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Disability – The Bible and Perfection

2007 November 8
by Julie Clawson

To conclude my reflections on disability I want to focus on the issue that has been the biggest ongoing struggle for me to deal with, especially within the church. It is the concept of perfection – the idea of needing to be flawless before God. For most of my life, I thought that referred to spirituality, but I have recently been exposed to those who promote physical perfection as necessary for truly serving God.

To back up a bit, in our culture perfection (or at least the absence of any visible physical flaws) is worshipped. We all hear about the millions of dollars spent on cosmetic procedures and the obsession with having a sexy body. But beyond that such obvious flaws like missing a limb are becoming less and less tolerated. This of course ties in with the whole abortion issue. Parents are now bringing “wrongful life” lawsuits against doctors if the doctor doesn’t inform them with enough time to abort that their child will have a defect. Apparently giving a child with a defect a chance at life is just wrong in their eyes. I’ve had people argue to my face that abortion is needed in the case of birth defects. To one such person, I asked, “so are you saying I should have been aborted because I am missing my arm?” Her reply – “I wasn’t talking about you, you’re smart.” But the assumption by many in our society is that unless you are perfect you don’t even deserve to be born. I find it easy to disagree and fight that assumption in culture, but then I find it in scriptures and the church as well.

I had always heard the language of “pure and holy sacrifice” referring to the lambs led to slaughter. Then one day I read the stipulations for Priests making offerings to God –

Leviticus 21:16-23 “The LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the LORD by fire. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.”

Having been taught my whole life that “God made me this way” reading those words was hard. Missing a limb, being the way God intended a person to be, disqualified them from serving God. We weren’t perfect enough to for God. (granted women were automatically disqualified too, but that’s a different issue). Not only were we not perfect enough, we desecrate the sanctuary by our presence. Sure it could be assumed that after Christ came as a “perfect sacrifice for all” that such restrictions are lifted, but what really got to me was discovering that there are branches in the church that still promote these stipulations. In the Orthodox church you cannot be in church leadership if you have a physical defect (well except for the eye thing, they waive that one for people with glasses).

I honestly don’t get it. How does not being physically perfect disqualify a person from serving God? How does this make me any less holy than others? Sure there were tons of purity laws in the OT, all of which could be forgiven. But this was impurity for life. Reading passages like this and hearing about the policies of the Orthodox Church seem to me to fit more within the mindset of the Communists who sequester away the deformed children in Latvia or the parents who sue doctors for the “wrongful life” of their defected child. But while my worldview allowed me to accept such opinions from Communists and abortionists, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around how it fits in the Bible and the church. And so far I have yet to hear any interpretation of this passage that really makes sense. At best it just gets lumped in with all those other “Ancient Near-Eastern worldview” passages (like bashing babies’ heads against rocks) that basically just don’t make sense either.

So where does that leave me? I want my theology of disability to be that God made me to be me and uses me as I am. But the Bible seems to contradict that and tells me that I am unwanted and incapable of serving God because of my arm. I have chosen to just go ahead and serve God (as a disabled woman that obviously isn’t in the Orthodox church), but some days that choice can be hard to align with scripture.

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  1. November 9, 2007

    you can ask at esoriano.wordpress.com why if really God disfavors disability from His priest, servants. You can ask too if it’s true, what are the underlying reasons based in the bible. You can ask to if women can lead the Church of God. You can ask too how to becoma a member in the Church of God that was established by God. YOu can ask also if emerging churches is biblical.

    Thanks for the space. God willing, you will learn. Glory be to God. I remain an unworthy servant.

  2. November 9, 2007

    Elman, can you give us any reason why we should be interested in what E. Soriano thinks about these questions? If he wants to voice his opinion, then invite him come here and join the conversation.

  3. November 9, 2007

    Does the whole Bible contradict your desire to serve God? According to Leviticus I’m not able to serve God because I’m not part of the covenant people of Israel. I’m a Gentile.

    Maybe there is freedom for me and all of us in Acts 10. What God has made clean, we shouldn’t call profane. So we can eat. We can serve. Not because the church decided it was okay. Because the Spirit came and worked, making it okay.

    • Ralph permalink
      November 28, 2010

      Patrick ~ Jesus came to remind the Jews what their job was – to preach and convert the Gentiles to God’s Word. God loves all His people for whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life. Glory be to God. May we all find solace in His Word.

  4. November 9, 2007

    Leviticus is the old covenant, the old law, the old tabernacle. Jesus came and fulfilled the law and was the last perfect sacrifice ever needed.

    Now God sees us through that sacrifice (or blood,yeah,some think it’s yucky, but there it is) as forgiven and perfect.

    When we come to Him acknowledging that sacrifice of Christ, we become adopted children, saved. We become the new tabernacles replacing the one spoken of in Leviticus. Then we find out the purpose we have in His kingdom.

    We all are flawed or disaabled in some ways. Some visible, some not. God will use us if we make outselves available. We can all serve, are all meant to serve.

  5. agma permalink
    November 10, 2007

    Check out Nancy Eiesland’s ‘Disabled God.’ It was a tremendous help to me working through the theology of my own disability in seminary.

    Thank you for writing this.

  6. November 10, 2007

    So Patrick and Jo, was it okay for God to discriminate against disabled people back then during the old covenant, just not now? How does it many anything better to say that “well, God used to be prejudiced, but it’s okay ‘cuz now he’s not”?

    • October 20, 2011

      To understand Levitical law one must understand that only the Levites served God directly. I see so many sites use this particular verse to “prove god hates the disabled”. I say baloney to all of that.

      Simply put, under the old law one priest was to come directly before the altar of God while others offered sacrafices. God never said he hated them but that they couldn’t serve Him directly – under the old law.

      Under the new law we are command to love one another, love our neighbor, love God with our whole hearts. Not once does Jesus/God give any exception. You don’t read Love your neighbor unless they are lame, or weak, or blind, or any other disability. But to love everyone.

