Horrific stories of abuse exist. I am harassed every time I enter a Church. I am not harassed often. I am harassed every single time. I know with 100% certainty someone will say something grossly demeaning. I am far from alone. Sarah Perkins wrote:
In 5th grade I switched schools, to a Catholic school, and it all went downhill from there (to put in very nicely). It didn’t take me very long to figure out that if this was how Catholics acted I wanted no part of it. In fact I went the extra mile and decided there was no God; because if God was in any way like anyone in my school I wanted none of that either. Catholic schooling made me an atheist. I’m sure I’m not the only member of this group. Link: https://sarahkperkins.wordpress.com/tag/ableism/
From Human Disability and the Service of God:
Mom told me that Aunt Lou confronted her after delivery asking her if I was my daddy's. "Did you sleep with someone else? Why else would she be blind? God probably made her blind so she didn't have to look at your sin while she was in the womb. Page 220
From the Disability Rag:
I remember a fragile, frightened looking 20-year old who told me that her grandmother had proclaimed her possessed by the devil. Took her to an exorcist. Her voice and hands trembled. She went on to say that her seizures had continued. Then grandmother said take her away--PUT HER AWAY. 1994, page 24-25.
Back to Human Disability and the Service of God:
I know for a fact that the Bible has all kinds of stuff about people with disabilities being helpless and pitiful. Just turn on the TV some night and watch those guys, preaching and telling all the people in wheelchairs to come forward and be healed. You think that helps us gain people's respect for what we can do? Page 221
Christian churches of all types talk a good game when it comes to people with a disability. The Vatican has been churning out papers on disability for decades. The current Pope loves people with a disability. Last June there was a large conference on disability at the Vatican. Link: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/06/16/conference_on_disability_to_take_place_in_vatican/1237638 Oh how Christians care. It gets better. Our current Pope loves to kiss and bless the crippled. People gush in awe when the Pope stops to kiss the crippled. This is front page news.
This does not help. This empowers those who consider themselves Christians to dehumanize people with a disability. We cripples are not truly human but an opportunity. For some do gooders we are a means to an end. Our miserable existence can be used to make them feel better. This plays out in a myriad of ways. For Carly Findlay, she was followed (stalked) by a stranger and prayed over. Yes, she was followed by an absolute stranger who wanted to pray for her. I have had this happen to me. Just last year I was in a diner eating a breakfast sandwich when two men got on their knees and prayed for my rotten soul. The question is what can you do? Findlay wrote:
I could have spoken up and said its not ok. I could have refused. I could have told her strangers praying for me offends me, but this would have made a scene. I could have said I don't believe.
But I remained polite because I was shocked to be followed, and a polite response following "kind" acts like prayers is what's expected of me.
It can be hard to know what to say. I think, even if we do believe in God (or whoever), or demonstrate good values and politeness most of the time, it can also be hard to answer assertively. "No thanks" is what I can muster up but in hindsight I really want to tell them what I feel - that it makes me feel othered, lesser and pitiful. I wish I could drop my guard of politeness to say "fuck off". They've got no idea what my life is like just by seeing me in the street.
Unwanted prayers from strangers are not helpful. They imply I'm less than others, that Jesus loves me even if no one else does, and are self serving - making the pray-er feel good about themselves. They say I've committed a sin and need forgiveness. They put me (and others) on the spot because there's an expectation I'll be nice in response to their kindness.
Being polite in the face of such supposedly good will is the wise response. Saying "fuck off" carries risk. I know because I have had do gooders go from beneficent to hostile in seconds. A man holding the door open for you with a big smile can turn instantly hostile when one politely states no thank you. More than once beneficence has turned to fury replete with doors slammed in my face. The do gooders can not imagine I lead an ordinary existence. I am a tool to be used at their discretion. I have no right of privacy.
In my lifetime I have seen no substantial change in terms of how Christian do gooders react to my presence. I avoid going to Church--any church. I consider myself a recovering Catholic akin to a recovering alcoholic but we cripples have no AA meetings to attend. When speaking to a very close friend recently I was on my morale high horse and stated "All Christians are bad". My friend cried. I felt bad then and I feel bad now. Such absolutes are simplistic and wrong. Not all Christian are bad. I will never utter those words again. Christian is used here as a garbage can term. Let me clarify the point I am making. Two kinds of help exist. 1. Imposed help by do gooders who may or may not be Christian. When do gooders ask if I need help it is not a question. The offer for help is a declarative statement. If I decline help I instantly become the stereotype of angry crippled man embittered because I can not walk. The "help" is based on the assumption my existence is miserable when compared to the do gooder. 2. Common courtesy. People who ask if help is needed that is indeed a question. May I help you? Help might be welcomed. The suggestion of help is exactly that--a suggestion or offer of assistance. In the second example of help use a healthy dose of common sense--and yes I know common sense is in short supply.
What has not changed among Christians do gooders is the belief that sin is inherently tied to bodily pathology. Here any body that is outside a wide norm is a threat. We cripples who merely want to go about our day are failing our godly duty. In the gospels of Luke and Matthew they want the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. We cripples have a place within the Christian realm. We exist to inspire, fear, and await the miracle cure. We are a wrinkle in the system. Not fully human and yet our existence is tolerated and used as a parable about life and its anticipated trajectory. We are a riddle. We are used as an allegory or in proverbs. The truth can be found in parables, riddles, and allegories. Sorry but we cripples have no answers. We are as flawed as the hordes of bipeds that surround us. Worse yet we are not meek and clearly will not inherent the earth. I do believe we cripples are righteous though. I do believe the blind can lead each other. I do believe disability rights are human rights. I am even capable of forgiving the do gooders I despise. Before Luke famously asked "Can the blind lead the blind? it was written:
Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
I pray do gooders will read the words above and take them to heart. I know I have.