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“Disabled God” theologian: Nancy Eiesland

“Disabled God” theologian: Nancy Eiesland

The New York Times reports that theologian and author of The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability, Nancy Eiesland has died: (see comments for error on date)

By the time the theologian and sociologist Nancy Eiesland was 13 years old, she had had 11 operations for the congenital bone defect in her hips and realized pain was her lot in life. So why did she say she hoped that when she went to heaven she would still be disabled? The reason, which seems clear enough to many disabled people, was that her identity and character were formed by the mental, physical and societal challenges of her disability. She felt that without her disability, she would “be absolutely unknown to myself and perhaps to God.”

By the time of her death at 44 on March 10, Ms. Eiesland had come to believe that God was in fact disabled, a view she articulated in her influential 1994 book, “The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.” She pointed to the scene described in Luke 24:36-39 in which the risen Jesus invites his disciples to touch his wounds.

“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued — he is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing.


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Nathan Roser

Sorry…I had read only the first third or so of Gutierrez’s “A Theology of Liberation,” was familiar with Tutu’s testimony before the Eloff Commission, and knew the conservative Catholic church’s reaction to the genre. Considering that Gutierrez does cite Marx a lot–a lot–I didn’t know that this methodology had broadened beyond an economic, dialectical critique of Christianity. My mistake.


I think in the last 20 years or so, Nathan, various theologies of liberation have broadened considerably. Particularly, they have been constructed by traditionally marginalized groups (hence, various ethnic theologies of liberation, feminist/womanist/mujerista theologies of liberation, LGBT theologies of liberation, differently-abled theologies of liberation, etc).

While the concept of “liberation” itself may emerge from a Marxist context, I wouldn’t say that Marxism is intrinsic to a theology of liberation (unless a specific theological inventor says it is! ;-/)

JC Fisher

Nathan Roser

Quick question. Was Ms. Eiesland in any way a “liberation theologian”? That is a specific term referring to a fusion of Christianity with Marxism, ie people like Gustavo Gutierrez, James Cone, Desmond Tutu (yes, him). Being a disabled individual, I can understand why one would be tempted to use the concept of liberation or freedom in discussing the concept of disability, but generally speaking, being a liberation theologian means something entirely different.

Ann Fontaine

uhoh – thanks Laura – check dates – check dates.


Ummm…she died over 3 years ago. Check the date on the link. Still worthy of reporting, of course, and the theology deserves attention.

Laura Toepfer

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