S5 E8 | What Disability Teaches Us About Health and Wholeness with Dr. Brian Brock

What does it mean to be healthy? Can people with disabilities be healthier than typical people? What does it mean to be healed by God? Dr. Brian Brock, author of Wondrously Wounded, talks with Amy Julia Becker about the body of Christ and disability, his experience as the dad of a son with Down syndrome, and what it means for all of us to move toward wholeness.

Guest Bio:

“Brian Brock (DPhil, King’s College, London) is professor of moral and practical theology at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is the author of numerous books, including Disability in the Christian Tradition and Wondrously Wounded, has written extensively on disability issues, and is managing editor of the Journal of Disability and Religion.”

On the Podcast:

Interview Quotes

“We communicate with all of our body.”

“When the Word became flesh, that means God is perfectly capable of communicating with everyone.”

“It’s a false problem to think that people can’t be Christians if they can’t confess Jesus as Lord with their mouth. And if they can’t be Christians in that sense, then they’re just a burden for us to look after, so they become objects of our charity in churches.”

“We live in a mass-produced society…a society that thinks we get the most production by fitting people into roles where they can deploy their energy to achieve things that we think are important.”

“Whoever it is that we are going to become together, we discover that by taking seriously who’s there.”

“This person is a Christian here who’s not the sort of Christian who does the sort of things we expect Christians to do, but who is inviting us to be the kind of church that can handle people coming into church who don’t do Christianity in the way we expect.”

“To come to peace in the body you’re given can be a lot of work…that’s work that’s often evaded in the Christianity of our era.”

“When Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, it’s not ‘Come to this banquet and get fixed up and redressed.’ It’s ‘This banquet is where the outcast can still be the outcast but they’re at home. They’re present to me, and I’m present to them.’”

“We have a very materialist view of the resurrection that focuses on the body and not the relational.”

“[Jesus in his ministry] doesn’t necessarily assume that what they want is for their disability to be healed.”

“Given that we will die as creatures, the healing that Christ brings allows us to come to terms with our body in its whole cycle of life.”

“We need to be communities that meet people’s actual need, not the need that we assume they have on the basis of our ‘normal’ and ‘disabled’ distinctions that are culturally embedded in all kinds of ways.”

“Jesus’s own practice never plays to the stereotype.”

Season 5 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my newest book, To Be Made Well, releasing Spring 2022…you can pre-order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.

*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.

Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Brian (5s):
We need to be communities that meet people’s actual needs, not the need that we assume they have on the basis of our normal and disabled distinctions that are culturally embedded in all kinds of ways.

Amy Julia (20s):
Hi friends, I’m Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. Today, I get to talk with my friend Brian Brock. I picked up his book wondrously wounded a few months ago, and by the time I’d read the introduction, I knew that I wanted to invite Brian to talk with me here on the show because I was learning so much and thinking about so much, and I really wanted to share it with you. All. Brian is a professor at the university of Aberdeen over in Scotland. He’s also a prolific author. He writes about theology and disability. Brian is also a father and his relationship with his son, Adam, who is 18 years old and has down syndrome and autism.

Amy Julia (1m 7s):
You’re going to get to hear all about Adam in the upcoming episode. It’s that relationship that I believe sets Brian’s work apart because he’s writing not only from this careful and thoughtful and intellectual perspective, he’s also writing as a dad who loves his son. And Brian says that his son, Adam, is the healthiest person. He knows we’re going to talk today about what it means for all of us to become more healthy and more whole Brian. It is so great to be here with you. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Brian (1m 45s):
My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

Amy Julia (1m 48s):
Absolutely. So we are talking from across the pond, as they say, and I want to talk today about this book that I guess I’m a late to, I think your book came out actually like over a year ago, but it’s new to me. And so I want to share it with all of my listeners, because I think they’re going to love it too. It’s called wondrously wounded theology, DISABILITY and the body of Christ. And one of the things that I think is so distinctive about this book is that it’s definitely an academic book. No question about that. Both in terms of the amount of like, I mean, the, you know, footnotes and bibliography are about as long as the book itself and things like that, that you might find an academic books, but there’s a really personal aspect to it as well.

Amy Julia (2m 29s):
Which to me is so compelling because I know that your thinking is not only coming out of your head, although it’s clear that you’ve done a lot of thinking about this, it’s also coming out of your life experience and out of your heart and out of your faith. And so in order to get at that a little bit, I just thought maybe we could start by having you tell our listeners about your son, Adam.

