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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: How Ableism Fuels Racism by Lamar Hardwick 
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I will openly acknowledge that Lamar Hardwick, the lead pastor of Atlanta's Tri-Cities Church and a pastor with autism, wasn't on my disability theology radar and I wasn't sure what to expect from his upcoming release "How Ableism Fuels Racism: Dismantling the Hierarchy of Bodies in the Church."

I was blown away.

With "How Ableism Fuels Racism," Hardwick proposes that ableism and the resulting disability discrimination are the root causes of racial bias and injustice in American culture and in the church. Weaving together a tapestry of historical records, biblical interpretation, and disability studies, Hardwick examines how ableism in America led to the creation of images, idols, and institutions that would ultimately fuel both disability and racial discrimination.

After engaging in this discussion, Hardwick calls the church into action to address the deeper issues of ableism and offers practical steps to help readers dismantle ableism and racism in both attitude and practice.

As an ordained minister and seminary graduate who is also a paraplegic and double amputee, I've long immersed myself in the world of disability theology and long believed that the church embraces the hierarchy of bodies about which Hardwick writes. "How Ableism Fuels Racism" served up a myriad of Aha! moments for me and times when long-held beliefs were finally communicated with clarity. Interestingly, Hardwick even clarified for me what had troubled me with another book I recently read around the issue of "deconstruction." I may have actually shouted out "Yes, that's it!"

I've long believed that being accommodated by a church is the ground floor step toward full inclusion. It's far from enough, yet for an institution that fought against the ADA it's often seen as the ultimate gift for those with disabilities. Instead, Hardwick argues that the church should be passionately pursuing those with disabilities and others outside the "typical" hierarchy of bodies."

I'm telling you. Brilliant stuff here. I can't stop thinking about it. Precise in its criticism yet also constructive and forward thinking, "How Ableism Fuels Racism" confronts the shameful and shame-filled underbelly of American Christianity and offers a broader and more inclusive vision of God, faith, and church life.

How much did I love this book? I'm already reading it again.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic