L'Arche, Medical Ethics, and Christian Friendship
Jason Reimer Greig
Drawing on the controversial case of “Ashley X,” a girl with severe developmental disabilities who received interventionist medical treatment to limit her growth and keep her body forever small—a procedure now known as the “Ashley Treatment”—Reconsidering Intellectual Disability explores important questions at the intersection of disability theory, Christian moral theology, and bioethics.
What are the biomedical boundaries of acceptable treatment for those not able to give informed consent? Who gets to decide when a patient cannot communicate their desires and needs? Should we accept the dominance of a form of medicine that identifies those with intellectual impairments as pathological objects in need of the normalizing bodily manipulations of technological medicine?
In a critical exploration of contemporary disability theory, Jason Reimer Greig contends that L'Arche, a federation of faith communities made up of people with and without intellectual disabilities, provides an alternative response to the predominant bioethical worldview that sees disability as a problem to be solved. Reconsidering Intellectual Disability shows how a focus on Christian theological tradition’s moral thinking and practice of friendship with God offers a way to free not only people with intellectual disabilities but all people from the objectifying gaze of modern medicine. L'Arche draws inspiration from Jesus's solidarity with the "least of these" and a commitment to Christian friendship that sees people with profound cognitive disabilities not as anomalous objects of pity but as fellow friends of God. This vital act of social recognition opens the way to understanding the disabled not as objects to be fixed but as teachers whose lives can transform others and open a new way of being human.
1. A New Approach to an Old Dilemma: The Ashley Treatment and Its Respondents
2. Exposing the Power of Medicine through a Christian Body Politics
3. Disability, Society, and Theology: The Benefits and Limitations of the Social Model of Disability
4. No Longer Slaves but Friends: Social Recognition and the Power of Friendship
5. The Church as a Community of Friends: Embodying the Strange Politics of the Kingdom
6. Beholding the Politics of the Impossible: L'Arche as an Embodiment of the Church as a Community of Friends
"Reconsidering Intellectual Disability is a challenging work of practical theology by a promising young scholar. . . . There is a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from its argument."—Catholic Books Review
"This is an important book. . . . As our society struggles . . . [Greig] reminds us of the importance of community."—Canadian Mennonite
"Offers a powerful account of how Christian communities can contribute to the transformation of the moral understanding of medicine in the West."—Mennonite Quarterly Review
"Many of those not yet familiar with this field of theological reflection will find Greig's argument challenging, inspirational and perhaps, indeed, life-changing."—Studies in Christian Ethics
"It is a call to reconsider the importance of friendship and servitude in human flourishing while shedding the medical model of intellectual disability as something that is broken. We would do well to reflect on these things as we read this book."—
"Greig has given us in Reconsidering Intellectual Disability not only an extraordinary, erudite analysis of the issues surrounding the people we call 'mentally disabled,' but this is even more a profound book whose humanity has implications far and beyond the book's explicit subject. This is the book that must be read by anyone concerned with care of the handicapped. I would rather say, however, that this is a book that must be read by anyone seeking to know how to live well."—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School, Duke University
"Reconsidering Intellectual Disability is a profoundly insightful and challenging work that will undoubtedly make a substantial contribution to the fields of Christian theology and ethics, medical ethics, and disability studies. Greig compellingly argues that a Christian theology of friendship is best equipped to see persons with severe disabilities not as problems to be solved, but as important members of the community whom we are called to befriend precisely in order that they can befriend, bless, and enrich us. Greig reminds us that a Christian account of friendship begins in an unwavering awareness of our own inescapable dependence and vulnerability, and that it is exactly that awareness that summons us to reach out in care and compassion to those who can teach us best what it means to love."—Paul Wadell, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, St. Norbert College
"Thought-provoking, challenging, and instructive, Greig takes Jesus’ foot-washing and farewell discourse (John 13-17) to his own and others’ friendships in L’Arche communities as the key to unlocking the medicalizing objectification of people with profound disabilities. In a critique of a Baconian influence on medical practice and philosophical thought that denies people with disabilities their personhood and relational potential, he exposes the uncritical assumption of this thought in clinical bioethics, exemplified in the 'Ashley Treatment,' persuading practitioners and the public to embrace ultimately alienating medical interventions."—Mary Jo Iozzio, Professor of Moral Theology, Boston College
Jason Reimer Greig spent eleven years with L'Arche, an international federation of Christian communities supporting people with intellectual disabilities, as a house assistant and spiritual life coordinator. He holds an MDiv from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and is working on his PhD in theology at VU Free University of Amsterdam.
304 pp., 6 x 9
304 pp., 6 x 9
Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