I can’t tell if this is ironic or just unintentionally cruel… or maybe both.
The Mississippi Baptist Convention is hosting a one-night conference later this week with the theme: “In the Name of Jesus Rise Up.” That’s a reference to a story in Acts 3 where Peter heals a crippled man simply by asking for Jesus’ help:
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer — at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
He was walking and jumping after a lifetime of being unable to do either. An incredible story, but nothing more than that.
Anyway, here’s the awkward bit: The keynote speaker for the conference is Joni Eareckson Tada, a woman who became paralyzed from the shoulders down after a tragic accident in her teens and who may be best known for learning how to paint with the brush between her teeth.
So, basically, at a conference inspired by the story of a crippled man who completely overcame his disabilities through belief in Jesus, the main speaker is a quadriplegic whose fervent belief in Jesus will never change her physical situation.
She’s absolutely inspiring — no doubt about that — and she’s a prime example of someone who refused to let her disabilities define her as a person. That’s admirable and I’m sure her speech will be well-received by the Christian audience. But it seems downright cruel to celebrate the faith-based healing of a beggar in the Bible with someone whose presence shows precisely the opposite.
To be clear, what Tada has done with her life since her accident is incredible. She’s a role model in many, many ways, even to those of us who aren’t Christian. But she, of all people, seems like someone who would find that part of the Bible cruel in the way it portrays belief in Jesus as a sort of magical healing tool.
I hope, at the very least, she addresses that issue Saturday night.
I’ve reached out to one of the conference organizers to see if he can provide me with more insight into their thought process. I’ll provide an update if/when I hear back.
(Thanks to Neil for the link!)