Guest / Limited Access /

Imagine walking down the street and hearing a child say to his mother: "Mom, why does he walk that way?" Or, "Why is she in that wheelchair?" Or, "Why does he have that cane?" People with disabilities don't have to imagine such questions. They hear them regularly—at least those who can hear.

But it's not the queries of curious youngsters that bother those facing physical or mental challenges. It's the indifference, discrimination, or outright hostility that often comes from adults. During the public debate over Terri Schiavo, one especially blunt blogger wrote that Michael Schiavo had been "chained to a drooling [excrement]-bag for 15 years."

Blinded by media-induced visions of health and rugged individualism and by films such as Million Dollar Baby, many people see disability as a fate worse than death. Joni Eareckson Tada, left paralyzed after a diving accident 38 years ago, knows such private attitudes inevitably impact public policy.

"People have a fundamental fear of disabilities," Tada tells CT. "That fear drives social policy."

Jesus' Distressing Disguise


In the debate over human embryonic stem cells, Christians are right to defend the humanity and dignity of the embryo. But our well-reasoned words are unlikely to convince people who fear disease and incapacitation if we do not also demonstrate real pro-life compassion for a whole class already here—people with disabilities.

These neighbors are all around us. And we must not, like the Levite and the priest in Jesus' parable, pass by on the other side of the road. There are an estimated 50 million people with disabilities of all kinds in the United States, and 600 million worldwide. Each one, to borrow a phrase from the late Mother Teresa, is Jesus in "distressing ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedNancy Writebol: Ebola Is a Spiritual Battle
Subscriber Access Only Nancy Writebol: Ebola Is a Spiritual Battle
The missionary nurse who survived the deadly virus says medicine alone won't cure West Africa.
TrendingNew Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies
New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies
Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines.
Editor's PickMark Labberton: This Is the Best of Times for Following Jesus
Mark Labberton: This Is the Best of Times for Following Jesus
The Fuller Seminary president sees the church’s moment of cultural exile as a moment of incredible opportunity.
Comments
Christianity Today
Fear Not the Disabled
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.