OPINION: Physical perfection is ingrained superiority within Christianity’s doctrine of the resurrection

Michael Friant, Contributing Writer

Millions of people globally are born each year with unique traits and characteristics. Some of these characteristics are so ingrained into the existence of these individuals that suddenly taking them away, through perhaps the resurrection, would destroy the person’s essence.

In Life with Cerebral Palsy, I expressed that CP is so ingrained in me that I do not think of it as a disability, but rather just a part of who I am as a person. Therefore, in this article, I am going to explain why I do not believe that I will be cured at the resurrection and why the perfect body is a kind of superiority taught within Christianity.   

Believers all over the world just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From this single event in history, believers hold fast to the doctrine that one day they will be resurrected, and their bodies will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). While this on its surface is a harmless doctrine, it is how it is applied that has a sense of superiority to it. Believers like to quote this concept to anyone who is not neurotypical, whether that be a physical or mental disability.

I cannot tell you how many times someone has either flat out told me that I will be healed, have asked if they could pray for me, or worse yet, they just lay their hands on me and start praying for me. A perfect example of this is when this lady came up to me and just started praying over me without any permission. This is not done to other neurotypical individuals but rather to those who have visual defects and seem to be crippled. 

However, these same individuals quote Bible verses that indicate that the crippled is made in God’s image and that he has perfect plans for them.

Two common verses are Psalm 139:13-14 which reads: “For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this.”

 Jeremiah 29:11 reads: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Anyone taking these two verses at face value has to stop and ask themselves the simple question of if we are all fearfully and wonderfully made in our mothers’ wombs, then why does it make sense that people with disabilities would automatically be healed without a specific reason. So, either these folks choose and pick which theory to apply depending upon how they are feeling at a given time or they think they know better than God.   

Whereas, when healing does occur in the Bible, it is done for a specific reason and while the person still has time to live on this earth. Let us take for example the healing of the blind man who had been blind from birth due to no fault of his own or of his parents. Jesus says that his disability and subsequent healing was so “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-4).

Right off the bat one notices that he was healed for a specific purpose. Going along with this is the fact that he still had his life to live on this earth. Him, being able to see, brought more glory to God and had a more positive impact on the people whom he interacted with in terms of turning their hearts towards God. In heaven, however, these marvelous works will not be needed because all the people there will already believe in God. So, if God does not see a benefit of healing me in this life, then why would it be logical that I would suddenly be healed without any specific reason other than that disability is a result of a broken universe?

Regardless of the route of encouragement used in these interactions or how one perceives scriptures, the root issue stems from the Bible’s constant reference of the afflicted and how believers are supposed to help them. Luke 14:13-14 reads: “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

While this verse is focused on a particular activity, the concept of encouraging and interacting with the less fortunate and they will be rewarded is taught repeatedly through the scriptures and from every pulpit. With this kind of message being bombarded onto parishioners, it is no wonder why neurotypical individuals feel the need to be super encouraging to people with disabilities especially when they have the assumption that they will be rewarded for it in the afterlife. This at its core has a sense of superiority to it because believers feel like they will receive something special if they are seen aiding the crippled. It also instills in these individuals’ minds the sense that they have features that are unique to them and that their bodies are the ideal version. 

This mindset undoubtedly contributes to them not being aware of how the differently abled live their lives. Since it is ingrained into them that they must have the perfect body type, they are less likely to stop and see the crippled as their equals, capable of doing anything and everything that they want. Therefore, neurotypical individuals assume that their lives are easier to live and that the crippled individuals need to be pitied and somehow motivated with the thought of one day being healed after death or that it is God’s will.

When in reality both the neurotypical and the physically afflicted have to overcome challenges in life. Some challenges just might be more visible than others. This sense of the physically afflicted being healed also gives the neurotypical individuals a mental pass because it allows them to fancy a time to interact with them without the affliction and thus concocting a perfect out from interacting with the person with the physical disability.

For example, I have had individuals say, “I cannot wait for you to be able to hoop with us in the afterlife.” First of all, there is no guarantee that there will be basketball in the afterlife. Second, this sense of them having something that I do not is blatantly obvious. The reality is that I could probably hoop among many other things in this life if neurotypical individuals would stop acting like the ideal body is the only way for me to do these activities and start taking the little extra time it requires to include me and modify the said activity. 

Moreover, many of these visual defects are what allow individuals to do some of the things that they do. For example, I know cerebral palsy (CP) was the vehicle for me to be approached by Mormon missionaries which in turn allowed me to connect with certain individuals whom I later visited in Canada, Arizona and Utah.

Also, CP shapes a huge part of how I perceive the world, my beliefs and my general outlook on life. This undoubtedly has a role in my personality and determination when interacting with other people. In other words, taking away CP would destroy my essence as a person.

If I did not have CP, I would not be at UNCW right now interacting with The Seahawk or any of my other friends at UNCW because CP has dominated my whole existence up to this point in terms of the people whom I have interacted with, the delays in development, the surgeries which, in turn, prolonged my academic career, is a major factor to why I am living in Wilmington, etc. If CP has played such an intimate role in everything I have done, taking that away from me is pulling my whole existence out from under me.  

Therefore, since the perfect body is the cornerstone doctrine of the resurrection, which was just celebrated, it was discussed why I believe I will not be healed and why the perfect body has a superiority when used to pity the crippled. The discrepancies are between being healed and being made in God image. However, when God did heal, it was to bring glory to his name on this earth. 

So, while I don’t know whether or not I will be healed, I suspect that the afterlife won’t be as neurotypical as people might think. So instead of giving me your pity and providing yourself excuses for why you are not currently interacting with me, take the time to get to know me or anyone with a physical disability. 

To find out more about me and my mission in life, please visit @potentialfulest on Instagram.