A meditation from Hauerwas on friendship and the disabled:
Hans Reinders identifies another problem in his important book, Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics. We often assume the profoundly disabled will be cared for because by doing so those providing the care become better people. Reinders argues such a justification is perverse because it is a denial that we—that is, each of us—receive our lives as gifts. No human can merit a greater humanity for herself. And it is dangerous to suppose otherwise. We can become more human, but we cannot become better humans. The difference hangs on whether we receive our life as gift. Whether disabled or abled, we receive our humanity it is from this posture of reception that our shared human dignity springs.
Brock argues his way of describing people who are intellectually disabled is entailed by a theological perspective. He observes that Christian communities often offer rival understandings of the roles and gifts of those called to be the church. We should not be surprised, therefore, that the disabled have a role to play in God’s story of his people. Brock’s book is an extended exercise to perform that project by focusing on his down syndrome/autistic sixteen year old son, Adam. Brock understands his task is to witness to Adam’s witness by telling the stories of what it means for Adam to be “wondrously wounded.”
Brock is admirably clear that his argument is theological all the way down. Accordingly, he understands the Christian gospel to offer a way of life that enables our ability to live as vulnerable beings who have made peace with our limits and are able to delight in the unexpected. Such a way of life can be joyous and free because we no longer seek to be gods but are content to be creatures whose flourishing does not mean that we will not suffer. As the stories of Scripture often make clear, it is through suffering that we discover our place in God’s story.
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