Brian (2m 50s):
Sure. And would you like thanks for the plug and yes, it did the pen. It’s been one of the casualties of the pandemic that people don’t know so much about it. Cause it came out just about as the pandemic began. So obviously people had other things on their mind. So thank you for backing it down.

Amy Julia (3m 8s):
We’re putting it out there and hopefully we’ll just help a little resurgence for this.

Brian (3m 13s):
I have tried in my second half of the pandemic project was to write a popular book called disability, living in the diversity of Christ’s body, precisely because I knew understood when it wasn’t academic book, but it doesn’t talk about Adam in the second book. And part of the reason, the second book doesn’t talk about Adam is that it’s very difficult to tell the story in print of your relationship to someone that you love, who has disabilities and not fall into the usual tropes, you know, the holy innocence or the, just a happy little Down’s kid or right. There’s a thousand or in Adam’s case, he’s had some pretty significant challenges, you know, the standard issue, heart operation when he was in his first year.

Brian (3m 60s):
And, but more challengingly was leukemia when he was eight. And so it’s, you know, it’s easy for, to tell a story of a life like that as a heroic overcoming triumph of the human spirit, the kind of survivor story. And so I really felt like it was going to take quite a lot of hard thinking to even put his story on the page and to speak up and identify myself as someone who’s living this day in and day out. Cause that’s, as you know, you know, that’s kind of a, that’s a job title in itself and it, and my first worry, sorry, I’m kind of going the back way around here.

Brian (4m 48s):
My first word was when you tell a story about somebody you can’t ask critical academic questions about the story that they’ve told, right? So if somebody says, here’s my life, here’s my kids. Here’s the things we’ve gone through together. They can’t say, well, you know, is that the right theology? You’re talking through there. So I, Adam is 18 now. And he’s done with school here in Aberdeen, Scotland, and he is, has down syndrome and autism and is, I mean, most people would call him non-verbal I think of him as pretty communicative, but you have to know him to understand that.

Brian (5m 31s):
One of the things I was trying to get across in the book is how saying that makes sense and that you can affirm it. But we, he has some new carers that have just come on board and they of course feel really unclear about how to understand him and the way he communicates and speaks, takes time to understand. And that’s been one of many, many things that I’ve learned living with them. I mean, it’s, it’s pretty easy to understand what he wants, but he very rarely says word.

Amy Julia (6m 5s):
So can you give us an example of that? Like just some way in which you are, because you know, and love Adam and because you’ve taken the time to know and love, Adam are able to understand who he is and what he wants in a way that someone else might not be able to. Sure.

Brian (6m 20s):
I mean, at one level it’s, you know, very basic parent stuff. So we were visiting a camp hill community where we’re looking at him going for sort of day placement after he’s done with school. And there were certain olfactory indications that he might need to go to the toilet, but his mother had taken him several times in the previous hour. And so, you know, that was on our radar and kind of the way he was walking, made me think I’m going to ask him now. And I, and he does sign. So I just signed, but it was so quick that the woman who was with us, her spends her life working with people with disabilities.

Brian (7m 6s):
How did he know that Adam had to go to the toilet and I, and she explained to them while we were in there, but there’s, I think one thing that I’ve learned living with Adam is that we communicate with all of our body and we are, I mean, it’s a kind of body language thing, it’s stance and gait and mood. And if you take all that factor, all that in then pretty simple gestures can communicate quite a lot. And of course the things that he communicates tend to be also very basic things that every human has to deal with.

Brian (7m 47s):
So it’s not like he’s asking to watch some movie on TV, it’s, it’s, you know, a standard pallet of, of, of activities that are kind of unsurprising.

Amy Julia (8m 1s):
I’m also thinking though, and this is actually jumping ahead because it’s towards the very end of your book, but of an interaction that Adam had with a man in the street who was, I think speaking violently, will you tell that story just for a minute? Because again, like there’s some simple needs toileting, I would imagine sleep food comfort, but there’s also, I mean that, and that just speaks to me too what you’re saying here.

Brian (8m 25s):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, right in the middle of town, you know, European cities are kind of Mo there’s much more foot traffic and there’s a kind of McDonald’s across from across the main street from a cemetery and the traffic between the cemetery and the McDonald’s is often substance abusers. And so, you know, it’s a kind of hotspot for things that the police want to turn out for antisocial behavior type stuff. And there was somebody standing in front of the, on the, on the sidewalk in front of the, McDonald’s kind of challenging people to fight aggressively to their face.

