The Influence of Friendship

Posted: June 25, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,
The inclusion of people with disabilities into the church is an important issue. I came across an excellent article about this subject on the CBM website, quoting Hans Reinders who is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a leading Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith.
 
Inclusion comes about when we focus on commonalities, not differences
Though friendship is a freely chosen relationship, and one of our most important possessions, it is not something we can achieve for ourselves, but a gift we receive. In the area of life most important to us, we are all dependent. Our universal openness to and need of each other is not dissimilar to living with disability, and this helps us link our lives together

Inclusion comes about when we relate to each other as equals
In friendship we place ourselves in each other’s hands – what is most important to us also makes us most vulnerable. This has helped Reinders reflect on the dangers facing people who find themselves in the hands of people who do not really love them – people who may feel obliged to help them, or are paid to do so, but are not true friends. Here is a place for the church – people who rejoice in dependence on Christ and one other, rather than on maintaining power and control.

Inclusion comes about when we commit to human flourishing and growth
Friendship is like soil most conducive to human flourishing – to people becoming all they can be. What makes us flourish is being chosen. This has helped Reinders reflect on the power of friendship to transform and change people and situations. Against the assumption that things won’t change, is the affirmation that love can and does change everything.

Inclusion comes about when our focus goes beyond public advocacy
Fighting for the rights of people with a disability is a good, political goal, but it cannot achieve the most important good of friendship. “Rights create the bonds of citizenship; unfortunately, they do not forge the moral bonds of friendship.” This insight has helped Reinders take the discussion about disability inclusion from arguments for equitable participation in public spaces to the deeper level of dismantling barriers surrounding the much more important sphere of friendship and intimacy.

 
Hans Reinders is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a foremost Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith. He is also the current editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, and author/editor of several books on disability and theology, including The Future of the Disabled in Liberal Society, Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics and The Paradox of Disability: Responses to Jean Vanier and L’Arche Communities from Theology and the Sciences.
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