Do We Honor the Deformed and Handicapped as Our Equals?

John C. Rankin

[excerpted from First the Gospel, Then Politics …, 1999, Vol. 2, not published]

For those are conceived and born and live with any type of deformity, are they any less image-bearers of God than the rest of us? They are as fully needful (nephesh) as all of us in his sight.  If we rationalize the destruction of the weakest in our midst, we not only mock the ethics of the Messiah, but we destroy social order as well.

I remember seeing a television interview years ago with a woman in her thirties who was quadriplegic and unable to speak without difficulty. She was an only child whose parents had nursed her through seven or eight major surgeries in her early years to save her life. In the process, neighbors and friends challenged them as to why they were wasting so much time and money on a “hopeless cause.” Their response was simple, “Because we love her.”

When this woman was being interviewed on television, she spoke of all her trials and how hard they had been, but as well, she was on the verge of completing her Ph.D. in sociology. She then looked at the interviewer and exclaimed how amazing she found it that those of the abortion mentality wanted to have people like her aborted “to spare them [the deformed] the suffering.” (In reality, the abortion mind-set is often a ruse meant to spare the healthy the “burden” of caring for the infirm and deformed.)

She continued and said some words that have always stayed with me, which went something like this: “Let me tell you the highlight of my day. It is when my parents get me out of my wheelchair and put me into bed. It is when I experience the lovely feeling of the cold crisp bed sheets against my body and face. I don’t know the feeling of running in the breeze or having sexual intercourse, and yet those who do know those feelings want to deny me the few simple joys I can have. Isn’t that amazing?”

I was on the verge of tears when I listened to her testimony. I remember the joy of cold crisp bed sheets as a little boy, and placing my hand between the sheets and pillow case, loving its comforting feeling as I fell asleep.

Too, in the 1980s, I recall all the arguments of “therapeutic abortions” to “save” people from suffering in life. A friend, a social worker who cared for the disabled, was shocked at a growing consensus among her peers – “These people would have been better off aborted.”

[Addendum: I have a granddaughter who did not survive the womb, and she is in heaven. When we learned, ex post facto, that she had Down Syndrome – I loved her all the more. The “least of these” whom Jesus loves. The sad reality is today, with prenatal diagnostic abilities, more than 90 percent of Down Syndrome children are aborted. Human abortion is evil.]

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