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Human disability raises the hardest questions of human existence
and leads directly to the problem of causality--the underlying
intuition that someone, divine or human, must have been at
Christian theology has responded with almost singular attention
to Providence, the expression of divine will in the world as the
cause of all things. This preoccupation holds captive the Christian
imagination, leaving the Church ill equipped to engage the human
reality of disability. Theological reflection, argues Hans
Reinders, can arise only as a second-order activity that follows
after real attention to the experience of disability.
Disability, Providence, and Ethics offers a more excellent way to address this difficult subject. Reinders guides readers away from an identification of disability with tragedy--via lament--to the possibility of theological hope and its expression of God's presence. In particular, Reinders reconsiders two of the main traditional sources in Christian thought about Providence, the biblical text of Job and the theological work of John Calvin. Throughout the book, first-person accounts of disability open up biblical texts and Christian theology--rather than the other way around. In the end, a theology of Providence begins with the presence of the Spirit, not with the problem of causality.
The Future of the Disabled in Liberal Society questions developments in human genetic research from the perspective of persons with mental disabilities and their families. Hans S. Reinders argues that when we use terms such as "disease" and "defect" to describe conditions that genetic engineering might well eliminate, we may also be assuming that disabled lives are deplorable and horrific. Reinders points out that the possibility of preventing disabled lives is at odds with our commitment to the full inclusion of disabled citizens in society. The tension between these different perspectives is of concern to all of us as genetic testing procedures proliferate. Reinders warns that preventative uses of human genetics might even become a threat to the social security and welfare benefits that help support disabled persons and their families. Reinders also argues that this conflict cannot be resolved or controlled on the level of public morality. Because a liberal society makes a commitment to individual freedom and choice, its members can consider the diagnostic and therapeutic uses of human genetics as options available to individual citizens. A liberal society will defend reproductive freedom as a matter of principle. Citizens may select their offspring in accord with their own personal values. Reinders concludes that the future of the mentally disabled in liberal society will depend on the strength of our moral convictions about the value of human life, rather than on the protective force of liberal morality. One of the most important aspects of this book is Reinder's attention to parents who have come to see the task of raising a disabled child as an enriching experience. These are people who change their conceptions of success and control and, therefore, their conceptions of themselves. They come to value their disabled children for what they have to give. Even though disabled children and disabled adults present parents and society with real challenges, the rewards are just as real. This powerful critique of contemporary bioethics is sure to become required reading for those interested in human development, special education, ethics, philosophy, and theology.
On the edge of a village near Seville, southern Spain, at the end of a dusty road running through fields of sunflowers and olive trees, is a house which is home to a community of people. The residents of the House of Bethany work together, eat together, laugh together and cry together, celebrating the life that God has given them. Every member of the community is unique, yet each has come to the house for a reason ... even if they do not yet know what that reason is. The House of Bethany is a place in which people discover their second calling: a purpose so surprising, so far beyond expectation, that it can only be learned from each other. The Second Calling is a novel inspired by the life and work of Jean Vanier (recipient of the Templeton Prize in 2015) and the ministry of L'Arche, a worldwide network of communities in which people with and without intellectual disabilities live together. It was written by Hans S. Reinders (Professor of Ethics at the Free University of Amsterdam, and President of the European Society for the Study of Theology and Disability) after Jean invited him to write a book to introduce the work of L'Arche to a wider audience.
The village of Trosly-Breuil in northern France is home to one of
the worlds thirty-four LArche communities, where people with and
without intellectual disabilities live and work together. In 2007
the impressive group of social scientists and theologians who
contribute to this book gathered there to respond to a question
posed by the worldwide communitys cofounder, Jean Vanier: What have
people with disabilities taught me?
Does what we are capable of doing define us as human beings? If this basic anthropological assumption is true, where can that leave those with intellectual disabilities, unable to accomplish the things that we propose give us our very humanity? Hans Reinders here makes an unusual claim about unusual people: those who are profoundly disabled are people just like the rest of us.
He acknowledges that, at first glance, this is not an unusual claim given the steps taken within the last few decades to bring the rights of those with disabilities into line with the rights of the mainstream. But, he argues, that cannot be the end of the matter, because the disabled are human beings before they are citizens. "To live a human life properly," he says, "they must not only be included in our institutions and have access to our public spaces; they must also be included in other people's lives, not just by natural necessity but by choice."
Receiving the Gift of Friendship consists of three parts: (1) Profound Disability, (2) Theology, and (3) Ethics. Overturning the "commonsense" view of human beings, Reinders's argument for a paradigm shift in our relation to people with disabilities is founded on a groundbreaking philosophical-theological consideration of humanity and of our basic human commonality. Moreover, Reinders gives his study human vividness and warmth with stories of the profoundly disabled from his own life and from the work of Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen in L'Arche communities.
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