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a partial book review


I decided to take a day off since I turned in about 25 pages of work in the last two days and I am overwhelmed and need "me time..." I re-read part 1 of Kathy Black's book, A Healing Homiletic, and thought I would send some initial thoughts for the benefit of anyone who likes this theology stuff. I will include quotes as well...




When I read books, I read the prefaces and all. The biographical info in the preface often gives me important clues to the author's perspective. In Kathy Black's case, it tells me that she lives with an invisible disability which is similar in some ways to things I have lived with for many years. Her symptoms are different, but the impact on her life is quite similar. She also has experience working with people with severe multiple disabilities and with deaf ministry. This all tells me that she likely is observant and can draw on a variety of perspectives; and I like that.



There are some things about the book that I would consider "weaknesses." However, I do keep in mind that she is writing to pastors; and pastors are not likely to sit down and read an extensive book analyzing the experience of people with disabilities. With this in mind, I am inclined to give a bit of grace. (She also had an editor, and who knows what got chopped off at the end before publication.) I can see that she has done her work in trying to summarize a vast amount of information into a digestable amount for a group of people who are extremely busy. Her coverage of general disability theology is limited to 55 pages or so before she gets into biblical studies; and disability theology is an uncharted area. She could have written volumes if she had wanted to.



My thoughts on a few of her quotes follow:




In recent years, many other supposedly more liberating terms have emerged: physically challenged, differently abled, and so forth. I affirm these terms in their attempts to better identify the abilities of persons with limitations. These terms are widely used and often preferred by individuals and groups. Clergy with disabilities within my denomination have chosen the term "physically challenged" to identify themselves: The United Methodist Association of Physically Challenged Ministers. Unfortunately, on a societal level, these terms are often misunderstood. (p. 16)




She goes on to discuss her reasons for choosing to use the term "people with disabilities." I'm glad she chose this term. There is not a more distasteful term I can think of than "differently abled" or "physically challenged." I don't really care whether I misunderstand them or not. They simply sound like euphemisms for people who are in denial about the fact that something on their body just doesn't work. Last time I checked, that means it is disabled. No, this doesn't mean the person is disabled; but it does mean that the person has a "disability" based on the ADA definition, and I am quite comfortable with that definition. My roommate asked me today if I considered epilepsy a disability. I posed her a scenario. I have complex partial seizures (or something mimicking them). If I have one in class, I am either unable to speak clearly or unable to comprehend the discussion accurately depending on the particular episode. I asked her if these were "limitations of major life functions." She understood exactly what I meant. How these things make me "differently abled" I have no idea. Blindness only makes me "differently abled" if I learn braille; and that's about as silly as silly can be. "Challenged" is just plain dumb. A challenge represents something I can overcome with hard work. It just isn't going to happen with blindness, no matter how hard I work. There is no challenge about it. I have a disability, plain and simple.




Deaf parents are often elated when their child is born deaf. Language and communication flows so much easier. The deaf child will grow up in the rich Deaf Culture, fluent in sign language, which will be the foundation for learning other languages such as English. Life is good, and except for discrimination from the outside world, there is virtually no suffering connected with being deaf. If a deaf child is born to hearing parents, however; it can be devastating for both the parents and the child as they attempt to grow together when the language of the parents is not easily transmitted to the child. Communication can be extremely difficult and tension-filled. For someone born without legs, needing to use a wheelchair to get around may be a nuisance, but it is "normal." However; for a marathon runner who has a car accident and emerges paralyzed from the neck down, the disability, at least initially, feels like a death-a tremendous loss. (p. 35




This is not entirely true. At some point, that person born with no legs will begin to understand her difference and to see that she has a disability. And if she grows up with no wheelchair, she is most certainly quite disabled; and it does hurt. But I do understand the point made. I grew up with those modifications, and it took a long time and a paradigmatic event to make me realize that I had a disability and that having a disability was anything to care deeply about. I don't have a "problem" with this passage in the book, but I understand that some people do; anf I was writing the book I would have clarified it.



There is a big discussion of the concept of dependence, independence, and interdependence on pp. 39-42. It took a lot of words right out of my mouth and even talks about the problems with language like "ministry with people with disabilities" where there is not really any follow-through. The entire passage was affirming for me in regard to my personal experiences and my areas of ministry.



