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disability

This tag is associated with 4 posts

Book Review: “Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness” by Benjamin T. Conner

Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness by Benjamin T. Conner’s subtitle gives an effective outline of the contents of the book: Exploring Missiology Through the Lens of Disability Studies. Conner provides readers with an introduction to a whole field of disability studies in a short space, giving them tools to explore further and apply knowledge immediately to their contexts.

The book is divided into two parts. The first sets the stage by introducing, first, disability studies and then introducing mission studies, providing each in context with the other. The second part focuses on enabling witness, showing that disabilities provide much to the church’s witness.

What happened to this reader, time and again throughout the book is that my eyes were opened to issues I hadn’t even considered before. Conner’s mission is surely, in part, to awaken people in the church to the powerful witness of people with disabilities to speak to our contexts. I was aware, already, of some issues regarding “ableist” interpretations of Scripture. For example, arguments that heaven will necessarily mean all disabilities will be wiped out can be seen by some as meaning that part of their identity–such as being deaf–is something inherently bad that needs to go away, when in reality is an “enabling” part of their life.  Despite some awareness to these issues, though, I found that Conner awakened new understandings and approaches I had never thought of. For one, how is it that people with disabilities impact the congregation in ways that help to preach Christ to all? How do we go beyond seeing “disabled” persons as mere totems and rather as people with their own interpretive capacities and outreach? I have personally grown up and lived in churches throughout my life with people with various levels of disability and have found their witness to be extremely valuable.

Another surprising aspect was Conner noting how easily mental health is marginalized and/or not addressed or not seen as a “real” disability. Gatekeeping exists within concepts of disability as well, such that sometimes people are told they are not “really” disabled or that they should view themselves in a certain way. Moreover, disabilities continue to be seen as inherently negative (see example above regarding heaven) when they are often not viewed as such by the people living their experience as such.

Conner goes beyond these mere introductions and calls readers into an awareness of how disabled persons have their own cultures and capacities that are, unfortunately, too often left untapped or even overthrown or colonized by even well-meaning people.

My own writing of this review has been made difficult–in a good way–by more awareness of how disabilities are perceived by myself as an abled person and one who has not paid much attention to the language I use of others.

Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness is an eye-opening introduction to the issues related to ability and disability in the church. On a personal note, as someone who is married to someone who’s considered permanently disabled, I found the book deeply insightful and helpful. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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“How to Train Your Dragon” + “2” – A Christian reflection

train-dragon“How to Train Your Dragon” was a surprise box office success. It was enough of a surprise to get a second movie to come several years later. Both were received with critical acclaim. Here, we’ll take a look at various themes which resonate with the Christian worldview found in each flick. There will be SPOILERS for both films in what follows. I will refer to the second movie as “2” in what follows.

Family

“2” confronts the notion of familial reconciliation. Hiccup’s mom, Valka, is found–after being captured by a dragon, she abandoned her family in order to try to save other dragons who were being hunted or pressed into forced military service. When she runs into Hiccup once more, she realizes that things have changed and people can too. She ends up deciding to come back to the family, though the joy of the reunification of their family is very short-lived. The theme, however, is strong and it leads one to think on how much familial reconciliation is needed in the here-and-now, whether from fighting, divorce, loss, or whatever–it is a truly good task to work towards bringing families back together.

Disabilities and Lost Limbs

In the first “Dragon,” we encounter Gobber, a man who has lost a leg and a hand to dragons. He is boisterous, a little crazy, and he uses his arm as an attachment point for all sorts of tools and weapons. In the climactic battle against the huge evil dragon at the end of the movie, Hiccup also loses part of a leg. By “2,” Hiccup has outfitted himself with a spinning peg leg which may perform several different functions. We also encounter Drago Bludvist, who has also lost an arm to a dragon. Gobber is kind of a crazy man but overall a good guy, Hiccup is a peacemaker (see below), and Drago is clearly a villain–these characters are on a spectrum.

In the “How to Train Your Dragon” universe, then, people with lost limbs are not treated as universally bad or to be pitied. Rather, they are treated as…. well, people. It’s fantastic. Too often, movies use disabilities or loss of a limb as an excuse to become a villain (see another movie review for this theme) or simply as an object of pity. Here, in both films, people are people, and they continue to act in ways which fit their characters despite loss of limb or disabilities. It’s a refreshing to see, and a theme which should feature more prominently in other films.

Peacemaking and Evil

Perhaps the strongest theme throughout both films is the notion of “peacemaking.” Hiccup is a young man who favors making peace over war. He realizes that love and understanding may be more powerful weapons than the sword and spear. The theme is shown to be true in both movies, as it is ultimately this impetus for peace which overcomes the evils of the world. Yet the films do not portray a kind of naive view of the world. In each film, the ultimate villain does not miraculously change his heart, but rather persists in evil and reaps the rewards.

