St Finbar's Glenbrook Parish

The theology of disability: a new way of listening, seeing and belonging


Catholic Outlook July 2014: Prof John Swinton Story
Speaking at The Broken Bay Institute last month, Prof Swinton said that true hospitality always leads to true inclusion, or belonging.

By Debra Vermeer, Catholic Outlook July 2014

The theology of disability is a way of looking at God and human beings from a perspective that is sometimes overlooked; a perspective that must take into account a new way of thinking about time, hospitality and belonging, says visiting theologian, Prof John Swinton.

Prof Swinton is a professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at the School of Divinity, Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Speaking at a free public lecture on 24 June at The Broken Bay Institute in Pennant Hills, to a capacity crowd including members of the L’Arche communities from Sydney and Newcastle, he said the theology of disability was essentially about a new way of listening, which leads to a new way of seeing.

“The task of disability theology is not to transform the world through politics, economics and worldly power, but to be faithful to the task that is given to it,” he said.

“And the task that is given to the disability theologian is to help us to see properly what it means to be a human being; to help us to understand that many of the things that we are taught by culture are false; that to be human is much more interesting and much more complicated than the simplistic way that culture tells us it should be.”

Prof Swinton said the beginning point for a good theology of disability was to name things properly.

“One of the problems in the conversation around disability is that we mis-name things,” he said. “And when we mis-name things, we end up with stigma, alienation and false names.”

He said disability was simply a way of naming difference, and that one way of thinking about it was to ask the question: ‘What does it mean to be a human being who lives within a human body?’

“Genesis shows us that human beings are created by matter but inspired and brought into existence by the very breath of God,” he said. “So we are our bodies and we are our souls. And there’s something important and beautiful about that.”

Continuing reading full story at the Catholic Outlook site

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