On p. 47, there is a chart comparing values of the medical care establishment in biblical times and today. The quote I pulled off that page says:




Disability goes against all of the values listed in the twentieth century column above. It often limits one's ability to "do”; it usually creates some sense of dependency on something or someone, which limits one's sense of individualism; because of the inconsistencies of one's physical or mental state and because of limited job opportunities in many cases, one's temporal focus is more in the present moment than in the future; and disability proves that we are not masters over nature. In the biblical context, blindness or deafness did not limit a person's ability to do but rather limited one's ability to be in relationship with the community. In our contemporary context, the focus is usually on blindness or deafness limiting a person's ability to do-to drive a car and therefore be independent, or to talk on the telephone.




She talks quite a bit about the effect of disability on being vs. doing. I have seen research on being and doing as "two faces of self-esteem." In our society it seems that being is very much wrapped up in doing. She did not make this leap. Perhaps what I'm really saying here is that doing trumps being. I might be funny, smart, etc. However, if I cannot get a job or support myself in some way, I am worthless to society. This is a message that employers convey to me well: I am intelligent, inspirational, etc. But I cannot do the job--or at least, they perceive that I cannot do the job.. So they don't want me.



She talks about the difference between healing and cure. This discussion is very powerful. She preceeds this with a discussion of the concepts of disease, sickness, and illness, emphasizing that illness had a social impact on relationships and the community and it was for this reason that people with illnesses were excluded: in order to preserve the health and purity of the community. She concludes:


