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Uprooting Ableism [CCDA Workshop]

The Christian Community Development Association, an organization committed to seeing holistically restored communities (2), held a conference in Chicago this year titled, “Rooted”.  One of the workshops in this year’s CCDA national conference was on “Uprooting Ableism.” Ableism was defined as follows:

The belief that people with disabilities are not as important or valuable as able-bodied people. It is a notion that we all subscribe to in one form or another in society, the church, and even amongst people who have disabilities.

At the forefront, the hosts of this workshop emphasize combating ableism with awareness and ownership.

We must first be aware of different forms of ableism. We see subtle forms of ableism when churches are physically inaccessible or ill-prepared for those with disabilities. When spaces are not prepared properly for people of all abilities, we are implicitly sending the message that people with mobility issues are not welcome. In a more obvious manner, one of the hosts had his son Aiden share about how he is often made fun of in school because he has Asperger's syndrome.

It is important for us, especially Christ-followers, to first acknowledge our own forms of ableism. It is the first step to addressing the issue and the pain and injustice that it causes for people with disabilities.

Host Andrew Draper mentions 1 John 3:2, encouraging the Church to reframe our understanding of the image of God.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

He states that believers are rooted in the fact that people are created in the image of God but that we subscribe to a particular, nuanced way of thinking that can be unhelpful. He explains the “analogy of being” which is the idea that being created in the image of God is showcased only in our capacities or our attributes. “We share things with the divine - He is creative so we are creative. He is loving so we are loving, and so on. Aspects of this might be true, but thinking of the imago dei only in this way leads us to believe that certain physical bodies are inherently more godlike than others.”

He mentions that a theological perspective that can help us reframe the analogy of being is to recall, as mentioned above, that when Christ appears we will be like Him. When Jesus appeared after the Resurrection, His glorified body was recognizable with the marks (scars) of His calling to die on the cross. We should be weary of believing that bodies holiness or godliness is dependent on abilities or capacities!

In unity amongst the CCDA and with all believers, we hope to uproot ableism and find roots’ in Jesus example. Below are some notes recorded from the audio of this session.


ABOUT ABLEISM IN THE CHURCH AND IN SOCIETY

  1. Ableism defined:

    • Def 1: The discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities

    • Def 2: The belief that disabled people are not as important as able bodied people

  2. What should we know about ableism?

    • Subtle, obvious, or societally endorsed

    • We all have some form of it, including people with disabilities

    • Not assuming what God wants for a person but rather getting to know them

    • Our theologies of healing include a subtle sort of ableism; obvious ableism is making fun of, being told they’re less than

      1. Host Andrew Draper’s son Aiden (present at the workshop) was picked on as a person with asperger's - this is obvious ableism

    • Societally-endorsed form of ableism: physically inaccessible places. We don’t view this if places were designed only for Black people to sit; Think of jim crow era..we often give tacit consent to excluding people by not having these fully inclusive spaces by concern of budget, etc.

    • Seating can be lonely; inability to see and sit with friends. Homes are rarely accessible for anyone with mobility issues

    • Acknowledging it is the first step to addressing it - owning it is okay

    • In Mark, Bartimaeus called out to Jesus but the people tried to silence him. “This ministers to me so much. Because people like to silence those with disabilities. We’ve heard many examples of this. We have behaviors that make people uncomfortable. When we advocate for justice on behalf of the disability community, we are told to be grateful for what we have. And when we push, people try to shame us for not looking at how far we have come. So I love that this was included in the Bible. Jesus did not want anyone to be silenced including people with disabilities.” -- Host Jody Michele Powers, has cerebral palsy

      1. We must be rooted in the fact that people are created in the image of God. We subscribe to a way of thinking that is unhelpful. One main way...”analogy of being” - Being created in the image of God because of our capacities or our attributes. We share things with the divine - he is creative so we are creative he is loving so we are loving, and so on. Aspects of this might be true, but Thinking of the imago dei only in this way leads us to believe that certain physical bodies are inherently more godlike than others.

      2. “In heaven I believe that I will still have some form of my cerebral palsy because I don’t see it as a bad thing and I don’t think God sees it as a bad thing either” He will wipe away every tear, and if that means removing a disability then maybe but maybe not. -- Jody Powers

      3. Theology: In the new heavens and new earth.. When we see Jesus we will be like him. Jesus was still recognizable and bore the marks (scars) of his calling. Recognizable in his glorified body.

STATISTICS

  • 1 Billion people have disabilities in the world

    • 2 million have severe disabilities in the world

    • 15% of American children have a form of a disability

    • 2x as many people with disabilities live in poverty in comparison to those who don’t

  • “For far too long, people with disabilities have been left out of the conversation” — Jody Powers (1)

 

References:

(1) https://ccda.org/product/uprooting-ableism-finding-roots-in-jesus-example/

(2) https://ccda.org/about/vision-and-mission/

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