The word idiot makes me uncomfortable in the same way that retard, dumb, and crazy do, but this card from this week’s postsecret collection really spoke to me. It reads: “My pastor always talks about how if people would find God they wouldn’t need pills. I’m bipolar but I took his advice–my pastor is an idiot!”
One of the defining moments in my life was when a particular revivalist was in town and my mom dragged me to go see him. During the service, the congregation got in this mode of deep prayer and speaking in tongues and he asked me to come up. When I went up to the pulpit, he started praying hard and telling me to get out of my wheelchair and walk. Of course I refused— at that point in time I couldn’t stand without support (and who wants to fall on their face in front of the whole church?) I had been getting this for years and normally the pastors back down. This guy didn’t. He yelled at me and told the congregation that I did not walk because I did not have enough faith. From then on, they whispered about me.
In my community, to be Korean is to be a Christian. The two are intrinsically connected and if you don’t go to church, you aren’t a part of the Korean community. I’m not sure that the pastor knew how much his words would change my life but that’s when I knew I was different from other Koreans here (and gave up on 13 years of trying to fit in with full-blood Korean people). That’s when I started struggling with faith and the hypocrisy of organized religion.
I think the more disabled people develop pride around disability, the harder time they will have with organized religion [sidenote: I reference Christianity because it is what I have experience with]. A big reason for this confusion is because to be a part of the church and to be disabled, you often have to be a person willing to accept a pat on the head, charity, and wishes for healing. Faith is a strong foundation that many disabled people are desperately looking for but if they believe that God made them as they are and that they aren’t “broken,” it goes against everything most churches teach. It shouldn’t be like that. But if they don’t have us, who will they save? Who will they perform their miracles on? How will they ever feel good about themselves again!?! (sarcasm..)
I hate that society’s need for an inspirational figure and something to pity has to get in the way of my struggle for faith, particularly when there have been so many times when it was just belief in a higher power that *literally* kept me alive…