled God is also the revealer of a new humanity. The disabled God is not only the One from heaven but the revelation of true personhood, underscoring the reality that full personhood is fully compatible with the experience of disability. (p. 100)”

This theological framework of Easter proclaims and celebrates that

Disability is part of the identity of God, and
Disabled people have always been bearers of the image of God,
Fully human,
Fully worthy,
Fully included.

So how will we view one another, and how will we include one another? Access Is Love.

Share the Love!

I want to thank you for following along with this series this week.

As we close, here as some ways to take action and add support:

1) I recommend continuing the #AccessIsLove conversation in your church and in other communities that are important to you. Sometimes, we haven’t begun to consider certain accessibility needs. Other times, if we’re honest, we haven’t really prioritized accessibility in the first place. How can our communities commit to full inclusion and access?

2) Would you consider adding a contribution of support?

— First and foremost, I recommend supporting and amplifying the work of Mia Mingus, Sandy Ho, and Alice Wong, the three disabled activists who initiated the #AccessIsLove campaign. Check out their suggested accessibility actions, and contribute financially to their vision by purchasing some swag. I’m going to buy a shirt later today.

I also sent a donation this week to Annie Segarra who did some lovely teaching for us and others in two Youtube videos. Grateful for her contributions.

Did you learn something helpful? Will you be using this series to initiate conversation? Would you consider making a donation of any size?

Thanks for following and adding yourselves to the conversation!

Renee Roederer

This post is part of series called #AccessIsLove. You can find the other pieces here:

#AccessIsLove: Inaccessible Church Buildings
#AccessIsLove: Changing Ableist Language in Churches
#AccessIsLove: Invisible Disabilities in Church Communities
#AccessIsLove: Neuro and Sensory Diversity in Churches

5 thoughts on “#AccessIsLove: God Is Disabled

  1. Reblogged this on Smuggling Grace and commented:

    Yesterday, at a local church in Saline, Michigan, I had the occasion to speak on John 20:19-31. In that story, Jesus shows his crucifixion wounds to Thomas and the other disciples. It made me think of this post again, and I’d love to share it, particularly if you find it uplifting or you find yourself affirmed within it. Thanks for reading.


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