[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<blockquote <p>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<p>
I decided to take a day off since I turned in about 25 pages of work in the last two days and I am overwhelmed and need "me time..." I re-read part 1 of Kathy Black's book, <i>A Healing Homiletic</i>, and thought I would send some initial thoughts for the benefit of anyone who likes this theology stuff. I will include quotes as well...</p>
<lj-cut text="It's behind a cut, so click if you're curious.">
<p>
When I read books, I read the prefaces and all. The biographical info in the preface often gives me important clues to the author's perspective. In Kathy Black's case, it tells me that she lives with an invisible disability which is similar in some ways to things I have lived with for many years. Her symptoms are different, but the impact on her life is quite similar. She also has experience working with people with severe multiple disabilities and with deaf ministry. This all tells me that she likely is observant and can draw on a variety of perspectives; and I like that.</p>
<p>
There are some things about the book that I would consider "weaknesses." However, I do keep in mind that she is writing to pastors; and pastors are not likely to sit down and read an extensive book analyzing the experience of people with disabilities. With this in mind, I am inclined to give a bit of grace. (She also had an editor, and who knows what got chopped off at the end before publication.) I can see that she has done her work in trying to summarize a vast amount of information into a digestable amount for a group of people who are extremely busy. Her coverage of general disability theology is limited to 55 pages or so before she gets into biblical studies; and disability theology is an uncharted area. She could have written volumes if she had wanted to.</p>
<p>
My thoughts on a few of her quotes follow:</p>
<blockquote>
<p>
In recent years, many other supposedly more liberating terms have emerged: physically challenged, differently abled, and so forth. I affirm these terms in their attempts to better identify the abilities of persons with limitations. These terms are widely used and often preferred by individuals and groups. Clergy with disabilities within my denomination have chosen the term "physically challenged" to identify themselves: The United Methodist Association of Physically Challenged Ministers. Unfortunately, on a societal level, these terms are often misunderstood. (p. 16)</p>
</blockquote>
<p>
She goes on to discuss her reasons for choosing to use the term "people with disabilities." I'm glad she chose this term. There is not a more distasteful term I can think of than "differently abled" or "physically challenged." I don't really care whether I misunderstand them or not. They simply sound like euphemisms for people who are in denial about the fact that something on their body just doesn't work. Last time I checked, that means it is disabled. No, this doesn't mean the person is disabled; but it does mean that the person has a "disability" based on the ADA definition, and I am quite comfortable with that definition. My roommate asked me today if I considered epilepsy a disability. I posed her a scenario. I have complex partial seizures (or something mimicking them). If I have one in class, I am either unable to speak clearly or unable to comprehend the discussion accurately depending on the particular episode. I asked her if these were "limitations of major life functions." She understood exactly what I meant. How these things make me "differently abled" I have no idea. Blindness only makes me "differently abled" if I learn braille; and that's about as silly as silly can be. "Challenged" is just plain dumb. A challenge represents something I can overcome with hard work. It just isn't going to happen with blindness, no matter how hard I work. There is no challenge about it. I have a disability, plain and simple.</p>
<blockquote>
<p>
Deaf parents are often elated when their child is born deaf. Language and communication flows so much easier. The deaf child will grow up in the rich Deaf Culture, fluent in sign language, which will be the foundation for learning other languages such as English. Life is good, and except for discrimination from the outside world, there is virtually no suffering connected with being deaf. If a deaf child is born to hearing parents, however; it can be devastating for both the parents and the child as they attempt to grow together when the language of the parents is not easily transmitted to the child. Communication can be extremely difficult and tension-filled. For someone born without legs, needing to use a wheelchair to get around may be a nuisance, but it is "normal." However; for a marathon runner who has a car accident and emerges paralyzed from the neck down, the disability, at least initially, feels like a death-a tremendous loss. (p. 35</p>
</blockquote>
<p>
This is not entirely true. At some point, that person born with no legs will begin to understand her difference and to see that she has a disability. And if she grows up with no wheelchair, she is most certainly quite disabled; and it does hurt. But I do understand the point made. I grew up with those modifications, and it took a long time and a paradigmatic event to make me realize that I had a disability and that having a disability was anything to care deeply about. I don't have a "problem" with this passage in the book, but I understand that some people do; anf I was writing the book I would have clarified it.</p>
<p>
There is a big discussion of the concept of dependence, independence, and interdependence on pp. 39-42. It took a lot of words right out of my mouth and even talks about the problems with language like "ministry with people with disabilities" where there is not really any follow-through. The entire passage was affirming for me in regard to my personal experiences and my areas of ministry.</p>
<p>
On p. 47, there is a chart comparing values of the medical care establishment in biblical times and today. The quote I pulled off that page says:</p>
<blockquote>
<p>
Disability goes against all of the values listed in the twentieth century column above. It often limits one's ability to "do”; it usually creates some sense of dependency on something or someone, which limits one's sense of individualism; because of the inconsistencies of one's physical or mental state and because of limited job opportunities in many cases, one's temporal focus is more in the present moment than in the future; and disability proves that we are not masters over nature. In the biblical context, blindness or deafness did not limit a person's ability to do but rather limited one's ability to be in relationship with the community. In our contemporary context, the focus is usually on blindness or deafness limiting a person's ability to do-to drive a car and therefore be independent, or to talk on the telephone.</p>
</blockquote>
<p>
She talks quite a bit about the effect of disability on being vs. doing. I have seen research on being and doing as "two faces of self-esteem." In our society it seems that being is very much wrapped up in doing. She did not make this leap. Perhaps what I'm really saying here is that doing trumps being. I might be funny, smart, etc. However, if I cannot get a job or support myself in some way, I am worthless to society. This is a message that employers convey to me well: I am intelligent, inspirational, etc. But I cannot do the job--or at least, they perceive that I cannot do the job.. So they don't want me.</p>
<p>
She talks about the difference between healing and cure. This discussion is very powerful. She preceeds this with a discussion of the concepts of disease, sickness, and illness, emphasizing that illness had a social impact on relationships and the community and it was for this reason that people with illnesses were excluded: in order to preserve the health and purity of the community. She concludes:</p>
<blockquote
<p>
But Jesus' actions in the Gospel healing narratives resulted in the person with the disability being reintegrated into the community "Jesus' therapeutic activity restores afflicted individuals to purity, to wholeness... restored to full and active membership in the holy community, the people of God."~0 Jesus broke down the social boundaries that were established by the society for protection. Instead of Jesus becoming contaminated by the lepers who were labeled unclean, the lepers were able to go back to their family and friends and to participate in temple worship. After living with a flow of blood for twelve years, alienated and isolated from any kind of relationship, the woman is welcomed back into the community-Jesus even calls her "daughter." The sick person is restored to an appropriate mode of being-not of doing. The breaking down of those barriers allowed the being of the person to be affirmed again and to experience healing.</p>
<p>
While being-in-community was valued in first-century biblical culture, contemporary American culture values doing-being able to function well and thereby contributing something to society And yet being-in-community is an appropriate image for healing in an interdependent Christian community. Healing happens when the well-being God offers is experienced. This may entail elimination or alleviation of the illness, but in the case of permanent disability healing often happens in the midst of managing the disability rather than in any kind of "cure." The community participates with God in offering possibilities of well-being to one another (pp. 552)</p>
</blockquote>
<p>
I have thoughts rumbling around in my head about the idea that our society is based so much on the idea of being chosen and wanted. Perhaps this is not really a new problem but only a problem that has escallated extremely. The above paragraphs about healing being an act of reintegrating a person into the community were deeply moving to me because they spoke to the truth of texts that Kathy Black did not even write about in this book: texts like the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Jesus is always about addressing the problem of exclusion and unwantedness. I'm so glad I am wanted!</p>
</lj-cut>
<p>
Hope this has been enlightening. I probably won't return to it until next week. I'm disappointed--I've been having a bit of fun! Ah well. One more week...</p>
<p>
Xposted to my other journal.</p>

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