Reflections on Day 2
This morning was a moving session – in tribute to one of the early pioneers of disability theology. Dr. Nancy Eiesland (1964-2009) was known for her liberating work in disability theology with her groundbreaking book The Disabled G-D. Julia Watts Belser, from the Jewish tradition paid homage to her legacy in an excellent lecture, by delving into the Hebrew Bible’s texts on disability and the life hereafter (eschaton) and then exploring the related rabbinical tradition.
During the post-lecture session, several key questions were raised that highlight the differences in Jewish and Christian (among its various forms) handling of these texts and of Eiesland’s work. Dr. Hans Reinders pointed out the prominence of Eiesland’s Christological emphasis in her work and inquired how the work can be utilized outside of the Christian tradition. To be sure, her contribution allowed others to access the texts (and G-D) through previously unthought ways. Several ensuing twitter posts indicated that many found hope and substance in Eiesland’s work and could now think of a Disabled G-D without having to focus on the disabled Christ. While I am glad her work has served as inspiration to others outside the Christian tradition, I too conclude with Dr. Reinders that it is the Christological piece that sets her work as viable within the Christian tradition – without it, it (in Pentecostal parlance) loses its power.
I am grateful for the insights that Julia Watts Belser gave – yet it also clarified for me the fundamental worldview perspective difference between the two religious traditions. Dr. Becker, post lecture, also revealed that for her the eschaton is not nearly as important as the here and now. For many evangelical Christians, the eschaton is the focus – often in my opinion, to our detriment of the social injustices present in the now.
Why is the eschaton critical? – because of the role imagination plays with our self-identity and mutual relationship with the G-D-head in the future. Identity body politics are important and can not be easily swept away. The graveyard image of a person moving out of a support device (wheelchair) is liberating to some who have not yet created a new identity (new creation?) in relationship with the disabled G-D, yet confining to those who have found their new identity melded with metal and plastic. Perhaps, as Monica Coleman stated, people with disabilities will have a choose their own adventure experience as we reflect on our identity in the hereafter with our G-D.