I have always been a “techie” at heart. So, I don’t shy away from new technology. I simply ask “How can I use this to do something helpful or important?”

Pre-Covid, I often used Skype to communicate with others “face to face” (okay, well, by video chat) across the miles. Most of us have learned to use “Zoom” to do the same thing. Having often been the person sort of prodding others to embrace “technology for mission,” it has been a wonderful gift of a global pandemic to induce us to use Zoom as much as we do! We are accomplishing and participating in things that, previously, we would not have been able to do. We’d say “not enough time” or “too far to drive in the snow/heat/dark (etc.). Now, we click a link and POP… there we are, in an audience of 500 from around the globe… or in a small group discussion or one-on-one visit. We’ve even learned to take our medical appointments on line. Communication, and I propose, community, is being empowered by tech. Nope, it’s not the same. Then again, an automobile is not the same as a horse, either. Though both get us there, they are different “technologies” with their own set of pros and cons.

Today, I participated in a theology presentation by a young woman named Audrey Seah, from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. Her topic was “Disability Theology.” She spoke on her research around the topic of “how does God work in the world through disability experience?” 

She grounded her theological explorations in the “social-cultural model of disability.”  This is not a new model, but it remains unknown by most people. It is pertinent for disability, but it also applies to the challenges people face with aging. (In fact, her subtitle was “Theologies of Disability and Aging: Becoming a Vulnerable Communion.) The socio-cultural model is a model of disability/aging that can offer an entirely different understanding. In terms of theology, it’s connected very much to liberation and redemption.

Here are a couple of points I really think offer some amazing opportunities for thinking/learning/ reflecting/praying:

  • What would happen to our self-understanding when we shift to a model of aging/disability in which:
    • the person isn’t the problem- you aren’t “broken,” and you aren’t a burden to society that needs to be “fixed” to be whole. Instead, the problem is that social structures and physical structures are barriers. That is what needs to be “fixed.” 
    • Disability/aging didn’t cause exclusion driven by a long list of “I can’ts.”  Those come from the way we interpret changes in our bodies and minds, as well as from stereotypes we perceive as “reality.”
    • Disability/aging isn’t a tragedy that should be “virtuously suffered” by the faithful. Instead, these realities are understood as “normal” and, indeed, when it comes to aging, universal. Moreover, Christ shares in our woundedness and suffering. Our salvation is based not on how our society sees/judges us (or even how we see/judge ourselves)… but on how God sees/judges us. We are called to see ourselves and others “with God’s eyes.”
  • What would happen to our self-understanding and our understanding of others if we accepted that:
    • We are created as inherently dependent on others, and on God. We have value not because of our independence, physical or mental abilities, success, economic worth, or prior achievements… but because of the quality of our communal relationships and our relationship with God. 
    • The challenge of learning to know, be with, and care for persons with disabilities, or ourselves, is nothing less than learning to know and be with God.
    • Vulnerability is something all humans share with Jesus. God models vulnerable love in Jesus’s incarnation, passion, death and resurrection. No one can truly love without being vulnerable. Redemption is  an “unconditional act of divine hospitality,” an invitation to complete inclusion and interdependence.

What would happen in our world, to our world, if we could see with God’s eyes?