"Disability and the Way of Jesus" by Bethany McKinney Fox. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked it up because it is addressing an important subject: how we should look at healing; better ways to approach people who have disabilities or disease; and what wholeness really means. Bethany McKinney Fox, director of student success and adjunct professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, has compiled an interesting approach to the subject in her new paperback, "Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church". This intriguing volume is readable, moves fairly quickly through its material, and helpfully addresses "a framework for Christian communities to be places of healing in the way of Jesus, with particular attention to members with disabilities," which the author believes is found in our Lord's own life and ministry (4).
Fox begins with a chapter that examines models that have been, and are being, employed in understanding disease and disability. She gives readers a better sense of what was going on in the first century, and what is happening in the twenty-first. In the next chapter the author then moves deeper into what our Lord was up to in his context when he healed. She observes that based on Jesus' words and ways, then "in our contemporary practices of healing, we need to pay attention to the symbolic world we inhabit and work within it to show how the kingdom of God is transforming what we think of as normal too" (46).
The meat and potatoes of "Disability and the Way of Jesus" comes in the middle three chapters. Fox takes on a highly stimulating approach to the subject. She examines the works of several Christian physicians pulling out the ways they interpret Jesus' healings in the gospel accounts. Then she surveys some writers who are engaged in disability studies, disability rights, and/or are disabled themselves, and how they read the stories of healing in the gospels. Finally, the author probes seven pastors from various traditions, interviewing each to see the way they handle those healing passages in Jesus' life. These three chapters truly were the main course, and the author productively achieves her desired end of "exploring the interpretations of Gospel healing narratives from medical doctors, people with disabilities, pastors, and others connected to the disability community...not to find the one right hermeneutic and toss out all the others. Rather...to notice how each perspective brought to light certain aspects of the text in a valuable way" (135). The final two chapters are where Fox gives her "Seven Marks of Healing in Action," and leaves the reader pondering possibilities and plans.
"Disability and the Way of Jesus" is a good place to begin scrutinizing how we and our churches can truly be part of the "healing way of Jesus". There were spots that disappointed me. Such as Fox's idea that we need to completely revamp or adapt our ways of worship to welcome a broader variety of worshipers, and specifically those with disability, and to not do so is idolatry (190). I understand the sentiment, but find the assertion and accusation too much in line with pragmatism and utilitarianism. Overall, if the reader will allow Fox to stretch them and their perception, they will find this much-needed work worthwhile. Even with my one criticism, I highly recommend the book.
Thanks to IVP Academic. At my request they sent a copy of the book used for this review, and asked nothing more from me than an honest review. My assessments are freely made and freely given.
The book can be obtained here: Disability and the Way of Jesus
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