Beyond Inclusion: Rethinking Normalcy, Identity, and Disability in Theological Terms
Reynolds, Thomas E., 1963-
Tom Reynolds suggests a reframing of what we consider “normal” and outlines how that reframing might alter how we think about the act of inclusion at the Disabilities, Religion, and Spirituality Special Lecture on March 1, 2010. Recent literature on theology and disability has underscored the need for a thorough revision of the way that faith communities understand disability. For this to take place, it is necessary to critique the way that features of normalcy come to measure what counts for care and inclusion, which have been uncritically adopted as a means by which faith communities think about their identity. Just as the male gender and heterosexuality have been constructed as normative, “ableist” discourses construct non-disability as normative and disability as “other” in order to mobilize representations that uphold identities based in exclusion. Often missed, then, is how practices of inclusion can feign openness but instead be deceptive forms of exclusion. From such a perspective, new possibilities arise for conceiving disability as part of being human and vulnerable, neither something to be overcome nor pitied, nor included as somehow other, but rather received as theological teacher. The Disabilities, Religion, and Spirituality Special Lecture is sponsored by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, and co-sponsored by the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality at Vanderbilt Divinity School and Faith for ALL.