Brian (9m 9s):
And Adam just walked up and put his hand on the guy’s mouth. And, you know, he, he melted us after the fact that it’s kind of, it makes sense that he really was feeling sort of vulnerable and in pain. And at that gesture totally met him. And, and you’d kind of, Adam does put his hand on your mouth as his way of saying hello, sometimes which his teachers at school have tried to diversify with some success sometimes. But, but you would think that that gesture could have just been random, but there was another instance that I, that I, that I alluded to in the book where a pastor, our pastor, who we’d been going to church with for, for, for a long time was preaching and the S the election came up and it was about divorce.

Brian (10m 8s):
And, and it’s a pretty small church and a pretty prominent family was divorced. And, you know, so it was a very awkward thing for the pastor to preach on. And in that church, w communion was sort of given from, from the priest, you know, face-to-face, and Adam was about the third person in the line, and he put his hand on the pastor’s mouth that day, which was the only time he ever did that. So there’s another layer of what he’s saying that is not really easily reducible to, oh, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Brian (10m 49s):
And that’s one of the things that I’ve learned to attend to that would have never crossed my mind before I had lived with Adam is that sometimes people who don’t see and talk in the ways we expect people to perceive and speak are actually picking up things that we don’t see as well and responding to them. And these, to me are two cases of Adam doing something which anybody who loved those people would want to do. So he wanted to do it, and he did it in his own way and it kind of communicated. So that that’s, that’s how I understand his communication.

Amy Julia (11m 28s):
Yeah. And one of the things that for me, living with someone with a disability who is able to communicate verbally, and yet through penny, I’ve been introduced to so many people. I’ve I understand why we use the words nonverbal, because that is descriptive. And yet it can be. And I think the popular imagination equated with non-communicative, which is so far from truth. And I have really, it is like broadened my life to believe that everyone has the ability to communicate, wants to communicate. And it, again, it might not be through words. And so there’s a creativity, there’s a patience.

Amy Julia (12m 9s):
And essentially, as you said, like an attending to which I think is really related to love that is required if we are to actually receive that communication. Whereas when we’re able to almost take the shortcut of words, we can miss so much of what’s being communicated and missed so much of the Love that might inform those exchanges. So that I really appreciate you sharing those examples. And I’m curious just again, before we kind of dive in, if you could just speak a little bit to the way in which having Adam in your life has shaped your own faith, as well as your academic work, as you said, there’s some dangers that come in allowing such a personal experience to shape your academic work.

Amy Julia (12m 51s):
And yet there’s also, I think there’s a different depth that can come to it when you allow your own experience to shape your work. So could you just speak to that a little bit?

Brian (13m 1s):
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I could just follow on from what we’ve been talking about already to say, you know, we, it’s advent, we’re thinking about what happened when God became human. And one theological term we use to describe that is kenosis that, you know, God lowered God’s self to the kind of very most vulnerable gritty part of humanity. And I think one of the things that living with Adam has taught me is that when the word became flesh, that means God is perfectly capable of communicating with everyone.

Brian (13m 45s):
So when we think in the beginning of the word and the word was with God, we start thinking in kind of a reader terms and verbal speaker terms, but that’s clearly not what it means. And advent is a reminder that it means God went all the way down into everything necessary to get God’s presence known to creatures, specifically to humans. And that, that means it’s just a false problem to think that people can’t be Christians. If they can’t confess Jesus as Lord with their mouth, or they can’t. And they can’t. And if they can’t be Christians in that sense, then they’re just a burden for us to look after.

Brian (14m 28s):
So they become objects of our charity in, in churches. And so one of the things I’m trying to do in the book is tell Adam’s story in a way that lets him be a Christian. And that’s the conduit of Christ’s love for us and lets him be a moral agent, even though just no one would describe him that way. So I, I’ve kind of worked as hard as I can D kind of displayed as much as my verbal skill as I can. I’ve deployed as much verbal skills I can precisely to let what it seems like he’s saying, come to the words that those of us who can’t imagine that that’s going on can, can hear it.

Brian (15m 13s):
And that obviously takes that’s a long journey in many ways, you know, I’m kind of handing on the what’s on the backside of the loss of all the things that, that you would normally assume would happen with your first son. You know, like just everything that you’d imagine that the normal person would think, okay, this is what I can expect to happen out of life. Like all of that goes immediately there’s and that has implications for how you relate to Adam’s grandparents and how you relate to his teachers and how you relate to yourself.

