Disability and The Church

Today I’m excited to introduce a guest writer on the topic of disability and fundamentalism…she NOT ONLY has written a thoughtful post on the subject but also crochets amazing creations, has two amazing dogs, Bailey and Jelly, and is married to an awesome guy who makes great breakfast food. She also blogs at http://cooknhook.com/

Hey, everyone!  I’m Casey, official best friend of Holly, here with a guest post for you on her blog.  I, like Holly, am a writer, but have fallen down on the job as far as sharing my writing with other people.
 Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I seem to care too much what random strangers on the internet think of me, so I’m usually too terrified to put myself out there in vulnerable opinion pieces.  But here I am, because she gave me a topic and a deadline so I would actually get up off my ass and do something productive.
As most of you who are minorities will attest to, there’s a lot of intersection.  I can’t really separate all of the minorities of which I am a part because they are all a part of me.  So who am I?  Short introduction for you: I’m a 24-year-old bisexual autistic woman who was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist cult and am now a liberal, pacifist Christian.  Did you catch all that?  Yeah, me neither. It’s complicated.  So let’s just jump right in…
There’s starting to be a lot more conversation about what it means to be a woman, or a person of color, or a sexual minority, etc., and how that affects a person’s role in a church community.  And that’s amazing.  Where we’re not hearing a lot of conversation is how the disabled, and especially the neurodiverse, play an important role in the church.
I once told my husband that quite often I see churches with wheelchair ramp ministries – where people go all around the community and build ramps to make all sorts of places more accessible to the disabled community.  As an autistic person, my disability is for the most part invisible.  And the neurotypical world has no clue how to build mental “ramps” so that a church community can be more accessible to autistic people.  Or if they try… in my experience, autism ministries at most churches are patronizing and condescending because they are run by caretakers and not autistic people themselves.
In the foreword of a book I just started reading, Disabled Church – Disabled Society by John Gillibrand, Dr. Rowan Williams writes: “At the most fundamental level of all, the summons is to let go of the patronizing downward look at those who are different.”  Imagine what our churches would look like if we started making the kind of progress in ministering to the neurodiverse that we have made in ministering to other minorities.  Dr. Williams continues, “we jeopardize human dignity most when we try to bind it to the characteristics we can recognize and value and understand as mirroring only our own faces.  The harder labour is seeing ourselves in the person who is genuinely and painfully other.”
I challenge the church to see your autistic members. Value our contributions and take a step back so that we can lead as well.  We are different.  But we are all more human and more Christ-like when we can look at the “other-ness” in one another and recognize the diverse and beautiful nature of Christ in all of us.

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