BIBLICAL CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAF
THE WORD MADE FLESH, SEEING BIBLICAL THEOLOGY IN PICTORIAL AND PERFORMANCE
In the Christian tradition, our pastoral care and theological thoughts on disability and the persons with disabilities (PWD) remain to be limiting and limited. Our conventional view of disability is confined to a mere physical condition or diagnosis that leans on the medical model of disability. Reading and interpreting disability in the scripture with a medical lens has done little with understanding the persons with disabilities (PWD) and has legitimized medical violence and stigma towards them. It is a hard to accept the reality that disability could occur to any of us. Denial of this existential reality all the more makes it difficult for us to adjust in case disability do happen to us, which is in contrast with the PWD who are well adapted even in the absence of accessibility. They are ahead of many “abled-bodies,” because disability is their way of life.
Centuries have passed and we still allow a homogenous interpretation of disability in the scripture, which unknowingly are offensive and abusive leaving the PWD even more marginalized and stigmatized. Often the insight and interpretation of the PWD are silenced by the majority “abled-bodies.” This article invites the contemporary readers of the of bible to see and be open to some ofthe insights of the PWD, which could give us a fuller understanding of human life, community and of God. Further, the article aims to put into flesh the challenge of Amos Yong in our concrete engagement with the PWD, specifically of Deaf people, by presenting their insights on selected biblical pericopes vis-à-vis our “mono-homo” hermeneutics.
This article has three parts, first, it will present some reasons for the exclusion of the PWD in our biblical conversations and their lack of ecclesial participation. Second, I will present some selected pericopes with homogenous hermeneutics vis-à-vis the interpretation and insights of the PWD, particularly from a Deaf community where I belong and serve. The selected pericopes are drawn from a regular biblical conversation with the Deaf people where I am personally involved. Third, I will present a theological reflection on the importance of having a collaborative and participative biblical conversation with Deaf people.
Amos Yong, “Disability and the Renewal of Theological Education,” in Theology and the Experience of Disability: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Voices Down Under, ed. Andrew Picard and Myk Habets, Oxon: Routledge, 2016.
Nancy Eiesland, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability, Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994.
Anjeline Okola and Wati Longchar, ed., Disability Theology from Asia: A Resource Book for Theological and Religious Studies, Kolkata: EDAN-WCC, 2019.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Susan M. Shaw, ed., Intersectional Theology: An Introductory Guide, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2018.
Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.
Rebecca Raphael, “What Has Biblical Literature to Do with Disability Studies?,” SBL forum. Online: http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=250.
Julia Watts Belser, “Violence, Disability, and the Politics of Healing: The Inaugural Nancy Eiesland Endowment Lecture,” Journal of Disability and Religion 19, 3 (2015) 186. DOI: 10.1080/23312521.2015.1061470.186.
Park Min-Seo, “Deaf Culture and Deaf Church: Considerations for Pastoral Ministry,” New Theology Review 22, 4 (2009).
Liz Crow, “Including All Our Lives: Renewing the Social Model of Disability,” in Encounters with Strangers: Feminism and Disability, ed. J. Morris, London: Women’s Press, 1996.