Criticism of “Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood” from an adult with cerebral palsy

by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide

(Editor’s note: Mel is referencing a quoted bit of the book “Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood” posted up at NLQ recently)

This snippet of a book pushed all of my buttons at once.  I’d like to post the entire section first, then respond to the fallacies point-by-point.

This was published at Desiring God website, but please don’t give these lunatics any more web traffic.

It’s a story of a little boy whose body was weak. He couldn’t walk, and he was carried everywhere he went. Over time, he became needy, weepy, and constantly made requests of those around him. If you saw him, you would have pitied him. He was not even ten years of age and already way behind.

But then something happened. The little boy had spent most of his life in foster care. Then, one day, he was adopted by a Christian family. This was no ordinary family, however. It was one led by an old-fashioned father, a man whose blend of kindness and authority drew respect from his wife and children. His wasn’t the ultra-modern home you see on Hulu nowadays—teens eye-rolling, chaos reigning, dad zoned out on his iPhone, mom trying to tame the far-past-gone toddlers. This was a home where a father trained and pastored his children, and a mother devoted herself to her kids. This was a home where you were expected to pull your weight, pursue maturity, and sacrifice your interests to those of others.

This was the home the little boy entered. He couldn’t have articulated his feelings, but he knew something was different. There was order. There was discipline. And there was love, abundant love, that spilled out into laughter and playing and real conversation. But the boy wasn’t the only

one watching. The father was watching, too. He thought to himself, This boy isn’t lame. He’s not gonna be a track star. But I think he can walk.

After a couple days, he decided not to keep these thoughts to himself. He gently prodded the little boy, his new son, to try walking. So the boy did. At first it didn’t go well. This wasn’t supposed to happen. His self-identity was fixed. But then something clicked. The boy took one step, then another. A lurch became a walk. Pretty soon he, too, was caught up in the whirl of the home. He wasn’t the fastest, and the other kids had to help him at times. But the switch was back on. The boy had come alive. His strength was bigger than his weakness. His identity was refigured.

This true story elegantly illustrates what happens when the gospel speaks into our sexuality.

I’m so angry I’m having trouble typing coherently.

“It’s a story of a little boy whose body was weak. He couldn’t walk, and he was carried everywhere he went. Over time, he became needy, weepy, and constantly made requests of those around him”

Healthy children don’t have weak bodies.  If child is old enough to speak, but can’t walk, that child has a serious physical disability.  Responsible parents seek out medical help for children who have serious problems.

As an adult with mild cerebral palsy, I want you to know how much physical pain and limitations affect your emotional state.  This winter, I had a cerebral palsy “flare”.  I have hypertonic cerebral palsy that affects my legs most noticeably.  The night after Christmas, I was awake all night with painful muscle cramps in my left calf.  I wasn’t worried at first because I chalked the cramps up to a long car trip to visit family and not enough exercise.  Over the next four days, I slept about 10 hours because I could not get rid of the cramps in spite of exercise and lots of ibuprofen.

I was miserable.  All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t.  My leg hurt all the time.  I felt like crying, but tried my hardest to enjoy my extended family.  The only thought that kept me going was that I would feel better and sleep better when we got home.

Going home didn’t work.  Because of the holidays, I had to wait nearly 2 weeks from when we got home until I could see a physical therapist on January 6th.  By that point, I felt emotionally wrecked.

That little boy is not “needy”; he has real needs.  That little boy may be “weepy”; physical pain hurts.  If the little boy can’t walk, he’s going to need to make requests of the people around him to get items that he can’t reach and to help him re-position his body.  If the author can’t SEE that, he’s got a far more severe disability than that little boy.

“If you saw him, you would have pitied him. He was not even ten years of age and already way behind.”

Don’t project YOUR flaws onto me.  I wouldn’t pity that boy because of his disability.  I would empathize.  I would pity him for having such bat-shit crazy adoptive parents and I would report medical neglect if they were not having their son treated by a medical professional.

Plus, is the author a trained child development expert?  A pediatrician?  A physical or occupational therapist? A psychologist?  A special education teacher?

No, Owen Strachen is a professor of theology.  His time would be better spent thinking about Mark 2:1-12 than pretending he knows how far behind the child is.

 The little boy had spent most of his life in foster care. Then, one day, he was adopted by a Christian family.