Brian (15m 53s):
And so the story you’re getting in wondrously wounded is processing of a lot of loss and a lot of pain, but which I do think genuinely kind of brings us around to wonder, because the things that we’re having to get up, give up, give up are often not what we should expect from people anyway. And you’ve talked very eloquently about that in your own.

Amy Julia (16m 22s):
Oh, thanks. Yeah, no, I do relate to that idea. I remember when penny was born feeling like I thought, I didn’t know how many expectations I had for her and when I was confronted with those expectations and the probabilities that what I expected would not actually be our life. What I realized was that they came out of, I had an imagination for her life as a typical child. I did not have an imagination that was not negative for her life as a child with down syndrome. And I needed that. I mean, I needed to be able to imagine a life for her, even though none of us ever know what the next day will bring much less what the decades ahead with our children will bring.

Amy Julia (17m 4s):
And that was where stories were so important, not just of Matt, just the survivor triumph stories, but the stories of connection and love amidst the pain and the suffering, and being able to really see what it means to be human in a very different way than I had been trained to, you know, even as a Christian up until that point. And so I want to, I want to land on the idea. You mentioned this of wonder, and you write about this understanding of people with disabilities, intellectual disabilities as wonders. That goes way back in church history. And I really want to hear more about that. That was so new and refreshing to me, but could you just speak a little bit to in the present moment?

Amy Julia (17m 49s):
Does it mean to think of anyone, Adam, penny, you, me as a wonder why you use that word and then also give us a little bit of the history there.

Brian (17m 58s):
Sure. Well, it’s, it’s easiest to get into it by starting with the history, which is that in the ancient world, certainly the world in which Christianity came into importance and wonders and signs were typically experienced as threatening. So, you know, if there was a comment or if there was a, an anomalous birth in a town, people became fearful. And so I, in the, I start the book by sort of tracing some of the history of how Christians began to confront that. Because of course, if you’re a Christian and you think everyone’s created to image God, then if you have, if you, you know, a child is born that, you know, has extra Liam or something else, that’s genuinely kind of shocking.

Brian (18m 47s):
You’re going to ask the question, well, maybe this isn’t a human, maybe the devil or the demons have punished us by giving us this kind of non non-human substitute for a human birth, which is how that was going on at the time. And I tell the story of, of this kind of very influential Western theologian or Gustin processing that pastoral question by saying ultimately, you know, it’s, it’s kind of crazy that we’re all different. If you think about it, if, if the one God made us all alive, how is it that we’re all actually so different from one another that we can recognize one another and it’s doubly crazy that there is such a thing as identical twins that we can’t tell apart.

Brian (19m 34s):
So we should recognize that there’s going to be types of birth, that don’t conform to our expectations. And he went ahead and defined those bursts that don’t conform to our expectations as importance or wonders that’s the language is using. And, but that we should recognize that as something that God did specially, right, because all wonders are miracles by definition. So the only question is which supernatural agency is responsible. And he basically said, God is creator. Anyone that’s born from a human is a human, any human that’s God creates is good.

Brian (20m 15s):
Therefore this is something, something really out of the ordinary that you should have kind of an expectation of about rather than be fearful about. So, and of course that my looking back at the story was a way theologians, you know, egghead, academic theologians, way of trying to process my own experience of being Adam’s dad and the challenges that he experienced. And I mean, I think our story’s a little bit different from yours in the sense that he very close to died in his first two weeks.

Brian (20m 55s):
And so it, it kind of reset the equation in a sense that I really was forced to say, okay, well, gosh, nothing’s happening as I expected it to, but I’m glad he’s here. And what’s it going to be now, like it’s a sort of restart moment seeing him in the incubator and knowing maybe he’s not going to make it out of there. And that, I think that experience set me on a journey to thinking about what God was doing in his life that ultimately changes my view of what God is doing in all people’s lives, especially those who we just don’t expect much from

Amy Julia (21m 42s):
I’m so struck as you talk about the definition of wonder and when it pertains to birth and thinking about Jesus’s birth, as a wonder, and just that idea that that could either be a really frightening or a frightening thing, or an invitation to say, what is God doing here? And when penny was born, one of my sisters said, I actually think her life might be more valuable than any of the rest of ours, because it is less conventional, just that there’s more to learn or there’s more to, and again, not, I think there’s always a danger in language like that of setting her apart as a holy innocent or an angel or S and she’s not, but, but at the same time, I think there’s something really important there in terms of maybe this is an invitation to pay attention rather than an invitation to be dismissive or pitying or any of these other postures that we so often have.