      Jesus came to heal the broken. And we are all spiritually broken. Therefore, if god hates cripples, and we are are spiritually crippled – no one is going to heaven and Jesus died for nothing.

      But thank God He loves everyone – He even states He died for the entire world – and that includes those with disabilities.

      1Jn 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for
      ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

      Where do our disabled brohers and sisters fit in beside us “whole” Christians? Right beside us – sing His praises, praising His name, and worshipping Him as He says we are to.

      • fionn permalink
        August 11, 2013

        If god says love one another, with no exceptions, but then goes on to disparage women, homosexuals, people with physical differences, to name but a few- one has to wonder what his or her definition of love is. It seems to me to be a slightly warped version

  7. November 11, 2007

    Well, he was only talking about the priests of the tribe of Levi in the holy place and the holy of holies, and I don’t presume to know the mind of God with regard to that. There are questions to which we will never know the answer here in this life.
    Discriminate, prejudice, you may just have to wait and ask when you see him face to face.

  8. November 11, 2007

    julie,

    i love the idea of a “theology of disability.”

  9. November 11, 2007

    hi julie, i’ve always wondered the same thing too, that and the way in which war was the medium for so much of the people of God seeming to receive the promises of God.

    As Mike says above it seems a pretty cheap to say well god was like that then but he’s not now – this being the unchanging God who was the same yesterday, today et al.

    I think it was Yancy who said something like the message of the old testament being no imperfect people allowed, emphasising the hoy and perfect nature of God and the new testament almost reversing that and saying all imperfect people are welcome, emphasing the grace of God.

    Then again maybe stories like Mephibosheth in 2 sam 9 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+samuel%209-9&version=31 give us a glimpse of how a king after god’s own heart treated him?

  10. November 11, 2007

    Great series. I think we have a performance-based mentality in all spheres of life versus a grace-based mentality.

  11. Julie Clawson permalink*
    November 11, 2007

    Paul – yes it is interesting to see how the realities of love and grace trump a lot of those OT laws. In addition to Mephibosheth you have Rahab, and Ruth, and Ziporah. And then of course there was Jesus who challenged everything. it does make one wonder if our understanding of the law is just really messed up.

  12. November 12, 2007

    it’s great point julie, i struggle with the law too…

  13. November 13, 2007

    Yeah, I’m with the others. This is Leviticus and it is what it is. A very old document reflecting some very old ideas. Fortunately, the New Testament is our last word on the matter.

  14. November 14, 2007

    Mike, I see this in terms of Temple ministry, which like the whole law has a symbolic aspect to it. Meaning that those who served in the Temple had to be symbols of God’s service, service that reflects the Throne room.

    In that symbolism the worship flowed through the people. So I see the Temple serving a specific purpose, a specific image. Is it discrimination?

    Well, no woman could be a priest either. No non-Jew could be a priest. Only descendants of a certain family could offer sacrifices. If you were from the tribe of Simeon, then you’re discriminated against. The spotted lamb was discriminated against.

    Discrimination abounded. Because God’s goal was to present himself in a certain way, for a certain people. And as he is the God of perfection. The Spirit does that now. So there is no more Jew or Greek, male or female, handicapped and non-handicapped distinctions in the people of God.

    God is in fact prejudiced. Some people are cursed and not allowed into the presence of the Temple, or given the rights of others. The leper. The handicapped. Descendants of Midianites. People hung on a tree. All cursed.

    Which adds a bit more potency to what the New Testament is saying. God is presenting himself in a new way, not opposed to the cursed, through the Cursed.

  15. November 14, 2007

    Julie, I also really like the story of David. His great grandmother was Ruth. A Midianite. But Midianites weren’t allowed in the people of God through many generations. The rules changed. God chose David.

    In fact it’s funny to study Jesus’ whole genealogy. Lots of folks in his history who weren’t exactly prime candidates for Temple service. God chose them anyhow.

  16. Kimberly George permalink
    November 14, 2007

    I found your blog through a recent article your wrote on women in the church! Thanks so much for your writing.

    As far as this current posting…I have been reading through the Torah the last few months (currently in Numbers) and I have just been grieving so many things. Sometimes I fear we are all wanting to give too many answers, but I just want to thank you for your words and say I am searching out this God, too. Thanks for your courage to not know but to share so honestly your experience.

  17. Julie Clawson permalink*
    November 14, 2007

    Patrick – You know, I’ve always been a fan of Jesus’ words of his coming not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. So I am really not comfortable with explaining away the OT just by saying God changed. To say the God was prejudice and discriminated against people, but then he change and started seeing his creation as good and loveable again. I would like to form a holistic understanding of God, but all I seem to get was “he used to suck, but now he’s cool.” It doesn’t work for me.

  18. November 20, 2007

    Discrimination abounded. Because God’s goal was to present himself in a certain way, for a certain people. And as he is the God of perfection.

    Sorry Patrick, but that’s still not working for me. In fact, what you said just made things worse. If all those discriminatory laws are supposed to symbolize God’s “perfection”, then I don’t think I’d want to be “perfect” or worship a God who defines perfection in those ways. If God’s idea of “perfection” excludes people based on gender, or race, or family heritage, or lack of physical irregularities… well, that’s a pretty messed up definition of perfection IMHO.

    See, it doesn’t help to say “it’s all symbolic” if what it symbolizes is messed up too.

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  20. January 2, 2008

    Hi Julie,

    Mike gave me the link to your site through a comment board on friendlyatheist.com

    Your post is excellent! It raises so many important questions about theology in relation to disability, which is important in todays world. As far as my advice for you goes, it stems from my detachment from religious practice and my similarity in disability, as I was born without my left hand just below the elbow.

