Sometimes I just want to cry. The editor of The Journal of Medical Ethics recently wrote in Readers Digest that parents will have the moral obligation to genetically enhance their children for preferable traits, including personality traits. Part of his argument is that we already do this reactively by screening for genetic anomalies like Down syndrome. His unstated case is that aborting children with disabilities is already so normal that it just follows we should proactively alter our children’s genetics for their (and supposedly our) good.
The list of leaders in academic institutions, governmental agencies, the courts, large private foundations, and media outlets who are openly against the birth of children with disabilities (and in some cases, against the life of children with disabilities after they're born) is crushing in its length and influence.
What chance do our children have in this environment?
It looks like a complete despair. But there are some encouraging signs...
- Since our Desiring God conference on disability and the Bible was first announced, I have heard from churches large and small across the United States and a few other countries. Some have formal disability ministries, and many, without formal programs, simply love their members as best they can.
- Parachurch organizations, also large and small, are intruding upon the evil influences of the culture and providing respite for families, opportunities for education, modified recreation and encouragement in the Word. Many of these already have international aspects to their work, like Joni & Friends’ Wheels for the World, the Elisha Foundation’s work in the Ukraine, and 99 Balloons efforts in Africa.
- Disability is being woven into books helpful for the entire church, like Paul Miller’s A Praying Life and Michael Beates’ Disability and the Gospel.
- Disability is being included in training for pastors, leaders, and volunteers in children’s ministry. Children Desiring God's national conferences have included a disability component for every conference since 2005, and will do so again in 2013.
The Fight Is Just Beginning
The fight, of course, is not over. It is only just beginning in earnest. The massive weight of the world is against people with disabilities, especially the most vulnerable with severe cognitive disabilities. Just in the past year new tests and new technologies have become available to find (and usually destroy) children with genetic anomalies in the womb.
And the church, with only a few exceptions, doesn't reflect the demographic reality that almost one in five Americans lives with a disability. Too many churches continue to see people with disabilities as problems rather than who they are — image-bearers of God. Too many families experiencing disability still report they cannot find a church home.