"Reflection Part 1: Disability, Gender, and Collective Freedom" Transcript

Season 1, Episode 12

Suzie Lahoud: You know, I had a conversation with Sy after we had that discussion with Dr. Hardwick and he was saying, “You know, pregnancy is actually considered, legally, it's considered a disability.” If I'm honest, prior to that podcast episode, Sy, if you had said that to me, some of my sort of feminist inclinations would have been like, “No, it's not,” because something in me had to change in the way that I view disability. That you saying that is not telling me that I am less than or…

Sy Hoekstra: No, I’m saying, “Welcome to the club.”

Suzie Lahoud: You know, I'm like, “Well, if I'm in the club with Sy and Dr. Hardwick, you know, I'm in good company.” I don't need to try to hide this and pretend that this isn't happening. I can embrace that and, yeah, be liberated in that.

[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]   

Sy Hoekstra: Welcome to Shake the Dust, leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, a podcast of KTF Press. My name is Sy Hoekstra, here with Jonathan Walton and Suzie Lahoud. And we, today, are going to do a little bit of processing. This is something we're going to do every now and then, periodically. We’re not sure exactly how often. Don't worry, we're not going to make you have listened to all of our podcasts in order to understand what we're talking about today, but we are going to kind of be going through some of the things that we've been learning and stopping to think about how all of the people that we've been interviewing, the things- the great things that they've been saying, kind of fit into our framework of leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God.

And this is something, you know, a lot of podcasts do this. They usually, they typically do it like a little bit further in, I think, than we are right now. But the reason we want to do this right now is because, you know, like we said in the intro episode, we don't want to be just kind of churning out content all the time for the sake of being churning out content every week. We want to be, you know, taking time to sort of chew on what we're learning and really sit with it and meditate with it and not just kind of move on to the next thing.

Just remember, if you like this show, the best way to support us is to go to ktfpress.com and subscribe and to be like a monthly or an annual subscriber. We would really appreciate it. It helps support this show in a lot of ways. It helps support our future book projects that we have planned. And it gets you a weekly newsletter. It gets you bonus episodes of this show. And it gets you writing from the three of us. And, if you haven't checked out the blog yet, we would really, really appreciate it if you did.

So just as a quick reminder, we're, you know, the kind of framework under which we're doing all of this stuff, like we always say, is “leaving colonized faith to the Kingdom of God.” And, you know, we talked in our intro episode about what we mean by that- the idea of faith, the idea of Christianity developed in, you know, colonial Europe and the United States over the past few hundred years that is designed to sort of both like maintain and uphold, you know, these idolatries of power and prosperity and security that kind of developed within that context to both accommodate them and uphold them, I should say. So that's kind of our framework.

And I want to open it up to both of you now and just ask, give me a thing or two, something that you have heard from one of our guests that you found particularly important or that impacted you in a particular way. And give me a sense of how you've been thinking about it, how it's been affecting your faith or your spirituality.

Jonathan Walton: So basically, the two biggest things, I think, that have stuck out to me- without going on at length about every single guest…

Sy Hoekstra: Because we could!

Jonathan Walton: Because we could. Two things that struck me: the first one was the conversation with Reverend Dr. Lamar Hardwick, who talked about the propensity for me to- I'll say me cause I don't want to speak for everybody- to make heaven my type of heaven, so heaven would be comfortable for me. And something that I think he introduced in the podcast was this idea that Jesus was still wounded when he visited Thomas, and this was Jesus resurrected, this was Jesus after the Father had raised him from the dead. And I thought to myself, “Okay, well, what would that mean for me?” And if I am accepted on that side of heaven, perhaps I need to work to accept the limitations that I have on this side of heaven. The humanity, my humanity, is not an evil thing. So what stood out to me is, the way that my body works, the way that my body is, the limitations that I have, the stuff that makes me me, could still be good on the other side of heaven. And so every limit I think is a limit, everything that I might judge or think that needs to be fixed, that God accepts me and I am good enough. That's something that I've been wrestling with ever since that conversation.

Sy Hoekstra: Can you give us like a little snapshot of how you've been wrestling with that personally?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. So I think two things: one, just the idea of people not being healed is something that I think I've- having, you know, lost my mom, and lost my father-in-law, and lost like aunts and other people who passed away- I think, like my aunt has a chronic illness because of a stroke, and thinking about her being in this condition and she is trying to bend herself to fit in a world that's not made for her, when Jesus seems to bend the Kingdom of God to work for people like her. And I just wish we could do that more. And to be honest, like I, you know, our church, ever since I read his book and, you know, he talked about when the pandemic hit, all of a sudden we had resources for everybody who's sick and shut in, right. And like, I literally said to our church plant- like, it's a new church- and I said, “Look,” you know, “there are people that this was better for. Like, can we do that?” And in a church plant it’s all play. Like if you bring up a problem, you need to bring up a solution. And I don't, I don't have the capacity to create a solution right now. I take care of two kids full-time and work full-time and take… and I'm like,

Sy Hoekstra: And do this.

Jonathan Walton: And do this. And I'm like, I advocated for something, and then couldn't follow through because of my own, just limitations. And I've cut out what I can cut out, or what I think I should cut out at this point. And I'm like, “Okay, I have to lament that our church doesn't have capacity to do that right now.” And so, yeah, that's a big place for me. And then, I think, I've had insecurities about my own body since I got made fun of as a teenager. And so trying to see my body as good. When I look in the mirror that I, that God is satisfied with me, yeah, has been a struggle. And I'm not saying that anything is, you know, objectively wrong with Reverend Dr. Hardwick at all. It's just, when he talked, it illuminated something different for me.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. You're not saying he's wrong, but you're working with the reality that a lot of society says he’s wrong.