    Your post describes the need for religion to do one of many things. First, in order to be credible and followable in modern times, it must be standardized and modified to better represent the culture of its followers in modern society (I still have a bible that has diagrams that show the sun rotating around the Earth, so simply by looking at newer versions, standardization of texts can occur). If it cannot be standardized by the removal of denominations, subdenominations, and book modernization, then we must recognize that religious belief is more of a personal realm. As such, and since there can be no agreed standard, religion must not be a method of judgment placed upon people of other religions/nonreligions.

    My advice to you would be to treat your beliefs as personal. Do what you think would be in the best interest of your god. Many people will give you their own interpretations of the bible in an effort to show standardization in a realm where there is none. After all, we’re looking at philosophical ideals here, and they must be treated in a way that benefits you the most. Stay strong, for if they can interpret the bible, so can you. You can even ignore full parts of your holy book. Everyone else does (including clergy), why can’t you?

    It must be a struggle to remain so dedicated to your religion after reading these shocking passages, and I admire you for doing so. For me, I found it easier to simply let go of my religious beliefs, but I would not expect you to do the same. You’re intelligent, tough, and I’m sure you’re kindhearted. If you ask me, thats all you need (and should ever need) to appease any “god”.

    Stay strong!
    Jimmy

  21. January 2, 2008

    I’m glad you followed my link Jimmy! BTW, just to clarify, my wife is clergy. We co-pastor a church together. So yes, she does feel free to interpret the Bible on her own. But it’s good advice nonetheless. I wish more Christians would follow it.

  22. Elizabeth permalink
    February 21, 2008

    You are exactly right. God made you to be the person you are. You are perfect because God made you. One must remember that although God’s Word is truth, the Bible was written by humans with human limitations. Humans make mistakes. I do not believe you are any less able that any other human being. God gave you strengths and weaknesses. He has a purpose for you in life, and God has made you in a way for you to work in that ministry. Remember that God loves you and made you perfect how you are.

  23. February 23, 2008

    I found this while Googling for research into a novel I’ve been writing for a few years now, and your words struck me very deeply. I felt I would share with you a link to a poem I wrote, a “psalm” of sorts, that I imagine being composed by the man who founded my novel’s Order of Guardians. When he reached the point where he was able to say this about himself–to not only “tolerate” or “accept” the manner in which he was created (he happened to be blind) but to joyfully embrace the many opportunities and gifts that he had, whole new doors opened to him.

    —–

    I am fearfully and wonderfully made, O Lord of music and might
    I am fashioned by Thy hand as by the master mason
    Thy Hands span the breadth and depth of my life.
    No detail, no hour escapes their reach and touch.

    I am the seed of unbroken intent and devotion.
    I am endowed with purpose and possessed of the means to reach it.
    I am wrought for my singular role and my role for me.
    I am endorsed by the seal of the blood of Thy Lamb.

    For this I pledge my devotion and gratitude.
    I rejoice in my days, my steps made light with gladness.
    Sing, O my soul, dance, O my feet.
    Swing swift my sword, sail true my arrow.

    For the Lord shapes His children and fits them for the Holiest of Holies!

    Bread and wine, flesh and blood
    Touch and understand, O my people, taste and know.

    ——-

    I firmly believe, as a Christian, that we are ALL made to serve the Lord, that we ALL have the opportunity to become part of His priesthood. Even if others do not recognize that in the way we are made, we are each made so that the grace of God may be seen in us. It’s tempting to think that such grace is only seen in a healing–but I think that very often that grace is seen in what we do and say exactly as we are, in the perspective and the character that we develop in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

    I am still trying to understand why old Israel was the way it was, what God’s will really was in that time, and I admit I haven’t gotten very far yet. There are times when I suspect that certain laws reflect the ugliness of human nature rather than the grace of God. I’m having a hard time finding the words to explain what I mean, and I think a lot of people would consider it heresy (all of the “inerrancy” types surely would). As others have pointed out, when God Himself would act, He had a tendency to override certain categories of rules–Deborah became a leader and judge, foreigners entered the royal line, and then Jesus of course overrode excessive Sabbath restrictions that had developed in the customs of the time. Could it be that some of the Law as seen in Leviticus and the like were a recording of custom rather than the divine nature? Which of course raises the question of why such things were allowed to pass down to us in God’s Word. But I wonder–perhaps we are permitted to see and remember so that there is something against which to contrast grace, so that we see how awful the alternative is. Why was it permitted to happen in the first place? Most likely for the same reason a lot of evil does…because we have the ability to make choices. And we chose wrongly. And just as when the Israelites did other things, like worshipping idols, and the actions and consequences were recorded, so too were the injustices that even the Chosen People committed on a legal front.

    This is the very beginning of an explanation and likely shaky at best. Some would surely consider it heresy. But this is the best I can do at this point.

  24. April 10, 2008

    I think that this law was meant to prevent families from forcing disabled sons into the priesthood. The sacrifice of a son to serve God needed to be an actual sacrifice; and that meant that the family was not allowed to give a son who could not help them in the fields, just as they were not allowed to give an animal that could not work or be eaten.

  25. Sarah permalink
    April 23, 2008

    I am writing an essay on historical perspectives on disabilities and am using the Bible as an example; your post about exclusion was ‘spot on’. Do you mind if I use part of it in my essay?

  26. June 28, 2008

    Julie – This is a great post – thanks for it – you fed my soul. I think the answer – though a bit brutal – is really hidden in your own angst and frustration. It wasn’t about the rejection of people with disabilities as people – it was about the rejection of any – spiritual, relational or physical – imperfections – anything that reflected ‘out loud’ the reality of the curse (by the way, I was born severely cross-eyed and even glasses didn’t work…).

    The point of the Law was frustration not attainable perfection. The instant judgment of touching the Ark was meant to say that you can’t get to God through the Law.

    It was all supposed to point to a new day – one inaugurated by Jesus – the day when all that is wrong is made right and when all that is broken is made well – not because of perfection, but because of Him.

    again – thanks.

    peace.

