God's Spirit in Motion?
This article, by our CEO Tim Wood, first appeared in the ‘Connecting with Culture’ weekly e-mail produced by London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
Over the next fortnight the Paralympics will welcome 4,000 disabled sportsmen and sportswomen to London and seek to emulate its motto, ‘Spirit in Motion’. The Games will value and recognise each competitor equally as an athlete, celebrate every individual’s God-given talent, and provide accessible facilities and assistance to ensure a truly rewarding and inclusive experience.
This positive environment will contrast with UK society more generally, where disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty, and more likely to suffer abuse, hate-crime, physical violence and abortion. Research shows that 65% of families with disabled children frequently feel isolated, with one in five such families breaking up. The daily struggles disabled people face pose uncomfortable questions.
Games Chair, Lord Coe, declares: ‘London 2012’s vision has always been to use the power of the Games to inspire change... to change attitudes and break down barriers to social inclusion.’ The Government likewise maintains that the event ‘will showcase a Britain without barriers [and] a country in which the whole of society takes responsibility for changing the lives of disabled people’. It seems our sport and political leaders perceive the influential role the Games has as a catalyst for change. I wonder, do we, as Christians, acknowledge the part that we might play in pursuing parity?
The message of Jesus in Luke 14 is of inclusivity. He advises not to ask friends to a dinner party, but to invite the marginalised members of society – those living in poverty, or with personal experience of disability: people who are forgotten and overlooked (14:12-14). Jesus expresses the heart of his Father through the parable of a house owner who throws a banquet and orders his servants to go out and bring in ‘the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (14:21). God’s kingdom isn’t complete without disabled people at the table. It is precisely in human brokenness that the brightness of the gospel of grace is seen in all its power.
London’s Paralympics will provide a unique sporting stage for the fortunate few, and reveal the abilities and spirit of disabled people. It also offers the ideal backdrop to profile the injustices faced by disabled people and to offer a compelling alternative.
Beyond this Paralympics, will we seize the baton and strive together to invite disabled people to join God’s Spirit in Motion?