Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reflections on #SITD Dallas - Day 2 - Johannine Literature

Who sinned?  This inquisitive remark within the Johannine literature reflects the congruence of sin and disability in our common human mindset and was the theme of Day 2 of #SITD Dallas.

Quick Synopsis
Dr. Darly Schumm @ SITD Dallas
In 4 different sessions we dove deep and drank from this well. Dr. Darla Schumm, lectured on the healing of the blind man (John 9) from the perspective of a theologian with a visual impairment, challenging those of us temporarily able bodied to experience darkness while listening blindfolded for an hour. Jaime Clark-Soles framed this passages within John’s Incarnation prologue (John 1:1-18) and post-resurrection commissioning (John 21).  She continued in the third session by comparing and contrasting the healing of the lame man (John5) and with the healing of the blind man (John 9).  Jeremy Schipper concluded the final session by identifying the blind and lame characters in the OT- revealing these simple categories of impairment do not reflect the wide spectrum of possible severity.

My Reflections
I appreciated the disability privileged readings and the use of analogic imagination in the gap narratives. Their use shapes the setting and drama of the events, providing potentially new and liberating insights.  In many ways, this imaginative hermeneutic is not much different than that practiced in the inductive studies common in the evangelical subculture.  I, however, as a conservative, evangelical, pentecostal become troubled at some of resulting interpretations which seemed to minimize the interrupting eschatological work of Christ.  In Amos Yong’s earlier comments he challenged charismatics to intentionally read from a non normate perspective, precisely because their global growth coupled with phenomenological experience could lead (and has led) to unbalanced proclamation. To be sure, all lecturers today acknowledged that there is no monolithic experience of disability – For every disability theologian, there is a slightly different take on these texts.

Jaime Clark-Soles suggestion that the parents of the man born blind were perhaps at fault for choosing a life of community in the synagogue rather than defending their son, I, as a parent of a daughter with DS,  became uncomfortable.  I am more than willing to allow scriptural texts to challenge my thinking, yet my mind flashed through dozens of IEP meetings, where I’ve been either the school administrator, the special educator, the independent advocate, or the parent.  I’ve seen the passionate response from modern parents --- yet I am also aware of the practices of antiquity – so I yearn for a different explanation.  Making a binary choice – between community and a son – is harmful to all.  Too many family caregivers have little community and social relationship.  I wasn’t the only parent present disturbed by those images.  For fellow attendee Samuel Caraballlo’s response – click here.

In my final comment, I wanted to explore the hermeneutic of liberation and suspicion.  The rejection of binary paradigms and the influence of Foucalt and Derrida has helped constructive theology to highlight oversights and tease out nuance.  Yet constructive theology based on textual criticism without the influence of the fields of covenental Biblical meta-narrative, systematic theology, and historical theology strain against the three legged framework of church tradition, worshiping community, and scriptural revelation cherished by many evangelicals.  Liberation – like many other categories is a spectrum of thought.  Fredrick Ware’s analysis of three strands of liberation thought within the methodologies of black theology is helpful.  Many evangelicals are comfortable in the first strand, the one based within the worshiping community which uses the Eschatological language of Exodus, yet are uncomfortable in the others.

Finally, I am glad the lecturers are “thick skinned.”  Furthermore, I appreciate their work, insight, and experience and am gratefully transformed by it.  Unfortunately, few voices in the evangelical / charismatic academy have yet to fully address and reconcile their perspectives within the disability.  I look forward to their emergence.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen!  (Eph. 3.20-21 ESV) 

#SITD #TheologyDisability