This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is responsible for the wheelchair icon in the convenient parking spaces, for the Braille numbers in the elevator, for the accommodations made for students with learning differences in the classroom, and for closed captioning on television. It has provided people with all kinds of physical and mental disabilities access to places and experiences that the majority of people in America take for granted. New York’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio even declared July “Disability Pride Month” in the city. All of this is very much worth celebrating.
And yet, while people with disabilities have more access to opportunities and experiences than ever before, to assume that that ADA has remedied the problem of exclusion and prejudice against people with disabilities would be like assuming that the Civil Rights Act remedied racism. Such prejudices and the oppression they engender reach deep into our hearts; they involve our deepest fears and insecurities.
The comment code of conduct for the God's Politics blog includes familiar commitments to civility, courtesy, and respect, and even connects these pledges to biblical passages. But what if we went a step further in our understanding of blog comments -- and, for that matter, all of our online communication? What if we recognized our forays into online commentary as doing theological work?
Karl Barth invites that kind of thinking in his 1963 Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. In his chapter on the "community" -- a word that he argues is, theologically speaking, much better than "church" to describe the body of believers -- Barth makes the case that each member of the community of faith has the responsibility to bear witness to the Word. We do so, Barth says, in our very existence, in our service to "the handicapped, weak, and needy" in the world, and in our prayer. The community also does so in spoken and written words by which it "attempts to make its faith audible."
So I'm a fan of So You Think You Can Dance. I enjoy watching dance and I used to dance, so I like the show even though it is a mostly scripted reality TV program.