However, this should not overcome the strength of the notion of making peace. Hiccup relentlessly sought to make peace between dragon and humanity, and then between Drago and the people of his homeland. Christians are also called to be peacemakers–to seek justice for all people on Earth.

Conclusion

Both “How to Train Your Dragon” movies are well-worth seeing. They are visual delights with very solid stories and fun moments spread throughout. Not only that, but they each have several themes which resonate with the Christian worldview. Whether it is the notion that all people are valuable, even if they have disabilities, or the themes of family and peacemaking, the movies put forth a reality grounded in notions of right and wrong alongside justice. In short, they’re fantastic.

Let me know what you thought of the movies in the comments.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts I have written on the movies. Scroll down to see more!

The image is a movie poster for the film and I use it under fair use.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 9/27/13- Star Trek, stem cells, gears, and more!

postA Word of Caution Regarding Induced Pluripotent [Adult] Stem Cells– It is vastly important when debating any issue–but particularly those issues with much emotional attachment–to be careful to make proper distinctions. Here, Matt Rodgers makes a very important clarification regarding the successes and usefulness of induced pluripotent (read: adult) stem cell research. Is it something to be celebrated wildly by pro-life persons? He urges caution. Read the post for why.

Remembering When Star Trek Responsibly Dealt With Disability and Assisted Suicide– Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. In this post, Chelsea Zimmerman analyzes one of the episodes to look at how it thoughtfully deals with some really tough topics: assisted suicide and disability.

First mechanical gear discovered in a living creature– One of the most important arguments for biological design, irreducible complexity, relates to the analysis of systems within lifeforms which, it is alleged, cannot have arisen through undirected processes. The concept of a serious mechanical gear existing within an insect offers a case study for irreducible complexity. Is it the case that this presents a challenge to Neodarwinism? Check out the post.

Cutting the Baby in Half: A review of Neal Shusterman’s “Unwind”– Anthony Weber’s blog, Empires and Mangers, is simply a must-follow if you are interested at all in the relationship between Christianity and culture. Here, he analyzes a work which directly addresses issues related to abortion. What happens when the value regarding human life is shifted beyond recognition? Or… more startlingly, is the dystopia portrayed in this work really a value network which is beyond recognition?

Was there animal death before Adam’s sin?– One of the arguments used by young earth creationists most frequently is the argument that animal death before the Fall decisively shows that any other position is false. William Lane Craig answers this challenge briefly. For my part, I have argued that the young earth view is actually self-referentially false in my post: “Animal Death? A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism.”

Crossing the Most Dangerous Line: How some bioethicists undermine humanity

Our point is only that there is nothing bad about death or killing other than disability and disabling. (Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller, cited below)

The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice [after birth abortions] as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborn’s. (Klimas, emphasis mine, cited below)

These are not quotes from a dystopic sci-fi epic; these are quotes from a journal article about murder and a news story about bioethics. The disturbing reality is that there are a number of people working in the field of bioethics today whose positions undermine basic human rights.

Murder as Causing Disability

Why is murder wrong?

There are a number of answers generally given to this question which generally focus on the wrongness of ending life or terminating consciousness. However, a recent article by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Franklin Miller denigrates this position as “traditionalist” (note the subtle choice of the word to create an opposition: “traditionalists” are opposed to what? apparently they are opposed to “innovation” “reality” and the like; they are stuck in their mores and these bioethicists must free us from the stone age). They argue that it is causing disability which makes murder wrong; not the wrongness of killing itself.

Murder is wrong, on their view, because it causes “total disabling.” The authors draw out a thought experiment in which a woman, Betty, is incapable of controlling her thoughts, has no motor control, and the like. Essentially, she is completely disabled and cannot do anything, has no awareness of her actions, and the like. Then, the authors ask:

In this case, is Betty any better off totally disabled than dead? If so, then death must involve the loss of something valuable beyond the loss of all abilities forever. If not, then death does not involve the loss of anything valuable beyond what is lost in total disability. Death is still distinct from total disability, but it is no worse.

It is fascinating to see that the authors apparently take this to be a decisive blow to the “traditionalist” position. They write, “We see nothing to make Betty’s death worse than her total disability. This intuition seems to be widely shared, since many people dread death no more than and for the same reasons that they would dread total disability.”

Yet there is something fairly obvious that is just waiting to be pointed out: namely, that Betty’s death does “involve the loss of something valuable beyond the loss of all abilities forever”–what it involves losing is one’s life.

Yes, that’s right, some people make the apparently not-so-obvious claim that life itself is valuable. See, articles like this by Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller don’t interact with their opponents’ positions as much as they try to claim they have refuted them; rather, they simply assume their opponents are wrong. But these authors seem to have anticipated this point (despite their total rejection of the alternative in their thought experiment–they use the experiment as though it seals their case and then only later, once the reader has been led to believe they are absolutely correct, do they deal with this objection). They write:

 Of course, opponents will claim that life is sacred or that killing her violates God’s commandment, but why would God forbid us (or have any reason to forbid us) to do something that does not make Betty worse off? Similarly, secular theorists might claim that life has sanctity or intrinsic value (cf Dworkin), but why is life valuable in this extreme case when it includes no ability (or pleasure, as we are still assuming)?

