cover image How Ableism Fuels Racism: Dismantling the Hierarchy of Bodies in the Church

How Ableism Fuels Racism: Dismantling the Hierarchy of Bodies in the Church

Lamar Hardwick. Brazos, $19.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-58743-612-3

Pastor Hardwick (Disability and the Church) delivers a searing indictment of the ableist theology that has fueled racial bias in the American church and society. According to the author, Christianity played a foundational role “in developing a caste system in colonial America” by harnessing an ableism that “define[s] which bodies are best... [and] creates images of normal and ideal bodies that neither Black nor disabled bodies can achieve.” Initially, being a Christian meant that one was white, European, and of a “superior nature, intellect, and spirituality,” Hardwick writes. When the religion eventually spread to enslaved peoples, those who were baptized by European missionaries were frequently forced to vow “that their salvation only impacted the condition of their souls and not the material conditions they endured,” setting up a faith designed to “meet the economic goals of slavery.” Building his analysis slowly and methodically, Hardwick elucidates how the intersecting forces of race, ableism, and Christianity exert their power far beyond church walls. Among other topics, he touches on language used to describe disability and how it has been harnessed in secular and religious settings; the racism entrenched in the U.S. healthcare system; and how the Black church has symbolized a “safe space for bodies excluded from the mainstream church,” as well as how it might become more disability friendly. Marshaling fine-grained historical detail and scrupulous analysis, Hardwick persuades. (Feb.)