Tuesday, July 5, 2022

My Body is Not a Prayer Request - a review

 


Disability Justice in the Church

By 

Amy Kenny

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

 

Is anyone among you sick?

Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them

and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well;

the Lord will raise them up.

(James 5: 14-15a, NIV)

 

“God told me to pray for you.” Amy begins her challenge to Christians who dehumanize her, and all people with disabilities, by telling the tale of a prayer predator. She interrupts the woman’s plan, “I don’t need prayer for healing. My body has already been sanctified and redeemed.”

Amy uses a cane and a wheelchair. Throughout My Body is Not a Prayer Request, we learn what Christians and medical people have said and done, which have had a cumulative effect of dehumanizing Amy. She has encountered many Christians who do not accept her as she is. Her work is an attack on the mentality of ableism.

[Read about ableism]

Part of her attack focuses on the prayer predators who insist that it is not God’s will for her to have a disability and that God wants to heal her. Unlike hidden disabilities, Amy’s use of mobility devices draws attention to a physical difference. Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians believe God can perform healing miracles. In short, they believe people like Amy can walk again. I begin to glimpse the frustration and even anger with the people who constantly annoy her as if she is a problem in need of a fix instead of fixing the environment that is designed for the able-bodied.

Another part of her attack is on Christians who refuse to design spaces for people who need one or more accommodations to fit in. She takes on the excuses she has heard like limited funds despite churches finding money for other projects. She needs a ramp. Others need large print, sign language, or accommodations for hearing impairments.

Amy also takes on the dehumanization that occurs through the barrage of microaggressions. Mostly these take the form of words and phrases. Christians make jokes about people with disabilities and toss around words like “lame” as if she did not exist. In addition to pointing out the ways some Christians offend people with disabilities, she approaches a theology of disability noting scriptures that reveal compassion and inclusivity.

Read about the concept, microaggressions.]

In closing this summary of the book, I would note she provides suggestions for activities at the end of each chapter that may be of special interest to people in Christian book-study groups.

Quoting Amy

Following are some quotes to give you a sense of her perspective on being a Christian with a disability. The number following each quote is the page number.

No place is safe from prayerful predators. 27

What we need to be freed from is ableism. 27

Constructing buildings and communities with disabled people in mind from the outset produces a culture of belonging that does not discriminate against bodily difference. 36

Perhaps instead of trying to pray away the cane, prayerful perpetrators should ensure that buildings are accessible to me. Perhaps instead of focusing on my body as the source of sin, prayerful perpetrators should repent of the ways the church perpetuates the sin of excluding disabled people.  36

“Crip” is a disability community word that reclaims the slur “cripple” in hopes of transforming the way the world interprets our bodies. 53

Doctors have drugs, churches have platitudes. They use platitudes like a drug they can dole out to make any ailment go away. 99

Crip tax is a term for the way society charges disabled people for being disabled. The cost of mobility devices, medical care, and assistive technology is weighty.  106

Folks routinely wear glasses or contacts without knowing how to manufacture them and without the threat of prayerful perpetrators trying to cure them. 132

I am not your metaphor. My body is not your symbol to use. My crippled body and lame leg do not give you permission to dismiss me as symbolic for whatever you find difficult.  146

Physical space reveals who the world is built for and who we expect to use it. 197

Accessibility is not just a checklist but an ethos.  197

In the charity model, we become objects of pity rather than subjects with our own gifts. 252

**********

Comments

I recommend My Body is Not a Prayer Request to all those Christians who pray for healing. I get it that Christians can point to verses about healing like the James 5 text I placed at the beginning of this review; however, what aggressive, in-your-face-prayer warriors—I like Amy’s term prayer predators—seem to ignore is the millions of devout Christians who are not healed. The unhealed testify to the inadequacy of theologies of healing, which I have written about in a previous series (See Divine Healing).

I support Amy’s call for churches to be more accommodating. If the lack of accommodations is due to ignorance, then see Amy’s ideas and ask people in the church for suggestions. Meanwhile, Christians with disabilities are being excluded. As Amy points out, the number of people with a disability is large. According to the CDC, about 1 in 4 Americans have a disability (26%).

When it comes to Christians and ableism, there is a need to address the implications of people who were not good enough to serve in a special way. Consider the following quote from Leviticus 21.

16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.’ ” 

(Leviticus 21.16-24, NIV)

I will not attempt to create a theology of disability here. You can see what I wrote elsewhere and consult other books. However, I hope Christians can see how the Leviticus quote creates a tone of “not good enough.” Add in the many healing stories in the gospels and Acts and it is also easy to see how people can be “fixed” if only they have enough faith. Attitudes favoring the able-bodied place people with a disability in a lower class. 

Ableism, the discrimination against people with disabilities, is a problem in society and in the church. I agree with Amy that this ablest theology dehumanizes large numbers of people. I would add to her rhetoric on dehumanization that some Christians are in the habit of demonizing people with mental disorders.