  27. August 18, 2008

    How does not being physically perfect disqualify a person from serving God?

    There’s not one of us who is physically perfect.

    Mike linked to here from a Friendly Atheist entry on amputees and I’ve read the three posts related to your disability. Honestly I was expecting that you might express some bitterness that “God made you this way” rather than with two hands. It’s refreshing that you don’t seem to. I don’t know if you used to feel bitter against the god who you believe made you and you’ve come to terms with that or if the bitterness was never a part of your faith. Indeed you may be one of those wonderful and rare people who never feel bitterness at the cruelties of life.

    It is my view that our personalities are largely shaped by our physical existence and our upbringing. Your missing hand must have made profound formative changes to your personality as a child and adult both physically and in the way you perceived people’s perceptions of you and your self worth. This seems to have been positive from what little I’ve read because you clearly make the best of things.

    It was interesting reading your ideas anyway.

  28. Andrew permalink
    November 13, 2008

    Hi,

    I think that through this part of the law God is showing that God demands a clean priest and that we are clean and perfect when we approach him.

    It is important that when we look at the law we look at the whole lot. It is not through the law that we are saved but rather through the law we become conscious of sin. That was the whole point of the law.

    As New Testament Christians we can see that none of us can approach God on our own. Only Jesus the perfect priest who offered the perfect sacrifice in our place could. As believers of Jesus we now have his righteousness when we approach God.

  29. Carlos Vidal permalink
    November 16, 2008

    Responses to “Disability – The Bible and Perfection”
    Wonder if all those rules are really from GOD or are just man witten rules
    Thanks

  30. Carlos Vidal permalink
    November 16, 2008

    Responses to “Disability – The Bible and Perfection”
    Wonder if all those rules are really from GOD or are just man written rules
    Thanks

  31. Stephanie permalink
    March 19, 2009

    Hello, Julie,
    I have a simplistic interpretation regarding God’s commands in the Old Testament and how strict, precise, and rule-laden He was regarding ceremonial cleansing, burnt sin offerings, requirements and protocols of the High Priests, the tabernacle, etc. Perhaps sharing my opinion will serve more to reveal how “simple” I am than to offer anything of new value to anyone but here goes anyway… I think God knew how incredible it would be for us to grasp the idea that He came to earth to live with us and then die at our hands that he did everything he possibly could to prepare our intellects to recognize and accept it when it occurred. That is my interpretation of all the “specificity” he piles on in these areas: He needed us to be able to comprehend sinlessness (perfection) and righteousness (Holiness) and God (all-knowing, all-creating, ever-existing, unconditional and divine Love) if we were ever to be able to understand returning home and eternal bliss existence back with him (salvation). So, all the insistence on perfection in Old Testament was to ‘clue us in’ that Jesus WAS God and Jesus WAS perfect and there’s only one Jesus because there’s only one God. He’s telling us his church, his family that will go live with him is perfect. So, we can relax with confidence. We can set our sights and work toward a goal that will be as awesome as the brouchure says. No lazy, unbelieving types to ruin it there as they do here. The perfection was about the promise and how we can believe it. Such symbolism, meaning is everywhere in the Bible and it never ceases to amaze me. It is total, complete, and perfect and so easy to know! Here’s the most recent one that blew me away when I “got it”. Isaac carried the wood on his back when he climbed the hill with his father the day his father was sacrificing him, per God’s command. Jesus carried the wood on his back when he climbed the hill with his father the day his father was sacrificing him – per God’s command. I still remember the first time I “got one” of these – it was the blood on the doors to be “passed over”, how the blood made the sign of the cross to come – at Passover. Perhaps this is all so basic and expected by everyone, but I will never cease to be amazed that there is nothing detailed anywhere in the Bible that does not have perfect integration with everything else in the Bible, every word purposefully chosen and placed to impart human intellectual understanding. If we will “seek”, we will find all of it. Do I feel God doubted me or my IQ by spelling it out so thoroughly this way? Absolutely not. I think He knew exactly as He designed human minds with their unique and complex capacities/functioning and free will and he knew I had both the ability to conceptualize Him and to doubt His existence (we take our abilities for granted but I bet your smartest tree frog species would think us pretty hi-tech if they “could” as would ALL the other species we dominate on this planet. We’re different… it’s that ‘created in His image’ thing. It’s a gift AND a challenge… He knows my (our) complexity – how reason and emotion and abstract thinking and logic and heart and brain and imagination and learning, precedent, aging, wonder, temperament, even my need for other humans and communication and how susceptible that need would make me to the workings of their mind(s), how all of it integrates together! The same God that gave me a soul that reminds me I am of Him, that His code is the O.S. in my heart, knew I would be able to crunch through the data, “do the math” and wonder if He even exists (let alone believe he walked this earth to redeem me from… what??? If He IS, then He’s everything…??). Every word of the Old Covenant perfectly prepared us for the New Covenant. And God makes us believe there was originally to be one then two were needed and we believe him even as we also believe he planned two all along… because he loved so much these human beings he created in his image with free will. The Bible has proved itself to me, without me even asking, to be one unending recorded conversation with nothing short of a… prophet. A perfect one at that. Amazing. So, in my long-winded way, I want to say I think all God’s ‘nit-picky’ stuff about perfection was to assure us everything He tells us about Him, His Church, His love for us, His promises, His ways, His creation, all of it, is perfect. So, we really should ‘go for it’! And, yup, that was Him; he came EXACTLY as he described centuries before when he said he would. So disgustingly imperfect, sinful me (in the seriously-wretched way of sin and my desperate struggle with it (some free will I have!) Paul aptly describes including self-defiling with full self-awareness as I’m doing it and detesting myself for doing it, is, miraculously, of the same stock as God. And, I do have a decent shot of honestly claiming God (the creator of all that is and ever was) as “fam”. Mind boggling. There is hope for me and every one of us, yet –big-time hope and serious good times yet to be had in paradise still to come. Thank God! One other point: of course there were other reasons for all the perfection stuff, such as we really can dig deeper and produce more out of ourselves than is our first, easy inclination or another being that really loving something is manifested/shown/proved when we will give up something else we really value for it, but, that’s my point: there’s meaning everywhere in everything in the Bible and it’s not singular for any one thing, either (unless perfection created it that way). One thing can have lots of meanings. Just like parables; amazingly short little stories than can have many, many meanings to many different types of people! So, the meaning behind any one thing is most likely, multiple, maybe even unlimited. Just like the one who wrote it.
    BTW, I struggle with the meaning and purpose of my physical disabilities (medical problems that have evolved over my life to the point of disability) and I have not yet found the “answer” in the Bible. I believe I have found more personally-frustrating questions and even reasons to doubt myself. What I have learned is this: God allows and uses everything. He’s a pretty sly and loving one; I know he’s got me reading his book which I might stupidly NOT be doing if it were not for my painful and debilitating medical conditions that leave me time to read since friends and loved ones have abandoned me… Hmmm… God does work in mysterious ways… I know my goal is to stay the course, to pursue my love for him with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind to the end. If I can do that, I’m definitely going to be enjoying a really nice, really healthy body for a long, long time in an awesome place with others who literally would never even think to judge another; it’s just not who they are : – )