Brian (22m 41s):
I was thinking about this in relation to the, the annunciation, right? Like I’m, I’m not, I’m not a woman, so I can’t speak to it, but I have heard described many times that there is a sense of, well, you know, you’re, if you’re pregnant, you have to go through with it. Right. And, and probably it’s going to be hard at one or more points and maybe very hard at the pivotal moment. And so there is a relationship between how luminous we experienced those things, which are out of the ordinary and which were hard in relation to the things that just happen naturally.

Brian (23m 23s):
And this is part of why I can’t, but think of Adam’s communication as its own kind of wonder, because I don’t have to teach his siblings how to speak. And I don’t. So that it’s like, you don’t realize how much happens in the world without you thinking about it until it doesn’t happen. And then when it kind of doesn’t happen and all of a sudden it does happen. Wow. That’s like incredible like him doing him, wanting to add, becoming really keen on taking the garbage cans around to the, to the front gate for, for the garbage truck is at, I mean, you know, my second son who’s two years younger is really accomplished pianist.

Brian (24m 9s):
And you know, when he’s finished an exam and feels really satisfied with it, I had the same sense of accomplishment when Adam, like, all I have to do is open the gate. I have to be with him. I have to kind of prompt him, but he actually is into that. And that to me is every bit as satisfying and marvelous and that I even have to think that it’s marvelous in comparison to, you know, my son who with half the effort is a great pianist, right? That that’s in itself like Augusta and just pondering how odd it is that there are human beings who we can’t tell apart because they’re so similar revealing the creativity of God, making all of us just a little bit different so that we can recognize one another

Amy Julia (24m 59s):
Well, and that I’m jumping ahead in my own notes here, but what you just said does, for me bring up this great point that you make, where you talk about. So this is a quote you wrote caring for particularity is inseparable from valuing diversity and modern conceptions of expertise, devalued, both. So just to unpack that a little bit, this idea that living in a world of experts, both devalues the particularity of who we are as individuals, which also therefore devalues our diversity. Could you just say a little bit more on that? Because I think in a world, not just to speaking about disability, but also really speaking so much about diversity and what does it mean to actually value humans as they are and human groups as they are too.

Amy Julia (25m 47s):
I would just love to hear a little more on that.

Brian (25m 50s):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s a really important theme and really counterintuitive to us because ultimately we live in a mass produced society and we live in a society that thinks we get most production by fitting people into roles where they can deploy their energy to achieve things that we think are important to achieve. In other words, we already know where this is going and all we need in community is somebody to vision cast and lead up front and tell us all where it’s all going. But there’s nothing surprising about that.

Brian (26m 32s):
It’s all pretty much preordained. And that means when somebody like Adam or penny comes into church, they’re almost reflexively in almost every church seen as, oh gosh, that’s kind of going to add some burden onto somebody to deal with, right? It’s not going to advance the thing that we’re trying to do here in church, which means that because we’re aiming to achieve some outcome, we are looking for certain lives to Abel lives, able to do the things we want to do to as more valuable than others.

Brian (27m 12s):
And one of the things we might want to do is, you know, have a disability ministry and we might have set that up and therefore penny and Adam can populate that. But that I’m trying to argue that the vision that the new Testament kind of invites and provokes is one in which whoever it is we’re going to become together. We discover that by taking seriously, who, who who’s there and I’ve seen. And one of the things that I’ve learned kind of as a Christian from Adam is that he was wanting to be at church is a kind of amazing piece of grace because it’s not obvious that he should be enjoying it and, and or that he’s even welcome in many cases.

Brian (28m 4s):
And so that he wants to be there and that he, he doesn’t hear people Tut tutting or sort of commenting that he should be elsewhere. His, his grace to us that no, I belong here and living in that and just, you know, that being totally common sense to him and that’s that steadies me. And it it’s, it’s not a relationship of him needing to be looked after, by some, somebody in the church. It’s this person is a Christian here.

Brian (28m 47s):
Who’s not the sort of Christian who does the sort of things we expect Christians to do, but who is inviting us to be the kind of church that can handle people coming into church, who don’t do the do Christianity in the way we expect them to do,

Amy Julia (29m 2s):
And to be the kind of people who are welcomed, even if we also in more hidden ways, do not do the kinds of things that we expect ourselves to do. I mean, I think there’s a grace that comes from recognizing the welcome that Adam receives and the sense of belonging that allows for perhaps an openness and a vulnerability and an admission of weakness or shame or hurt or whatever on behalf of the people who are able to wrap it up a little more tidally, you know, out and put a good face on it, even though on the inside, there’s still that, that need for acceptance.