But this is the end of their response! After these lines they turn to attempting to justify their consequentialist assumptions. Surely, however, this is an extremely insufficient response. Nothing in this response undermines the position that life is  valuable. Rather, they just ask a question: why is life valuable? But of course the authors are the ones making the claim here. They are claiming life itself is not valuable. If that’s the case, the burden of proof is upon them to show that their position is correct. And note that the way they try to justify this position is by simply assuming their position is correct. They ask why God would forbid something that doesn’t make Betty any worse off… but the point the “traditionalist” is making is that it does make Betty worse off because killing her deprives her of life! There is a subtle question begging occurring throughout the article because the authors simply can’t seem to fathom that life is valuable in itself. Instead, they assert that what is valuable is ability and then sift all moral statements through that assumption.

One who reflects upon this position should be not just appalled but also outraged and fearful. Why?  Well Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller, by suggesting that what makes killing wrong is the causation of disabilities, imply that disabilities significantly reduce the value or worth of persons. Consider this: the authors repeatedly point out that it is not the deprivation of life that harms Betty, but rather the causing total disability. The grounding of Betty’s value is therefore based upon her abilities. If that is the case, then as Betty suffers disabilities, her value is decreased. Suppose Betty goes from being totally “able” with nothing wrong to becoming paralyzed. Does that mean she is less valuable? “Traditionalists” like me would say no, she is no less valuable. However, the authors of this article have grounded human value on ability. Again, it is the deprivation of  capabilities which is wrong with murder, not the deprivation of life on their view. A consequences of this position is that the more “disabled” one becomes, the less valuable they become. Such a position is rightfully horrifying, but it is exactly what such a position entails. If humans’ value is grounded not simply in their being, then whatever standard one grounds this value will imply a sliding scale. Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller suggest that abilities  ground value; therefore a disabled child is less valuable than one who is not; a man with Down Syndrome is less valuable than one who does not have it. These are the horrifying implications of their view.

One wonders if it is worth embracing such a position when it entails such blatantly immoral consequences. When one notices that the argument produced therein is based simply upon begging the question and assuming that life itself is not valuable, one finds little reason to commend this position.

Killing Our Children

Bioethicists have not stopped at the line crossed above, however. Recently another pair of bioethicists, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, have argued for what they are terming “after-birth abortions.” In layman’s terms, they’re arguing for murdering one’s own children.

What could possibly ground this? Well, these bioethicists argue that, “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’… Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.”

What exactly constitutes something which could justify killing a newborn? Again, “The circumstances… where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an ‘acceptable’ life.” The authors go on to cite Down Syndrome as an example of these circumstances. Honestly, there is nothing to distinguish this form Eugenics. Let’s kill off those we deem unsuitable for life. It’s abhorrent.

I predicted this very consequence of the pro-choice position not too long ago. Pro-abortion arguments which aim to redefine what it means to be a “person” lead inevitably to infanticide. Fortunately, most pro-choice advocates do not realize this consequence of their position and still find infanticide and the like abhorrent. But those who have carefully reflected on the topic–bioethicists who research the issues involved–have come to realize that if an unborn human being is not worth being called a person, then it is hard to see why a newly born human being is a person either.

Bioethics: A brief reflection

The two case studies provided in this post provide examples for why it is so important to defend a proper view of the value of persons and worth. Once we start to define worth as things which can become a sliding scale (abilities vs. disabilities); once we allow that human beings are worthless if in one location (the womb) but valuable in another (outside the womb); once we seek to redefine terms in order to win a debate; that is when our world will collapse around us. These bioethicists are literally trying to say that it is permissible to kill people if they are totally disabled; they are literally telling us that a child with Down Syndrome might have a life worth living, but is such a strain on their family that the family should be allowed to kill their own child. I wish I were making these things up. These are our times: times in which we’ve allowed people to redefine rights and values in order to allow us to kill our children; times in which the people writing our ethics books argue that murder isn’t wrong because it takes a life but because it disables someone; times in which we can read discussions in medical journals about permitting the killing our own infants because they have certain defects.

God help us.

Sources

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Franklin Miller, “What Makes Killing Wrong?” Journal of Medical Ethics, January 2012. Accessible here: http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/01/19/medethics-2011-100351.full

Liz Klimas, “Ethicists Argue for Acceptance of After-Birth Abortions” The Blaze, February 27, 2012, accessible here: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/ethicists-argue-in-favor-of-after-birth-abortions-as-newborns-are-not-persons/.

Picture credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinedap.JPG

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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