  32. April 21, 2009

    Ha! These comments just how human ideas were inculcated in your minds instead of the Word of God.

    There you show your intention for religion but it is your own religion. Biblical religion is undefiled, not self-seeking but rather a faith manifested – a faith that is past from one faith to another. But I can’t see the faith of Paul nor the faith of Jesus Christ in you. I just read your human ideas.

    What I read in the bible is this, we glorify our God who revealed us the secret wisdom by His Spirit that knows our inner man of our hearts who taught us the words that we have spoken expressing in spiritual truths in spiritual words with special gifts to encourage each brethren with the same faith.

  33. Dug permalink
    June 3, 2009

    God “sat” in the holy place, this place due to his presence was to remain Holy. A priest in the line of Aaron (who’s lineage was accounted for since commission, curses don’t just fall off in the OT) had to go through immense preparations to even near Holiness, he was male because males are the spiritual heads of house-holds. His wife or a single woman (who’s head is her father, or owner if a slave) could not speak for themselves spiritually at this time. (the blood anointing had not yet come, funny how 2 strong women in the new testament where the first to get the good news and signify the start of the Christ covenant.) God made this world perfect and man in his perfect image, a person of disability, whether or not acquired after birth is not whole and perfect, even if they took these preparations they could not enter or near the the holiness of god because they are not whole and perfect (not missing anything not diseased, functional in every way). If they did near the holiness it would result in death, the impure cannot be near the perfect presence of god (and presence wins impurity burns away, exampled in Indiana Jones minus the ghost things). These passages specify that they are not to touch the offerings specifically, this is because if food is prepared my impure (remember we’re going for a sense of “perfect” and “purity” defined by how god made us) hands it taints the meat (much like you wash your hands, utensils, etc when making dinner) which then the odor will be displeasing to god it will not serve its purpose as an offering and will be nothing more then a barbecue. Remember God has laws he works by, the Pharisees knew these laws, which is why they had such power in the OT and the Jewish state, and why their minds could not see past there own preconceived notions of what Christ would be, Hind site is 20/20 we can now see that Christ fulfilled those laws but a lot in those laws is forgotten much like our current legal system Christ is a legal precedent, to apply it to nowadays like a bankruptcy his presence affords changes to applications of old laws that are not abolished but he creates a alternate process.

    On a side note to the application of birth defects, we live in a cursed world, God states he knitted us in the womb, this IMO doesn’t mean we are made imperfect by God, the process of DNA replication is much like Knitting in the unzip and copy process God dose Knit us PERFECTLY, he uses imperfect materials our perfect world is become threadbare and the yarn is thin. Keep the faith, remember history,and science just proves to show how complex the act of creation was: that every tiny piece of it is incredibly complex to do its business of saying I AM CREATED BY HE WHO IS I AM!

  34. DisabledAgnostic permalink
    October 25, 2009

    I’m 55 years old, a tetraplegic (that’s between a quad and para) since 1972, married 20 years, a grandfather, highly successful by worldly standards and a recovering fundamentalist since about the age of 25.

    The older I get the more I’m convinced the bible and ALL the religions of the world are simply man made fantasies. We humans are pattern seeking creatures who demand answers to things we don’t understand. And when provable answers don’t exist.. we’d rather pretend they do than live with the uncertainty of reality.

    That being said, I’m struck by religious apologists who’ve theorized that god’s Old Testament disdain of the disabled could have been “symbolic.” Huh? What happened to the bible being the “divinely inspired, inerrant, infallible word of god?” Those who demand literal interpretation of scripture simply can’t have it both ways.

    Same goes for those who postulate “god changed” from OT to NT. So what about god being “the same yesterday, today and tomorrow?”

    I really don’t need to hear all the “god works in mysterious ways” responses to which I say “B.S.” Religions are ‘entrepreneural’… constantly morphing and changing to give the people what they want. I’ve seen plenty of that in my own short life. This I know.. this I can prove.

    What I can tell you is that discrimination against the disabled remains rampant in churches –especially toward the mendally/ behaviorally challenged. I’ve personally witnessed ushers summarily eject a man (who had been coming to church several weeks and sitting on the back row) with touretts syndrome. I know of another church recently established and supported by others in the area for families of autistic kids “so they can run around and do their own thing.” “Seperate but Equal” was outlawed in the ’50’s.. but that was for race, but not disability.

