The society we live in today has made great strides towards combatting racism, sexism, and classism and even though these things still remain they are not accepted as right by the majority of people unlike they have been in the past.
However we have created a new -ism perhaps one that is even more insidious and dangerous than ones we have faced in the past – the prevailing prejudice that is widely accepted in today’s culture is ableism. What is ableism you might ask?
It is defined as, “discrimination in favour of able-bodied people”, yet it goes much deeper than that, like the tip of an iceberg that definition is only the tip of the problem.
What is Ableism?
Ableism discriminates against anyone who is not ‘able-bodied’, and says to them that they’re worth less than someone who is in perfect physical and mental health.
Society’s grandest goal is seemingly to have people who contribute to society through working and paying taxes. Those that can’t do these things are seen as a ‘burden on society’.
Whose life is worth living?
Imagine there are two people, one person is a brain surgeon who works with a charity in war-torn countries and has won a Nobel peace prize for their work and another person is someone who needs round the clock care and can only blink.
Who’s life is more valuable? Whose death would you be tempted to call a ‘relief’ or a ‘mercy’? According to ableism, the brain surgeon’s life is much more valuable and the death of the disable person might be called a ‘relief’ or a ‘mercy’.
However, according to God – both lives are of equal value. You are not valuable because of what you do but because of who you are.
Today’s society has cast off the knowledge that God has created every person in his image and that human beings are precious and valuable not because of how they perform but simply because of them being created and loved by God.
In Psalm chapter 139, verses 13-17 David writes a beautiful piece of poetry about how God created him (and all humans):
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!”
God knows exactly how a person is going to ‘turn out’ because he is the author of life and creates every person who has ever or will ever live.
The Unseen Danger of Ableism
When we start thinking that only lives that contribute to society matter, it is not only those who have physical or mental health problems that are at risk, it is everyone.
The insidious nature of ableism bleeds into all areas of society and sends the message – if you’re not healthy, happy, and contributing it would be better if you were dead. Society’s god, as well as contribution, is happiness – the goal of life is to be happy and if you’re not happy then you’re failing.
Society says life isn’t worth living simply because you’re precious and valuable and made in the image of God. Society says that all of life should revolve around you being happy and to be happy you need to be in good health, with good money, and good success.
Struggle, pain, and suffering are to be avoided at all cost. Now suffering is a terrible thing but it can’t be avoided in this life, it should not be sought out but neither should it be avoided at all costs – even to the extent of ending your life.
In the Netherlands it is legal to end someone’s life through euthanasia (if requested) on the grounds of psychiatric problems. One such case was an otherwise healthy Dutch woman who was euthanised 12 months after her husband’s death due to “prolonged grief disorder.”
Where There’s Hope
Society might value being able-bodied, contributing, and happy but God is not like that. God not only values every single person equally but he also provides strength, comfort, and hope. God is there for us to help us through seemingly unbearable situations and to bring good from them.
Jesus Christ was born into a common family in an insignificant town and faced hardship and suffering throughout his life until ultimately he went to be crucified on the cross and died.
He knew all this would happen but he did not back away from it all and from it came the most glorious of things – his resurrection from the dead, defeat of sin and death, and provision for us to have reconciliation with God and inherit eternal life.
Jesus loved everyone and he didn’t back away from suffering and hardship so take heart from his example and remember that our value and reason for living does not come from our abilities or happiness but from the creator of the universe who loves and gave himself for us.
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrap-booking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.