Amy Julia (29m 42s):
That is not based on me performing and looking appropriate, but based on me being loved.

Brian (29m 48s):
Yeah. And to not even notice that, I mean, you know, I’m thinking of a time when there was, it was, I think it was again, a Christmas concert setting and the lights were down low and the choir was behind the kind of center of the church. And we walked in and he often sat in the front and anyway, it was, it had been rainy. So we walked in and he was wearing his rain, rain, trousers, rain sort of covered. And he w his usual place was where the spotlight was. And he went to take his rain trousers on. He just pulled, he got his thumbs in everything, right? So everything came down right out of the whole everyone.

Brian (30m 30s):
And of course, we, we, you know, we were mortified, but he was totally on flapped by it. And, you know, he would often make noises at times when people were doing their best to be pitch perfect, or it kind of unsettles the aesthetic smoothness of that. We’re trying to achieve in church in ways that I, I was constantly reminded by people that would come in and visit like, oh, wow, this is totally refreshing because it’s not able to conform to the, to the norm. So we can see the tension between trying to perform church as people expect it.

Brian (31m 11s):
And what’s going on with this Down’s boy sort of floating around next to the pastor up at the front. And that, that made people feel comfortable. And again, that was a huge lesson to me.

Amy Julia (31m 23s):
So within all of this, you’ve spoken a little bit to some of what we might call Adam’s health complications. You’ve spoken to some atypical behaviors and challenges that he faces. You’ve also written. And this to me was just such a concise and arresting statement and refreshing one in your book that he’s the healthiest person, you know, and I would love to hear you defend that claim. In what way is Adam the healthiest person, you know, and what does that, what does that say to people like you and me who might in our world eyes look healthier?

Brian (32m 1s):
We, the west part of what I do in the book, and this is the academic job is explaining why Western theology and even Western secularity after Western Christendom tends to think about the human in very materialist terms. So in other words, we think that the body is who we are. I saw a YouTube clip the other day, a yoga person saying, you know, people come here because they want to, you know, relax or their body or get fit, but they stay because we offer them peace, right? There’s a kind of incipient understanding in the Western cultural space that we are that peace and inner wholeness is other than bodily wholeness.

Brian (32m 45s):
But the usual way we think about these things, the default setting is being healthy as something you’re saying about your body. And so by saying that, Adam is the healthiest guy that I know I was trying to restart the discussion with the assertion, that the health that matters is, is spiritual health. It’s relational union it’s presence to one another. It’s kind of love without complications. It’s, you know, being at church, not caring, not even noticing if people think the way you’re doing it is wrong, right.

Brian (33m 28s):
So I try to describe in concrete terms, all those aspects of his life, kind of unfeigned pleasure at seeing someone never, ever acting, you know, never putting on a mask, right. I could go on at some length as I do in the book. And I, I tried to do that in, in the chapter to point out all the ways in which he already has, what I hope for in the resurrection. I can, I don’t know. I don’t know. And I don’t care if my body will be much different than it is because my body is, you know, pretty much the standard issue. Body people think that Adam’s body, because it’s not a standard issue, body is going to be totally different.

Brian (34m 14s):
And that’s the most interesting question I am trying to say. Let’s think about it this way. I have to resist doing things that I desire to do, because I’m a sinner I’m embedded in habits and sensibilities that have to do with my being in a world that’s tradition to me in sinful ways. And I’m, I’m genuinely not sure what it’s going to be like when I don’t have to fight that when my personality is openly present and loving and at home with each other in the way I see in Adam, and maybe it’s time for us Westerners, who always thinking in a very physical way about health and bodies to sort of make that a second order question and make the first order question, you know, do you have the, the piece, do you live in the piece that for instance, you have to have, if you’re going to die with cancer, right?

Brian (35m 22s):
Like there’s a, there’s a health. It takes to die that Christians are ultimately about not optimizing their physical health.

Amy Julia (35m 34s):
I also remember when early in life I was asking some of those same questions and I have a friend who has cerebral palsy and I use his canes to walk. And so I asked her, Jess, you know, when you get to heaven, do you think you will still have canes? And she said, huh? That question has never crossed my mind before. I just think I’ll get to see Jesus. And I’ll be in the presence of love. I was like, so that was the right answer. And I, but it was like this total receding for me, it wasn’t like she was saying how offensive that you think I might not have K.