    Aside from the few “inspirational crips” who make a living dithering on about how god enabled them to go on living, stigma against the disabled remains a huge problem. Carnivalistic, side-show, “fake healing” evangelists still profit from exploiting those old stereotypes of the pitiful, crippled, demon posessed sinners who can “be made whole” if they only believe (puke). Well “believing is seeing.” I prefer not living a delusion.

  35. Dostoevsky permalink
    November 18, 2009

    Well said, disabledagnostic! And it’s a very good point (that a few people made) about god supposedly being unchanging, and how you can’t have it both ways (the bible being 100% infallible, and then going around excusing the bad stuff in it all the time!) Why can’t people just take what’s GOOD from the bible, and ignore the bad stuff? That is how I handle everything ELSE in my life… Why not the bible too?

    I have some friends who make bad choices or believe some things that I think are damaging to themselves and others, or just not all that smart… But that doesn’t mean I can’t find wisdom in value in other aspects of those friends and their philosophy. The one does not preclude the other.

    Imagine if we had to go through life deciding if the beliefs of every person we met, or every organization we were a part of, every company we worked for, or every school we attended were 100% correct or not worth our time? It’s ridiculous!

    As DisabledAgnostic has pointed out, people like easy answers, black and white, plain and simple. Yeah, that’s a REALLY great way of going through life… Sorry but that’s ridiculous. I attend one of the best universities in the world (I work hard and pay through the nose, trust me), and I wouldn’t want to waste my time with professors or even classmates who had that sort of view of the world. Hmm, perhaps that’s the higher you get in academic, the more you notice a total LACK of hard-core, literalist Christians! Coincidence?

  36. Dostoevsky permalink
    November 18, 2009

    “that’s *why the higher you get”; excuse me.

  37. Musical prayers permalink
    February 12, 2010

    Julie- You have a valid question, one I have been asking myself of late…. I have several disabilities…with names and labels I prefer not to speak (I am optimistic that God will use us in a powerful way that we do not know yet) I have been told by some well meaning Christians that I have a generational curse, and I believe this is Psyc 101 (blame the victim) Since I was born this way, and I believe Christians cannot be cursed…. I hope to help with your question.
    Or maybe we can help each other, I am thinking we need to decide if a disability is a curse or a gift….. In a direct question to Jesus “Sometimes this passage has been interpreted as if the Bible regards people with disabilities as unworthy and whose injuries or sicknesses are a punishment for sin. We can see this interpretation behind the disciples’ questions to Jesus when they meet the man who was blind from birth: (John 9:2) “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’ answer is clear: “It was not that this man sinned or his parents.” This answer should have prevented any interpretation that the Bible teaches us that disabilities is a punishment from God for sins. Yet we meet such interpretations among Christians all over the world. Of course this is new testament….. versus old… but I want to feel I was chosen to have a disability for a reason..

    We cannot simply take one passage from the Bible and let it destroy us or our faith….. What else does the Bible say…….

    Today, the Bible says a great deal about God’s intentions for people with disabilities. We hear this loudly and clearly in our texts from Isaiah and Matthew. Isaiah says we will see God’s glory and majesty as weak hands are strengthened and feeble knees are made firm. This is a sacred promise for those suffering from arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and any condition that weakens hands and enfeebles knees. And there is more.
    The divine intention, says Isaiah, is to fortify those with “a fearful heart.” Storyteller Garrison Keillor says “Powdermilk biscuits” will do the trick for shy people. But Isaiah says God will supply the fortitude we need to do what needs to be done. Isaiah urges us to look for the coming of the Lord, when “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”

    Imagine someone being transported from antiquity to our modern age. Imagine them witnessing for the first time the miracles of modern medicine– eye glasses and contact lens, laser surgery, hearing aids, Cochlear implants, knee and hip replacements, and speech therapy, not to mention heart bypass surgery, effective cancer treatments, antibiotics, immunizations, and other marvelous drug therapies. Surely, the living God is at work through the practice of medicine.

    In addition, God is at work in the vast improvements that have been made in recent years in handicapped accessibility to public buildings, to restrooms as well as to parking. Plus, more resources than ever before are available through public education to children with disabilities and special needs

    But, says Isaiah, more is coming, “For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert . . . . A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way .” . . .
    Imagine if you will that the fast lane of this “Holy Way” highway is reserved exclusively for people with disabilities. All the gifted people–gifted with superior intelligence, exceptional physical strength and ability, youth and beauty, excellent coordination and rich talent. . . ., ‘Ya’ll move on over to the right lane. Make way for us in the fast lane on the King’s Highway!’ No one is going to get lost on this divine route, no reckless drivers will threaten us. Nobody’s gonna be honkin’ at old grandpa on the King’s Highway!

    And music! Just listen to the music: “come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness . . . .” For people with disabilities, says Isaiah, “sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

    I promise you; I am not making this up. You can look it up: Isaiah 35:1-10, it’s all right there.

    I have borrowed some of my information from other sources so I apologize for the plagiarism but I have a new interest in this “disability” which has turned my life upside down and brought me closer to God but not to understanding it… I would like to talk of this some more and see how we can turn this to good. For the glory of God and to educated people…. If I hear one more ignorant person’s opinion I will scream…. I will maintain my belief that this is some kind of gift…and I need to figure out how to use it.. I sing in a choir… on a limited basis and they are very understanding… Sometimes its hard to cope with people who want to pray over me and make me well…. (I think that will happen when Jesus comes back) I do not believe someone can lay hands on me and heal me… I do not like tele-evangelists who claim to heal…… so I am looking forward to finding out what you think of this….
    sincerely,
    Pat Vander Ploeg

  38. sherri permalink
    February 26, 2010

    As a woman born with cerebral palsy, God is my strength and my rock. I read the original post and started to cry. I haven’t read that passage in the old testament. I am comforted knowing that like in Jeremiah it says God knew me before he formed me in my mother’s womb, and remember the story of the crippled man and Jesus? The disciples question whose sin caused his disability and Jesus reply basically was saying that it was done to show God’s glory. I have experienced God’s love, protection and favor so many times in my life (especially dealing with my disability) that there is no way that I could feel less than or cursed. I’m not a theologian (obviously) but that is how I see it.

