On Disability and Brokenness: A Letter to My Fellow Clergy and Clergy in Formation

This may not be an easy discussion, but it is a deeply, deeply necessary one. The subject I wish to broach today is one that is tremendously difficult for me personally, as it is for many people whom you will encounter in your professional and personal lives. The subject is language—specifically, language related to disability and the impact it can have upon folks when it is used casually or used as an analogy to express a point about the non-disabled experience, particularly when it is employed in the context of a sermon or other public teaching. It is often noted that language speaks volumes about a given society’s worldview, and one of the ways we can work to make this world just a bit better than we found it is by being intentional with our words and the ramifications they may have, ramifications which we may not even realize are present, because too many of us—and I place myself in this camp—are taught to be intentional with our words, but this has often not extended itself to being intentional with the words we use around disability. And indeed, for me at least, the fact that people often are utterly oblivious of the ramifications of their speech and the attitudes it conveys—subconscious and unintentional though they are–is what hurts me most profoundly.

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