Thursday, October 25, 2012

Calling out dehumanization

Language is powerful. Language shapes the way in which we view the world, other people, and ourselves. Recently, Ann Coulter tweeted regarding the presidential debate and used the word “retard” with reference to President Obama. There are, of course, the problems of the sophomoric level of political discourse that this demonstrates and the total disrespect of the office and person of President Obama. The larger issue is the ongoing dehumanization of persons with cognitive disabilities. Many people with cognitive disabilities are not able to advocate for themselves. There are of course exceptions, such as John Franklin Stephens, who wrote an open letter to Coulter appealing to her to stop using this demeaning term. To his credit, he was much more charitable than I would have been.

The issue here is not political correctness. It is about rejecting dehumanization. When we reduce people to one word or one characteristic, we do not acknowledge their full humanity. This is particularly the case when we reduce people to a single demeaning term. People with cognitive disabilities such as Down Syndrome are fully human, deserving of the same rights and respect as every other human. It is only in recent decades that we have really begun to acknowledge this in our society, as we have moved away from the widespread practice of institutionalizing such people and regarding them as unable to learn or to contribute to society. We still have a long way to go, and comments such as Coulter’s represent a big step in the wrong direction. If we could learn to see people as God sees them, how much better off would we all be? 

I'm the father of a child with Down Syndrome. I honestly do my best to remain cognizant of the fact that most people are not like my son, Sean, and most people aren't used to interacting with someone with Down Syndrome. But when an inappropriate action is not accidental, but fully intentional, and carries dehumanizing consequences, it is incumbent upon Christians to call this out. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wesley, Wesleyans, and Scripture

I just received an advance copy of a book that Joel Green and I edited called Wesley, Wesleyans, and Reading Bible as Scripture. It is scheduled for release later this month. The idea for this book came out of a meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society a few years ago, the theme of which was "The Future of Scripture" (thank you, Rob Wall). Within this book, the writers look not only at the ways in which Wesley understood the nature and function of the Bible, but also the ways in which scripture functions in various Wesleyan communities today, and the constructive appropriation of scripture for Wesleyan theology and practice. 

The contents are as follows: 


1. John Wesley—"A Man of One Book" (Randy L. Maddox, Duke Divinity School)
2. Scripture as a Means of Grace (Kenneth J. Collins, Asbury Theological Seminary)
3. Reading Scripture, the Literal Sense, and the Analogy of Faith (Robert W. Wall, Seattle Pacific University)
4. Wesley as Interpreter of Scripture and the Emergence of "History" in Biblical Interpretation (Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary) 


5. Scripture among African American Methodists (Reginald Broadnax, Hood Theological Seminary)
6. Scripture among Hispanic Methodists (Justo L. González)
7. Scripture among Korean Methodists (Meesaeng Lee Choi, Asbury Theological Seminary; and Hunn Choi)
8. Scripture and Divine Revelation (William J. Abraham, Southern Methodist University)
9. A Wesleyan Understanding of the Authority of Scripture (Douglas M. Koskela ,Seattle Pacific University)
10. The Holiness of Scripture (Jason E. Vickers, United Theological Seminary)
11. Scripture as Canon (David F. Watson, United Theological Seminary)

12. Scripture and Social Ethics (D. Brent Laytham, North Park Theological Seminary)
13. Can We Speak of a Wesleyan Theological Hermeneutic Today? (Steven J. Koskie)
14. Reading Scripture for Christian Formation (Elaine A. Heath, Southern Methodist University)
15. The Place of Scripture in Worship (Karen B. Westerfield Tucker,Boston University School of Theology)
16. The Place of Scripture in Preaching (Michael Pasquarello III, Asbury Theological Seminary)
17. Scripture and Evangelism (Laceye Warner, Duke Divinity School)


I am most grateful to Joel and to all of the contributors, and I hope this volume makes a helpful contribution to our Wesleyan communities of faith.