  39. sherri permalink
    February 26, 2010

    I went to the Bible to read about my other posts… the man wasn’t crippled but he wasn’t “normal”. I have no doubt that God loves him all the same…

  40. Craig permalink
    March 3, 2010

    well, im not sure if this was said in a previous post or you found your answer but what i believe is that this old testament stuff is different that the new testament(not saying that they contradict each other but the later reestablishes the first). where the new covenant was established with jesus, who obviously he loved the crippled! hed come to them and heal them and stuff! im not saying your going to be healed and stuff but that with God and Jesus you are saved no matter what your physically like!

  41. May 5, 2010

    People with disabilites are not excluded from ministry in the Orthodox Church. Up front, yes- the clergy there are visible icons of the new humanity, which is by definition free from disability. (But there are, for instance persons with Down Syndrome serving in the altar as subdeacons.) But digging a little deeper, one can glean from St. Paul’s first letter to the Crointhians chapter twelve the glorious truth that all are necessary in the Body of Christ, and there are many ministries that are not up front. All are necessary, and the persons are all equally members of the Orthodox Church, the Body of Christ.
    I myself am physically “whole,” but have not been chosen to be up front. But I have found many ways to be of service in the Church. And there really is something for everybody. As St. Paul exhorts us, (paraphrase), – let not the ear say, because I am not a mouth, I am not of the Body.
    And as for the person who wrote, “Wonder if all those rules are really from GOD or are just man written rules,” – which is a typical Protestant charge against the Traditional Church, which finds living continuity through the passing along of teachings and traditions from one generation in the Church to the next- I would direct you to 1 Timothy chapter 3, in which St. Paul writes of “the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
    The Scriptures and the living experience of the Church, interpreted not according to private interpretation but according to the consensus of the Church, make for a solid foundation which guards agains continual division of the Body of Christ which occurs through private interpretation. One Body, One Faith.

  42. October 14, 2010

    I don’t have this figured out either, but here is my take.

    The New Testament says, “There is no one righteous, no not one”. The Old Testament Law demonstrates that fact. Everyone is excluded and offended at one point or an other in the Old Testament. “Discrimination” and “prejudice” are particularly negative terms today largely because of historical occurrences of discrimination and prejudice that were unjust. But all thinking beings discriminate and pre-judge things constantly. In a large number of cases this is both reasonable and just. Discrimination and prejudice are not necessarily evil. For example, if I need someone to reach something high, I pick a tall person. This makes me a thinking person not a “small person hater.” The phrase “one armed wallpaper hanger” while insensitive to people with one arm (perhaps the author of this article) is none-the-less quite descriptive of a particular circumstance. Point 1: discrimination and prejudice are complicated topics that are not always evil.

    Your objection to this particular part of scripture (and a few other similar passages) is very much tied to your overall experience in modern life and your trust in the one making the rule. Modern culture unjustly excludes people with disabilities so it feels hurtful that God excludes physically flawed people from a part of the priesthood function. Add to this the modern church which, like the rest of our culture, unjustly disenfranchises those who have much to offer… and it is easy to feel that this verse is unjust. Point 2: our feelings about being excluded in this passage are greatly influenced by our current culture.

    However, what if you absolutely trusted that the one giving these instructions wholeheartedly loved the same people who were being excluded from this function? What if these words came from a wonderful friend who has a proven history of esteeming and helping the people who are being excluded here? In that case you would assume there is a reason for the action… that is neither unjust nor unloving. Point 3: trust in and knowledge of an author makes a huge difference in how we view the intent of the author’s words.

    Excluding God himself (thereby Jesus), the greatest Old Testament person (Moses) had a speech impediment and the greatest New Testament person (Paul) had a “thorn in the flesh.” These two great men reflect the overall theme of the Bible in which God uses “flawed people” to accomplish holy work. In fact, God seems to prefer to use people… the more obvious the flaw, the more likely God will use it to a good purpose. Point 4: a great theme of the bible is the inclusion of those exclude and the esteem of those who are disenfranchised.

    I believe God made me as I am and wants to use me as I am. If I am going to be used for my best, I must be excluded from things that are of lesser value for me and for God. Because I am excluded from a particular function (because of my gender or my physical difference) does not equate to my being excluded from my greatest purpose. The High Priesthood was an esteemed, high purpose but the Bible teaches again and again… that God is no respecter of position… he is a respecter of those with a clean heart. Point 5: being excluded (even from an esteemed role) does not mean I am being disrespected… it could mean I am being used as an example and preserved for more esteemed purpose. My highest value has more to do with my heart than my job function.

  43. November 16, 2010

    our kids furnitures are made from pinewood and my kids love it because of the nice colors ~”‘

  44. Shane permalink
    May 6, 2011

    If you read the last words on verse 23. God said “I the lord sanctify them.” I believe that he is saying you are al ready blessed by god no reason to eat or drink the flesh of jesus cause you arealready forgiven and purified of sins… I say read it closely. I have ax mental disability and I know god is with me. That doesn’t mean you have the right to kill cause then your killing the temple of jesus… So read
    the verse over and I think there is a more understanding then what you misunderstood…

  45. Matthew Owen permalink
    June 18, 2011

    Dear Julie, remember to that, that scripture in Leviticus was for the most special honorable way for a Priest to appear before God for such offerings, it was a sign of Respect to have the best of the best before God for such a Holy occasion.

    1 Corinthians 1:27,28 – “God chose the Foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame, and God chose the Weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame. And God chose the Ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon.”

