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Sanctity of Life and Disability

Author: Joni Eareckson Tada
Date: 01.05.2012
Category: Disability Concerns

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Originally Posted in English

I recently attended a fundraiser in San Francisco for our Joni and Friends Family Retreats. Every year these camps are filled to capacity and scores of families with special needs are left on waiting lists.  I had no trouble pressing my case due to a local news story about a mother who had put a gun to the head of her sleeping 22-year-old son with autism, and then turned the gun on herself.  

Sadly, these families aren’t finding much hope in the world. Although society tries to provide resources for families like this woman’s, some people have adopted the false premise that one is “better off dead than disabled.” While society seemingly supports the Americans with Disabilities Act, cheers on Special Olympics, and provides special education, and ramps, in the same breath it offers those most vulnerable among us a special right to die. 

This seemingly schizophrenic worldview raises the question, does one’s worldview matter? I believe so. Had I been born with quadriplegia during the Enlightenment era of the 18th century, the intellectuals of the day would have viewed me as an abnormality to be fixed. What’s wrong with her? Why the defect? Persons with disabilities were considered abnormal in a normal world. But after two World Wars, a global depression, and a holocaust, Enlightenment has faded into a post-modern worldview. 

Problems with a Post-Modern View on Disability

The post-modernists tout that a disability is a normal part of life in a normal world. It says, “You have a broken finger? Well, I have a broken neck—it’s all the same and so we should celebrate the joyous differences that bind us together!” Is that so? Try and convince the family of that suicidal mother in the Bay Area news. It’s simply not realistic. 

This view also reinforces “politically correct” language such as differently-enabled, mobility-impaired, and motion-challenged. Such sterile terms are squeamish attempts to whitewash the hard realities of disabilities.  

The post-modern view of disability fails to recognize the deeper issue that lies in our view of the world itself—the world is not normal, it’s broken.   

Our world is terribly broken because of sin, and people with disabilities living in it can quickly fall through the cracks. I believe post-modernism confuses everything and solves nothing. The offer for special education includes a special right-to-die. It campaigns for disability rights while unborn babies with Down syndrome are systematically targeted for abortion.

At Joni and Friends, we promote a biblical worldview that says disability is a normal part of life in an abnormal world. So don’t call me, an SCI quadriplegic, differently-enabled. That would be like calling the sinking of the Titanic a boating accident. When we recognize that disability is a normal part of life in an abnormal world, we can begin to make sense of suffering and ourselves.  Without such a worldview, we don’t know what to do with suffering. 

Keywords: Lausanne, disability ministry, Joni Eareckson Tada, grace, redemption, sanctity of life, postmodernism, suffering, worldview, brokenness, abnormality, normality

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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Richardm23 (0)
United States

I also just found an amazing story of disability and marriage on the Desiring God website (John Piper’s teaching Ministry).  I posted it to my blog too.  Please look at it I know you will be blessed!

Desperate Imitation of Christ

Desiring God


Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down jchua (0)
United States

Thank you, Joni, for making a stand for life in spite of what our culture says. I came across this video and thought it was appropriate for this conversation, especially because it is mother’s day. Every child is individually formed by God and precious.

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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down tgraham (5)
United States

Your article prompts me to look closer to the reality of disability. There are a variety of things we can do to help in the fight to make disability a greater priority. I will seek opportunity to support local organizations who may need volunteers to participate in care and encouragement. Prayer partnerships to lift this issue to God will also help significantly. 

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Richardm23 (0)
United States

This is very well done thanks for continuing to give us the ability to understand and reach those affected by disability. I have just writen an article about how sin works in my life becasue God has given us the blessing of a child with disability at my blog "The Desperate Imitation of Christ"


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