Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Divine Towels

Most current theologies of disability construct new possibilities by rejecting previous philosophies as unsuited for the modern world.  Every once in a while, however, an author will rely on the historical tradition of faith and call people to a new, yet centuries old way of living. 

Divine Towels in an intriguing book: while not strictly a theological treatise, it does contain multiple reflections on the transcendence, immanence, and character of God.  Technically, the style of writing arises somewhere in a vortex of inspirational literature, parable, and Christian mysticism – a cross between the 19th century George MacDonald and The Shack’s William P. Young.  Do not read this as a novel; the action is interspersed with long devotional thought.

While not explicitly stating as such, this twelve-years long labor by novice author Beau Jason McGlynn draws upon his own experience as an adult with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and his relationship with his own mother to craft a modern retelling of the Madonna and Child.  In parabolic form, Jesus is successfully re-imagined as an adult with a disability who has the motivation to heal others yet understands his own limitations necessitated by the purpose of the cross.

As true in most pietistic literature, the Christian laity is called to become more engaged in both praxis and service outside of the worship service.  Furthermore, existing institutional structures of church and medicine are considered corrupt:  the church is redeemable but the reliance on a biomedical framework is rejected.

Many evangelicals will embrace the devotional flavor, but find difficulty with mystical rituals. Disability theologians will applaud the rejection of medicine as healer, but will find an Augustinian Christian worldview difficult to accept.  Editors will undoubtedly want to tighten and strengthen the movement.  Yet Divine Towels proves to be valuable as an expression of what it means for a person with a disability to be used by God to minister to others.  People with disabilities are not only important parts of the body of Christ – they can be active parts as well.