    God chose men by their hearts ( 1 Samuel 16:7). Moses most likely suffered a stammer with his speech at first, David appeared weak among all his other brothers at first, Solomon was the son of a woman who had commited fornication with David, Jeremiah felt like a mere boy, even Paul suffered a severe problem in his chest and wasn’t wise with words.

    Acts 10:34 says “God is not partial.”

    To serve God especially with a Disibility is Great Honor, it truely shows faith.

  46. July 10, 2011

    Hi Julie, I know it comes as a shock when you first read the Word and find parts like Lev 21: 16-23. RELAX GET OVER THE SHOCK AND REJOICE THE GOD YOU SERVE IS EXACTLY THE WAY YOU THOUGHT HE WAS AND IS AND EVEN MORE. HE IS A GOD OF LOVE.The first thing that all must understand is that the main goal of God’s plan is to produce children, children like Him. (God is Spirit.) Because man lives in a physical state it is difficult to understand Spiritual things. For that reason God created a physical example, a shadow of things to come. (Hebrews 10:1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.) So what took place with Aaron and the priests, was never intended to be the final dimension. Only a shadow of things to come. The law caused a breech between man and God, because no one could life up to the righteous requirements of the law. THEN JESUS CAME, NOT TO abolish the law, but to fulfill it. (To give it a deeper meaning) and to act as the perfect sacrifice, in the Sp`irit.( 2 Corinthians 3:6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.) The time is coming and now is here, where we no longer operate according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”) This dispensation demands those that serve Him, not to be perfect in the flesh, but in the Spirit. In fact JESUS tells a parable about the wedding feast of the lamb in Luke 14 where he instruct us to give the best places to the disabled in the flesh.( 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”) EVERYTHING, THE WHOLE LAW AND THE PROPHETS, THE WHOLE CREATION, EVERYTHING WORKS TOGETHER TO PREPARE THE BRIDE OF CHRIST !!!! The make up of that church demand that it includes the destitute, the disabled, the poor, all the foolish things of this world as part of the make up, AND THE SELF RIGHTEOUS WILL MISS THIS FEAST.
    (LUKE 14: 16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”) Paul emphasizes it in 1 Corinthians 20- 26 that not only are the disabled an essential part of the church, but should receive special honour. (20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it) Right inn the beginning of the Bible we read about the children of Jacob and the youngest at birth, the mother wanted to name him, ben-oni (son of sorrow), because of the difficulty the mother suffered at his birth. BUT THE FATHER INTERVENED !!! and called him ben-yamin (son of the fathers right hand) in other words the ones that will be in the image of Jesus. When all the brothers received their bags to carry, Joseph (an example of Jesus) but his cup in ben-yamin’s bag. So Julie it is time that all believers must realize that the cup (the cross)n that you received is the cup of Jesus to test and see if the Church has changed their evil ways since Jesus’ death. But sad and alas it has not happened, they are exactly like you said to busy judging perfection in the flesh and not in the spirit. I am blessed to have the most beautiful wife that is a quadriplegic and I thank God everyday for the blessing of choosing me to assist her in carrying her cross. The should be a rush by the church to the highway and byways to get the lame, maimed, disabled, poor, hungry, destitute , broken, and bring them into the church to the front rows and places of honour, but instead they sit and watched the clouds, waiting to be raptured. HALLELUJAH PRAISE TO THE ALMIGHTY GOD, HE IS A GOOD GOD, HE IS LOVE !!!!!!!!!! (facebook address – http://www.facebook.com/tokkie.vanwyk facebook group —http://www.facebook.com/groups/135996099779764)

  47. August 28, 2011

    There are a lot of passages in Leviticus about eating, menstration, skin rashes, and the like — all very strange and medieval sounding. Now, what I’m about to say is just my view, but still I know He is good, which mean He is always good, regardless of whether or not we see it that way. And since it’s true that He’s good, these restrictions are meant for the preservation and protection of people He loves. Their or our protection and preseveration. It makes since that someone with a contagious skin rash should not be working with animals and blood; and in that society cleanliness wasn’t as common as it is now. As for menstration, what a gift to be able to go outside the camp, hang with other women, not be having to serve men and care for children, but hang with other chicks, rest and meet our own needs rather than someone elses — a gift, not a curse! Eating, well – shrimp loaded with cholesterol, pork is notorius for harboring dangerous bacteria and so forth. In that day and age, not eating that stuff was sound advice. So in this case, in a time and place where there was no assistance or people with physical or mental disabilities, placing them in a role that required strict adherence to a practice or procedure is also meant for protection and preservation. If He is good, then the reason He has for the restriction is also good. Nothing in that passage says that having a defect excludes one from knowing God, just from the work. I do admit that I find it very distasteful that the bible calls having a disability a “defect” but I imagine our current view of that word is much different than God’s. The spirit He gave us, the breath of life, he gives without regard to physical or mental difference. So my conclusion is there is a practical reason, not a proclamation of worthlessness, even if I don’t know what that reason might be.

  48. September 8, 2011

    Hi I wanted to share a remark here regarding you to be able to tell you how much i actually Liked this read. I have to run off to work but wanted to leave ya a fast thought. I bookmarked you So will be returning following work in order to read more of yer quality posts. Keep up the quality work.

  49. November 23, 2011

    I have been reading a lot of disability theology lately and the text you used is called the Levitical Ban. Strangely enough we tend to throw away huge junks of Leviticus as old law, and then keep parts that work for certain people and not others. Christ when he rose from the dead was a physically damaged. He had large holes in his hands, in his body and in his feet and his closest friends did not know him until they heard his voice. Would he have qualified to be an old testament priest. No. Not after the resurrection. So maybe there is a lesson there. Maybe he has brought us something new. The idea behind the curtain of the temple ripping when when he died was that all people now had equal access to God , not just the selected group of priests. We all have access to God. Christ with his new broken body is the sign of that new law for us. Not the old law which he fulfilled but the new one. We are all a part of the body of Christ.

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