Amy Julia (36m 16s):
It was just like, oh, well, that’s incidental. They helped me move around. Great. Like this is the body I’ve been given. But what I long for is the fullness of relationship with God that I know I am promised in whatever we think about as resurrected life. And that was a really informative time for me. Similarly, I think to say, I don’t know what Penny’s, body’s going to look like. I don’t know what mine my body is going to look like. And yet the question of what we do know is that the fullness of love will be expressed and experienced. And to the degree that that’s, what’s happening here and now health wholeness is also happening here and now.

Amy Julia (36m 59s):
And I see a lot of that in lots of people who do not conform to ideal or, you know, quote unquote healthy bodies.

Brian (37m 10s):
Yeah. And what I think is kind of more morally culpable is that if we think that way as Christians, actually, we don’t even recognize the work that would go on with somebody who had an accident and was paralyzed and had to, you know, come to terms with that and could to come to peace in the body. You’re given can be a lot of work for, for all. And ultimately it will be for all of us, right? Like, I don’t know, you’re younger than me, but you know, headed over the hill here and the older you get, the more you have to think to come to the time for your body. And it’s, I think that’s work.

Brian (37m 51s):
That’s often evaded and the Christianity of our era, which is why there’s a lot of kind of grumpy old people who are just angry, that they can’t do the things that they used to be able to do. And maybe if we thought about health as in this kind of relational sense, and actually what, when Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven, it’s not a come to this banquet and sort of get fixed up and redressed it’s. This banquet is where the outcast can still be the outcast, but they’re at home and they’re present to me and I’m present to them. And so one of the things I do in the book is just point out.

Brian (38m 32s):
We have a very materialist picture of the resurrection that focuses on the body and not the relational. And that is also a reading of the Bible, which doesn’t really take seriously that Jesus very often says, the kingdom of heaven is among you. And it looks like this. And he tells stories that have disabled people in it who stayed disabled. They don’t get healed in those stories and that it doesn’t, it’s not part of those stories to even suggest that they need healing to be part present in the kingdom of heaven.

Amy Julia (39m 4s):
Amen to that. And then, and I’d like to, I have one more kind of big question for you that is related to what you were just saying and goes, one of the, I told you I’ve been working on this book that will come out in the spring called To Be Made Well, and it’s about healing from a biblical perspective. And looking at the, one of the aspects of the book is looking at the word that often gets translated as healed in our Bibles, our English Bibles, but that also equally often gets translated as saved depending on the context. So when the bleeding woman is stops bleeding, she, Jesus says your faith in our Bibles has healed you when the woman who anoints Jesus’s feet with her hair and her tears walks away, he says, your faith has saved you.

Amy Julia (39m 52s):
Same word healed, saved, same, same sentence, even, but because one of them was bleeding and one of them was crying. We interpret as being healed and being saved. And I think that speaks to this understanding of healing or salvation as being much more comprehensive and not maybe less physical, but certainly more than physical. When we think about what Jesus does. And I’ve been thinking in this advent season about that line in Matthew’s gospel, where he says that Mary and Joseph will name him Jesus, because he will save the people from their sins, which again, I think we could translate, he will heal the people from their sins, just that there’s a healing of brokenness and woundedness on a spiritual level, as much as there’s a salvation of that, that’s happening to all of us in and as we are interacting with Jesus.

Amy Julia (40m 48s):
And so I’m just thinking about the idea of Jesus as a healer. And I thought we could, I just wanted to hear you speak a little bit about how understanding health and perhaps disability in a different way has helped you think about Jesus as a healer.

Brian (41m 7s):
Hmm. Yeah. I, I, I kind of talk about this in, in quite a bit of detail in the, in the second book, the popular book, DISABILITY and moving and diversity of Christ’s body. And there I talk about the, the man who Jesus heals in the temple gates, who, if we work backwards, we see piecing the pieces together. He’d been there his whole life. It says 40 years, which means that Jesus had been passing him for his whole ministry, right?

Brian (41m 48s):
This is not, this was not a one stop shop. This was a kind of standing situation. And there is an interchange where Peter, after Jesus has resurrected, he asked the man, asked Jesus for, or asked Peter for, for money. And Peter basically says, well, I don’t have money, but come here and eat any. He heals him. And I perhaps a bit, contentiously use that to say that that’s often the way that the church practices healing.

