It wasn’t long ago that I hated the word ableism. I thought people were throwing it around over every little thing and overreacting to language use. To some extent I still believe this. People choose to nitpick small things rather than focus on larger and more important issues. Maybe that is human nature. I don’t know. For someone that used to roll their eyes over someone on the internet become table flipping mad over someone using the word “crazy”, I’ve been using the words ableism and ableist a lot in the past few weeks. Maybe it’s a reaction to the pandemic or maybe I’m must cranky. Maybe I have just become more aware.
Anyway, I just can’t let go of the experience at the grocery store with the “Jesus loves you” lady. It really struck a nerve with me. As I was typing out my blog replying to the one comment I received, I googled “religion and ableism” and found this:
Theological rhetoric that frames a person with a disability’s experience in burden carrying creates unhealthy theologies. A person’s disability may create obstacles, but that is because society has not accommodated and adjusted.
The general view of the Old Testament writers is that God brings disability as punishment for transgressions for sin or as an expression of God’s wrath for people’s disobedience…The conflation between sin and disability confirms the religious model of disability, which views disability as a punishment inflicted upon an individual or family by God as a result of sin. Consequently, disability stigmatizes not only the individual but the whole family.
Following this dogma, Grocery Store Lady could have very well assumed that because I was gay (based on my shirt) God cursed me with a disability. Wow. Just wow.
Okay, I know that I am on the verge of turning the over analyzation of this woman’s choice of words into a hobby, but this is pretty messed up. First of all, my health problems are mostly genetic and have progressed as I have gotten older. That idea someone deserves to be disabled or sick because of something they did is wrong. It’s like saying someone deserves to be raped because her skirt was to short. No one deserves to be disabled. This is a toxic line of thinking.
Then to turn around and call the disability/illness a burden is insult to injury. A burden in this context is something oppressive or worrisome. My disability does not oppress me. People oppress me. Society as a whole oppresses me. Trump attempting to repeal the ADA was oppressive. People parking their sports cars in handicapped spots so the don’t get scratched is oppressive. People saying things like “You don’t look disabled” is oppressive. My mobility aids do not oppress me, they give me the freedom to get out of the house. They are not some kind of punishment for anything I have done. I live in chronic pain because my body doesn’t work right, not because some omnipotent deity decided I was a bad person.
To know that a large population of people view me, and other disabled people, as somehow inferior because, based on their beliefs, we have done something so horrible that God felt the need to punish us, is much more problematic than being viewed as broken. I can not imagine the guilt disabled people in select churches are made to feel.
Faith healing and the idea of letting of your sins and having God forgive you where your disability can be cured is just harmful on so many levels. This is before the number of children denied proper medical treatment because “God will take care of everything’ are mentioned, and how over 50% of those children will die. The states where this happens most frequently don’t look into these deaths because of the freedom of religion. Something is seriously wrong here.
After I enrolled in university and decided to major in English I had to decide what to do with all the left over credits after I took my general education classes and the classes for my major. I realized I had enough credits for a second major and a minor. I said to myself, “Self, why don’t you major in Religious Studies. It will help you understand the world and the people in it better.” I wish I hadn’t. I have a much better understanding of why society is so messed up.
Originally I was going to minor in Journalism. My advisor told me to change that to Social Justice because I had already taken most of the classes I needed for it. When we talk about social justice we are talking about justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. What we don’t talk about is the part that religion plays in all of this; how religion is a huge part of society and government and how it discriminates.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine that I just can’t shut up about. I have written paper after paper about different aspects of this for various classes. I am sure that at least one of my professors wished I would move on from focusing about the negative aspects of religion. Those negative aspects and the part they have played in shaping society have not been addressed. Much like systemic racism, it’s something we need to acknowledge and talk about where we can, as a society, move forward and be more inclusive to those who are different.
Disabled people should not be made to feel guilty for being disabled. They should not be told that their disability is a burden they must carry because of sin. They should not be treated like they are less than everyone else because of their disability and the imagined sin they are being punished for.
Disabled people are 50% more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Is it any wonder why?