Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lindsay's Gift: A review

A review: James F. McIntire, with contributions from Timothy J. McIntire and Lacey Elizabeth McIlwee, Lindsay's Gift: Faith Learnings from a Girl with No Words. N.P.: Just Words Publishing, 2020.

Lindsay’s Gift is in part a memoir of life with a disabled child, part theological reflection, part challenge, and all-imbued with a sense of purpose that is needed today. 

McIntire opens with a recollection that will be familiar to many who live with disabilities: at the announcement of his young daughter's diagnosis, a person told him that his house had been invaded by “the enemy,” and if he had stronger faith, it wouldn’t have happened. In a way, the book is a rebuttal of that idea: his daughter Lindsay, diagnosed with developmental disabilities, was perfectly strong, and ready to take on the world. Much as Benjamin Hoff describes Winnie-the-Pooh in The Tao_of_Pooh, she “simply is” and as such stands as a beloved child of God (18-20). 

The book is organized in a series of short chapters around a theme, such as “angels live among us,” an approach that is good for discussion or study groups (and a study guide is available). There are many stories in here that will be familiar to those who live with disabilities. These will also provide insight to allies and advocates. With the memoir and theological reflections, each chapter, although short, could provide fodder for lengthy discussion and reflection.

A few of my favorite things:

  • The mundane and the extraordinary in life run together, just as readily as the sacred and profane, and God speaks in both (36-37).
  • Life and baptism are never meaningless. It is not for any of us to decide or doubt how the Spirit moves in anyone. Grace is God’s gift, it does not require affirmation from the recipient or outsiders (43).
  • “I am what I am” at the burning bush is sufficient. We are. Not we are what we produce, or create, or whatever (48).
  • Recognizing each other as manifestations of “I am” is as important in our churches as is adding ramps, elevators, bathrooms, sound systems, and other accoutrements of accessibility (50). If we start with this, we can avoid thoughtless statements like calling someone a fire hazard for sitting in the aisle in their wheelchair (56).
  • None of us know how the spirit of God moves in another, whatever their diagnosis, but each of knows that the Spirit moves (85).
  • Her older brother is right on: people will often ask me what's it like being The sibling of someone with special needs and every time I answer is the same: I don't know, I didn't grow up with a sibling with special needs I grew up with two sisters who are both equally annoying (90). 
  • Her younger sister is too: Lindsay was born into a world that was not yet ready for her arrival... I like to imagine that because of society's maladaptation Lindsay built her own world (114). 
  • The topic of inspiration porn—this idolization to make us feel comfortable around disabled people also hurts the parents (131).

An epilogue discusses words that are used to hurt. Insisting on respectful language is not “political correctness,” it is understanding that insulting terms are not socially acceptable. 

Many of these terms derive from the early twentieth century eugenics movement, which was used as a means to eliminate “inferior” people or remove them from society (and the gene pool). A United States Supreme Court decision of 1927 (Buck v. Bell) confirmed compulsory sterilization. The horrors of the Nazi movement, such as Aktion T4, derived from these ideas. Hitler wasn’t a creative sort, but he was good at picking up the substance of undercurrents in popular dislikes and moving them to the fore. After the war, the United States returned to these ideas and promoted a  a cult of “normal” that sought to sum up the diversity of people in a single IQ number. 

"We're all in this together" is a frequent blurb on our local television stations. If that is true, Christians and other people of faith cannot stand by and continue to accept notions such as eugenics and derogatory language about others. As a social media meme states, the idea that some people are worth less than others is a primary cause of problems today.  This morning's news (outrageously false tweets, more minorities dead, and disability filicide for starters) serve as a call to examine ourselves, and this book will remind you why. 

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author, and he's a good friend, albeit distant. But he would be able to catch up with even my powered wheelchair and punch me if I posted an artificially positive review.

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