Brian (42m 31s):
Part of the, part of the thing that’s really struck home to me over the last couple of years is hearing how many people with disabilities go to church and either kind of get a drive by healing, or they go up at a healing service and they they’re offered healing for their disability, which is not what they had come up for. Right. Because they’re, they actually have an illness. And so reflecting on that, I, I kind of came back around to the Christian imagination that I sort of summarized as Jesus healed everyone. He met, Jesus did heal people, but obviously if you put it in those terms, it’s clear that there must have been plenty of people who didn’t get healed, including the guy in the temple.

Brian (43m 18s):
That, and what’s that about. That means I suggest that Jesus heals only those who ask him for something. And he doesn’t necessarily assume that what they want is there for their disability to be healed. Right. When the, in John, when the four friends lower their friend down, he says, I forgive you your sins, right? And then the Pharisees sort of say, you can’t do that. And he’s like, well, if you say that, then I’m going to, I’m going to heal him. And he, he heals him. So he walks right. And that’s, I’ve already done by allowing him to walk. Exactly. And that’s the real healing, right? So the walking, the not walking, that’s why I was drawing attention to what Christ gives us.

Brian (44m 4s):
The healing Christ gives us among other things allows us to die well because our body is going to die. And if health is what our body is, then we can’t as saved beings, see death as anything other than a defeat. But given that we will die as creatures, it seems to me that the, the healing that Christ brings allows us to come to terms with our body in its whole cycle of life. And also in its, in its configuration, that we may not be at peace with yet, but which Christ is here to bring us into peace with.

Amy Julia (44m 47s):
And you’re making me think of again this time of year, but that line and hark the Herald angels sing, right? The risen with healing in his wings. I’m not sure that Jesus has wings, but that there is this sense of healing within his resurrected body. That is still very much being offered to us who, to your point there, it’s a pretty simple ask, right? We don’t need to come even with words, but there is a posture of receptivity to, and acknowledgement of need, which again, I think often I see more readily in penny than I do in myself and acknowledgement of need and a willingness to ask for what she needs and the, what we see over and over and over again in the gospels is how ready Jesus is.

Amy Julia (45m 38s):
And I believe God is to say, here you go. That is my desire for you and for your communities is for health and wholeness. I’m sure your bodies can be included in that, but that’s almost beside the point because the point is this ability to connect to each other and to God in a renewed way. Yeah.

Brian (46m 3s):
And that’s kind of the punchline of the point about diversity. We need to be communities that meet people’s actual needs, not the, not the need that we assume they have on the basis of our normal and, and disabled distinctions that are culturally embedded in all kinds of ways. There’s people who do things and there’s people who can’t do things. And if you can’t do things, you, you need care and looking after you don’t have anything to give, you’re not kind of same type of participant as, as the rest of us. And I think Jesus, his own practice never plays to the, the stereotype of the prostitute or the tax collector.

Brian (46m 53s):
It always plays to the what’s your real need. And it’s never the social construct around the person. It’s always underneath that. And that’s what I think the communities that Christ body are supposed to, it’s supposed to be like,

Amy Julia (47m 10s):
Right. And I think that honestly, people like Adam and penny might give us eyes to see that in ways that we would not otherwise have. Well, thank you, Brian so much. It has been awesome to talk to you. And now I have another book to read because just excited truly to go and read your next book. And maybe we’ll get to talk again.

0 (47m 34s):
I look forward to it. Thank you.

Amy Julia (47m 39s):
Thanks so much for listening to Love Is Stronger Than Fear. We are coming to the end of the calendar year. So I am going to ask you for a gift. I am going to ask you for the gift of a response to this podcast. So in the midst of all of your different Christmas or holiday shopping and wrapping and purchasing and contemplating, would you also share this episode with a friend or write a review of this podcast wherever you go to get it? It would be really helpful for me in continuing to allow people to know about the great content here.

Amy Julia (48m 19s):
People like Brian, who are able to just share such profound and helpful insights into what it means to be human and healthy and whole. Also, if you want to know more about Brian and his work, please check out the show notes and to go dig a little bit deeper. You can get the books and writing and references that we made throughout this conversation over there. And to that point, I would like to thank both Jake Hansen for his editing of this podcast and Amber Barea, who is my social media, social media coordinator. I’m really grateful to both of them for all the work they do to support this show. And as always, finally, as you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you.

Amy Julia (49m 3s):
The peace that comes from believing that Love Is Stronger Than Fear.

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