 

Book Reference

Kenny, A. (2022). My body is not a prayer request: Disability Justice in the church. Grand Rapids, MI: BrazosPress.   AMAZON



Related books

The Bible, Disability, and the Church by Amos Yong


Theology and Down Syndrome by Amos Yong


Related Posts

Ableism

Microaggressions


Spiritual Bypass

Spiritual or Religious Abuse

Spiritual or Religious Neglect

Spiritual and Religious Harassment

A scale to measure attitudes toward disability

  Attitudes to Disability Scale [ADS]




Disclosure

I am a retired psychologist. Before becoming a psychologist, I worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor. As a part of my work as a psychologist, I consulted with physicians, attorneys, and government agencies on the needs of people with disabilities. I recently published a book about Pentecostals and mental health.

Counseling and Psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians:

Culture &  Research  |  Assessment & Practice 

Available on AMAZON

Please check out my website   www.suttong.com

   and see my books on   AMAZON    

   or  GOOGLE STORE


Also, consider connecting with me on    FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton    

   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton    


You can read many published articles at no charge:

  Academia   Geoff W Sutton  

  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton 

 Addendum

Throughout her book Amy Kenny provides some lists. Following is an example.





Saturday, June 18, 2022

Columbine: A True Crime Story—A REVIEW

 Columbine: A True Crime Story—

A Victim, the Killers 

and the Nation’s Search for Answers, 

2nd ed.



By Jeff Kass, 2014

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

It’s 2022. We’ve heard of several mass shootings this year. Sadly, we know the routine. The news media head to the scene of the massacre. We get early reports from law enforcement. We see heart wrenching images of incredibly sad people near the scene where loved ones have fallen. We learn about the numbers of people killed and injured. We hear the familiar words of political leaders attempting to offer support. We hear about gun control and the need for more security. Sometimes we learn about life-costing mistakes. We see images of flowers and bears at makeshift memorials. We learn about funeral services. And then the images fade until next time.

It was April 20, 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School. They murdered 12 students and 1 teacher. More were injured—21 of 24 were injured by gunfire. Columbine: A True Crime Story is Kass’s analysis of what happened that tragic day. Kass pursued records from government sources and conducted interviews. He reviewed tapes and has documented vast quantities of information about the history of the killers and their families and friends. We learn a lot about the aftermath so we begin to see the impact on the parents of those whose children died.

Early on, Kass takes us through “Day One”—the day the killers enter the school with guns and bombs. Those like me who saw the story on TV and followed the horrific scenes see the action as if in real time—Kass writes with clarity and skill. The retelling has fresh impact and provides the chilling context for his analysis of events leading up to the fateful day followed by various types of chaos following Day One.

As the backstory unfolds, we begin to see points at which some people were exposed to pieces of information that could have served as a warning of pending doom. Hindsight is tricky. Even more so now that we have additional shootings on record.

I cannot imagine a worst tragedy than the death of a child. If there can be something worse, it may be the chaos after the violence. The quest for answers to “why” did this happen can often be fruitless but it’s made worse when information isn’t forthcoming. I can only imagine the powerful feelings of anger and fear in a community where there’s finger pointing, threats, and lawsuits consuming considerable energy for years. This is the chaos. Even Kass’ investigation can only offer a glimpse at the personal struggles. Life after loss isn’t just about grieving. Sadly, it’s also about fighting battles.

 

I recommend Columbine: A True Crime Story to those who wish to learn from these tragedies. The learning isn’t just about what might have been missed or what could have been done differently but it’s about connecting with the emotions and experiences of the victims and those involved in some official capacity.

What’s missing, and I do not fault the author, is an appreciation of what survivors experience. Today, those 16 years old have lived another 23 years and seen a lot more school shootings. How have they survived? How did their parents cope? These are additional lessons we as a society and caregivers need to learn. These are the people that may enter our clinics and counseling rooms. Perhaps their physical functioning has been restored but we do not know about their minds.

In closing, I would also recommend a related book, The Violence Project, which draws on a database built on the authors research into years of mass shootings. One thing mentioned by Jeff Kass and the authors of The Violence Project is the common finding of leakage. That is, young killers often reveal parts of their plans to others before the big event.

Reference

Kass, J. (2014). Columbine: A True Crime Story—A Victim, the Killers and the Nation’s Search for Answers, 2nd ed. Denver, CO: Bower House. Available from AMAZON.

 

Author note

I am a retired clinical psychologist who provided clinical and forensic services to families, schools, and government agencies.

 

Related reviews

The Sociopath Next Door

Therapy After Terror

The Violence Project

The Wisdom of Psychopaths





Please check out my website   www.suttong.com

   and see my books on   AMAZON       or  GOOGLE STORE

Also, consider connecting with me on    FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton    

   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton    

You can read many published articles at no charge:

  Academia   Geoff W Sutton     ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton