Sunday, 27 October 2013

Pat Robertson Proves How Off-Base He Is About Disability

Perhaps I should start my commentary on this story by admitting my biases, particularly about Pat Robinson.

I was once a Christian, but I'm not anymore. But  when people asked, when I was healing after my stroke, if they could pray for me, I never said no. Who am I to say that it doesn't help? I don't like the spin on this school of thought that summarily dismisses medical intervention as a way through God might healing a person, but I've never personally come across someone who believes this (as far as I know).

And as for Pat Robertson...I just plain don't like him, The homophobic, victim-blaming, ignorance that he spews reminds me of Ken Swanson and makes me want to have nothing to do with a God that he claims to be serving.

Knowing the kind of things that Pat Robertson is famous for saying, I wasn't too surprised at his recent reply on The 700 Club to a mother that her child was deaf because she was praying wrong. It annoyed me, as Pat Robertson's pronouncements generally do, for a couple of reasons. But the whole thing made me sad.

"I Have Prayed for His Healing"

This is something that we keep coming back to again and again, isn't it? This idea that disability is something that needs to be cured or healed. Mia Mingus, recently honoured by at the White House as a Champion of Change, writes about it in "Wanting More and Finding Disability Justice":

"Disability was always framed as a sad or bad thing, as something unfortunate that happened to me, a tragedy, a flaw. My experience with the medical world was one about “fixing” me and making me more “normal” and less disabled. This of course, echoed my experience of the world at large. I never saw disabled women in the media being desired or living whole complex lives, let alone disabled women of color. The messages always boiled down to: disability is wrong and undesirable."  Read More

Granted, I think that the idea that disability doesn't have to be looked at as something to be cured is a relatively recent idea, and not one to which people generally get a lot of exposure. Parents of disabled children certainly aren't getting it from the medical establishment. They're not getting it from the media. Hopefully they're getting it from support services to which they're referred, but it's becoming very difficult for families to get support services.

So I don't want to shame this mother. She gets enough of that from Pat Robertson in his next sentence.

Pat Robertson Chose the Wrong Direction

I don't expect Pat Robertson to give a discourse on how disability is too often treated as a negative and how we need to start questioning that.

I didn't expect him to say, (paraphrased) "Well, I've prayed like this before and it worked for me...I don't know what you're doing wrong..."

Seriously? This is his idea of helping?

What I *wish* he would have said, perhaps after "Well, I've prayed this way to heal deaf people and it's worked for me", and instead of "I don't know what you're doing wrong," is something like: "As you pray, are you considering what his doctors say about his deafness? Are you and your family learning sign language? What are you doing to make sure, if it's not God's will that your boy get his hearing back, that he has as a great life as any hearing child?"

That would have made the whole thing a lot more palatable for me, and kept Pat Robertson out of my blog. For the moment, at least.

Pat Robinson and Responsibility

I don't like people who don't use their power responsibly. Pat Robertson knows that people are going to listen to him and take what he says  (pun intended) as Gospel. That he shamed a mother who was desperate enough about her situation to write into a television show by telling her that her that her deaf son isn't becoming hearing (the way so many influences tell her he should be) because she is praying wrong  (adding  nothing else in the way of advice but "try something else", to add insult to injury)  makes me feel ill.

And those of us that know that disability shouldn't be considered wrong, or undesirable, or something that needs to be "fixed", "healed", or "cured" need to keep talking. This is a message that needs to be spread.


  1. Just a few comments on these very hot button topics for me:
    Pat Robertson: As Hitch would often say about Jerry Falwell: "If you gave him an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox."
    Prayer: When I would write about my son and my life, people would often say theu would pray for us. I always ask people NOT to pray for us and it's a myth unless they mean sending positive energy, Christians usually mean asking for some ssort of divine intervention...just don't think god cares that much.
    Cure: I'm all for it and we spend woeful little money on cure. i am sure my son will never be cured, but the comfort of his being in his body can be and will be improved. In the years to come: stem cells, cord blood banking, 3-D printers, etc. will vastly improve injured bodies and genetically injured children. There will be many cures in the future and I don't feel, contrary to many, that inabilities should be accepted. In years to come, SCI will be cured with stem cells and mobility enhanced with very light weight exoskeletons for those who wish. If cord blood banking was available at the time of Adam's accident, his injury could have been reversed. there is much hope for the future. Services for the disabled are as important as cures and improvements. This is somewhat controversial, but, you believe what you believe.
    Sorry for a blog about a blog. Best wishes....

  2. Your comments are making me think that I need to write a follow-up to this post, Phil, because I've made it sound much more black and white for me than it actually is.

    If someone came up to me tomorrow and said, 'We've got a pill that will give you the function back in your hand," I'd take it. And it's absolutely not unreasonable to look into cures for various disabilities, if for no other reason than they cause people to have to live in unmanageable pain (Tracey Latimer springs to mind, whose hip kept dislocating because of cerebral palsy...who would wish that on a little girl?).

    It's the perception that disability *must* be cured, and the assumptions that go along with it (that the disabled person can't contribute, can't have a meaningful life...that the person would be better off dead, as some parents are practically told when a prenatal diagnosis is made) that bothers me.

    I'd just like to live in a society where if science never lets me get full function back in my doesn't really matter anyway, because it doesn't change anything. :)

    But I get why you feel the way the way you do about this,

    Thank you so much for your comment...