There’s distinct messaging around what it means to have a disability within certain religious spaces. So for example, you believe in the Pentecostal Christianity, there’s this concept of laying hands on people, to heal people. That can be great from a psychological standpoint but then it becomes this weird, ingrained, ableist idea that if this doesn’t work for you, then there must be something wrong with you as a person.
When in reality, there’s an inherent limitation to what embodied prayer can actually do and why do people inherently expect that embodied prayer has a curative aspect to it. You’ll never see for example, TV pimp preachers laying hands on stairs so they magically become a ramp, or praying for more accessibility. Or praying for the money to get Bibles with Braille. You’ll never see shit like that… It’s more like, Oh I broke my leg, I was down and out… so and so sent me the holy water in a ketchup packet, I prayed and then I was cured! So that’s one obvious narrative what you would see with more televangelism, evangelicalism, and more right wing forms of Christianity.
In Muslim spaces, you typically hear your disability is your jihad, it’s something you have to struggle with. I even hate using the word jihad in our society. People will say that this is your struggle with. My jihad is not disability, my struggle is to dismantle ableism within all other forms of oppression. But you certainly won’t hear that from other people.
There’s a lot of inherently warped messaging around disability on the religious right side of things even in the context of liberal theology, liberal religion, you have these people who are offering acceptance but then there’s no forethought as to what that looks like. You have all affirming churches that don’t have ASL interpretation or Braille materials. You position yourself as all welcoming to say you’re not like Bill O’Reilly over there. What does that actually mean in the context of being in a congregation together and being in community. Does that have any lived practice to it? Or is that only to say: “we don’t kick anyone to the curb”. That’s nice if only that were really true.
a snippet of my interview for the inagural episode of Power Not Pity, a new podcast on disability justice. Listen to the rest of my interview where I discuss how ableism manifests in theology and in congregational settings (transcript avaliable at powernotpity.com)