I came across a truly horrible Scripture passage today, Leviticus 21:16 – 23
- The LORD said to Moses, 17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the LORD. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.’”
As Christians we often feel the need to talk around passages like these–to defend them. Sometimes, however, we simply need to face up to the fact that some texts cannot be defended. obviously, in making this statement, I’m saying something of my understanding of the nature of biblical inspiration ( Yes, I do affirm biblical inspiration, yet this does not mean I cannot question or critique the biblical text)–but that discussion can wait for another time.
For now, it is enough to ask ourselves the question, do our attitudes to people with disabilities of all sorts (especially mental disabilities) reflect religious texts (or common attitudes) such as these or have our values been shaped by the gracious inclusivity of Jesus? I suspect we hope the latter but in reality the former will too often be true of us.