Nancy Eiesland, theologian and sociologist, was 13 years old when she had 11 operations for a congenital bone defect in her hips. She realized that pain from this condition and from spinal scoliosis was her lot in life.
So why did she say she hoped that when she went to heaven she would still be disabled?
The reason, which seems clear enough to many disabled people, was that her identity and character were formed by the mental, physical, and societal challenges of her disability. She felt that without her disability, she would “be absolutely unknown to myself and perhaps to God.”
By the time of her death at 44 in 2009, Ms. Eiesland had come to believe that God was in fact disabled, a view she articulated in her influential 1994 book, “The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.” She pointed to the scene described in Luke 24:36-39 in which the risen Jesus invites his disciples to touch his wounds.
“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued: He is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing.
For her full obituary, go to: