I mentioned in my last post that senior seminar has been studying disability theology this spring. We read contemporary voices like John Swinton, Stanley Hauerwas, Jean Vanier, Brian Brock, Thomas Reynolds, Henri Nouwen, and Hans Reinders, as well as deliberating over relevant biblical texts. We are capping off the semester by closely reading Amos Yong’s recent theology of disability, The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God.
Our first discussion centered almost entirely on Yong’s method. He worries that traditional interpretation of Scripture has been oppressive of disabled individuals because it operates from what he calls a “normate” (i.e. non-disabled) perspective.
According to Yong, “normate bias” is the “unexamined prejudices that non-disabled people have toward disability and toward people who have them. These assumptions function normatively so that the inferior status of people with disabilities is inscribed into our consciousness” (11). This normate bias, or “ableist worldview,” influences our interpretation of Scripture and leads to theologies of disability which confirm, support, and extend our assumptions about normalcy, abledness, and capability. Thus, to challenge our normate bias and question our presuppositions about disability, Yong offers an interpretation of Scripture and theological perspective on disability that is specifically “derived from the experience of disability.“
I posed the following question to my students: why is perspective so important to Yong? Wouldn’t someone suppose that the biblical text is the biblical text regardless of your context as an interpreter? “Well”, Yong might say, “Yes, but…” Continue reading