Look, foster care has problems, but I don’t know how anyone would have missed a kid who was so very far behind on his physical milestones.  The foster parents I know would have pitched fits to be sure that this child received the physical and occupational therapy support that he needed.  Plus, if the kid is in foster care, the kid is in school.  He should have been receiving multiple pull-outs a week for work with trained professionals.  These glaring errors make me wonder if the author just made this story up because anyone with experience with public schools or the foster care system would know the details in the story are off.

Adopting a child out of foster care takes time.  People who want to adopt can’t walk in, say “I’d like to adopt a child, please” and walk out with a kid – even if they are “Christian”.  I know many people who have adopted children including special needs children.  Religion is not a key factor in building a new family.  Hard work, patience, and a willingness to ask for help matter far more than the religion of a family.

 It was one led by an old-fashioned father, a man whose blend of kindness and authority drew respect from his wife and children. His wasn’t the ultra-modern home you see on Hulu nowadays—teens eye-rolling, chaos reigning, dad zoned out on his iPhone, mom trying to tame the far-past-gone toddlers. This was a home where a father trained and pastored his children, and a mother devoted herself to her kids. This was a home where you were expected to pull your weight, pursue maturity, and sacrifice your interests to those of others. 

I can’t believe I have to write this sentence.

Shows on television are for entertainment purposes.  Do not use them for child-rearing advice.

More disturbingly, the author is setting up the “Hey, just give kids a normal home and everything will be great!” fallacy.  Life is not that simple.  This little boy will need more support and care than the average kiddo and pretending otherwise is a disaster in the making.

This was the home the little boy entered. He couldn’t have articulated his feelings, but he knew something was different. There was order. There was discipline. And there was love, abundant love, that spilled out into laughter and playing and real conversation

Now, Strachen takes the time to spell out what kids need: Order, discipline, and love will fix everything.

Those three things are not enough.

The father was watching, too. He thought to himself, This boy isn’t lame. He’s not gonna be a track star. But I think he can walk.

 Look at how quickly the adoptive father has limited the child’s potential in his mind.  He’s set the bar at “Walking is enough.  Kiddo will never be able to sprint, run long distances, throw a javelin, or jump high or far.”

That toxic mental limitation set by the father is going to hurt that kid way more than his physical disability.

Thank God my parents thought I could do anything I wanted to.  They encouraged me to run, jump, crawl, hike, ski, dance….. everything.

Do I have physical limitations?  Yes.  To quote my physical therapist, “If you decide to take up running, you’ll need to take up physical therapy too.”  I’m never going to be a ballerina or gymnast.  On the other hand, I can walk long distances, swim a mile, garden, folk dance…well, the list is too long to type out.

After a couple days, he decided not to keep these thoughts to himself. He gently prodded the little boy, his new son, to try walking. So the boy did. At first it didn’t go well. This wasn’t supposed to happen. His self-identity was fixed. But then something clicked. The boy took one step, then another. A lurch became a walk. Pretty soon he, too, was caught up in the whirl of the home. He wasn’t the fastest, and the other kids had to help him at times. But the switch was back on. The boy had come alive. His strength was bigger than his weakness. His identity was refigured.

Ta-da!  All is well!  Like all magic tricks, don’t be fooled by the illusion.

Yes, with encouragement, the little boy started walking.  That tends to happen over time with any group of people with non-degenerative muscular disabilities.  As the boy grew, his body got stronger.  With practice, the boy learns how to walk.

That’s a physical change, not a mental change in the kid.

Yet, by reaching that major milestone, the boy has reached his adopted father’s goal: Make the kid less of an obvious burden. Now that his needs can be shifted off on to his siblings, there’s no need for the father’s involvement.

In a therapeutic setting, the child would have multiple, progressive goals set. The therapists would find ways to help the boy learn to walk faster, walk on uneven ground, climb, run on even ground, run on uneven ground, hop, jump, skip and gallop.  All of these are worthy goals.  Plus, the boy is still growing.  He will need to be monitored for imbalances in his muscle development by an actual professional.

Years of work by the child, parents and medical professionals lie ahead.  Pretending otherwise is a slap in the face to people with disabilities, their families and the professionals who spend years mastering rehabilitation work.

This true story elegantly illustrates what happens when the gospel speaks into our sexuality.

WTF?

That sentence convinces me that the author either made the story up or it is “inspired by a true story” because sexuality has no real connection to anything previously written in the synopsis.

Gak.

Read everything by Mel!

Mel is a science teacher who works with at-risk teens and lives on a dairy farm with her husband. She blogs at When Cows and Kids Collide

Comments open below

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M Dolon Hickmon

About Suzanne Calulu

CLOSE | X

HIDE | X