Jonathan Walton: Yes, exactly.

Sy Hoekstra: And his perspective from that. Yeah. I, there's so much tied up in disability and body image that's a, there are a lot of, we didn't get into this in the episode, but there are a lot of stereotypes around like, not- I don't know if stereotypes is the right word- but a lot of people think about disabled people as kind of non-sexual beings and like not attractive beings, you know, just because you're, in a lot of ways, unable to fulfill the ideals of what either men or women should be. It's both, frankly. We talked with Kristin Du Mez about- remember I talked with her about how, like impossible it is for me to be the kind of man that a lot of society, a lot of the church, a lot of Christian leaders want me to be. And so that just leads to a lot of, just complications when it comes to romance, frankly.

Jonathan Walton: So the second thing that stands out to me is Professor Kristin Du Mez’s book and the conversation with her. The thing that I just keep rolling around in my brain is, “What the heck was I taking in as a college student?” Like the period of time that she was mentioning, I was 18 years-old. I had just left Virginia and was in New York. And like the first book that I got…

Sy Hoekstra: You mean like the mid- 2000s, kind of?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. So I graduated in ’04. From ‘04 to ‘08 I was in college and like, yeah, the first book that I got from my best friend was John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life. I did not read that book, but I got it. I read like the first few pages of it and I was like, “This, this is not for me.” But I did read, like from cover to cover because of my Bible study, I read Wild at Heart. And I had questions, but I didn't question it. And I did not question its impact.

And I think I mentioned this before in another conversation, that I had a conversation with someone who is male, who was wrestling with what it would look like to follow Jesus around his sexuality. And he said, you know, his parents wanted a girl. And they dressed him up as a girl and they gave him a dress and they did all of these things and he was so angry.

And we were walking down the street and he said to me, “Jonathan, you know, you're the epitome of what it means to be a man. And I'm just not that.” And he had, we didn't know each other. Like we'd probably known each other for three or four months. And I said to him, I said, “You know, what you think of me as a man is shaped by the media in your country. Like I'm not what you're imagining.”

Sy Hoekstra: He wasn't from the US?

Jonathan Walton: He wasn’t. He was from Singapore. And I said, “You know,” I said, “just because I have on a durag and timbs,”at the time, “but I'm not what you've seen on television at all. Like, yes, there are things I know how to do because I am from a rural area. But none of these things make me a man.” But there was nothing that I could say that could tell him any differently, because we've just read this book in our Bible study that told him what manhood was.

And so those two conversations, I think. And all of them have to do with my physical body and how I'm perceived, both of those things, and how I relate to other people and relate to God in the most intimate way. Like, the body I inhabit every day. And so those, yeah, those things were really, really impactful and I'm still thinking about them.

Suzie Lahoud: That just makes me think, Jonathan, that’s such a great insight that both of the things that sort of ended up being most impactful to you are related to your body and how you relate to it. And that just makes me think how much our sense of our embodiment and our experience of that is wrapped up in this idea of decolonization of our faith. Because colonization is about commodification of the human body. And so, you know, being able to reclaim that idea that, you know, when God created us, he said, “It is good.” And moving away from that false dichotomy of body and soul, and soul is good and body is bad. And, you know, that crept in through philosophy and all of that, and getting back to a fuller picture of our humanity and being able to embrace that and reclaim that and be liberated physically and spiritually and emotionally.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. So another thing Dr. Hardwick said, remember, was that part of our colonial economy here related to slave labor, right, was about the most valuable people having bodies that could produce the most, right. And when he- like not valuable in an abstract sense, like how much, but I mean, literally, how much money someone would pay to own that person, right. We broke it down to that level and yeah, it is, it's not, I think, a coincidence that we in this society way overvalue how much you can produce and, or like how healthy and good you look; how many utilitarian things you can do because you grew up on a farm, Jonathan. Stuff like that is overvalued.

I think sometimes there's like a lot of progressive-y sort of language about, you know, embodiment and like understanding your body and being more comfortable in your body and listening to what your body's telling you. And I think sometimes that can seem a little abstract for people, but like, this is the connection here, is like, we feel so much shame related to like the physical bodies that we sit here in. And so much of that is related to the idols of power and security and economic prosperity from our colonialist history. So I think it's, it does not surprise me that that's one of the things that stands out to both of you a lot.

And it doesn't, it's like something that when you, I think, when you start thinking about the world from the perspective of disabled people, or doing theology from like, by disabled people, it is often quite freeing. And I think it's just a good example that you two are kind of living out in real life of how thinking about the perspective of people on the margins, people who Jesus cares about most, is freeing, right. Like how he frees those people, frees everybody. And I'm not saying that I don't think it's not liberatory or whatever to me, I'm just saying that that was, the stuff that he was saying wasn't as new to me as it was to you.

Suzie Lahoud: Maybe it's not revelatory to you.

Sy Hoekstra: Revelatory. That's the word. Yeah.

Suzie Lahoud: Cause you've had to grapple with these things long before we did.

Sy Hoekstra: But I find reading and talking to people like him to be just incredibly refreshing. And like I said in the show, I think, often very healing because it's, you know, other people affirming the stuff that I kind of deal with on a regular basis and think about on a regular basis.

Suzie, how bout you?

Suzie Lahoud: I mean, to be honest, two kind of conversations or points have stuck out to me since we started this podcast. And actually, one of them was also from the conversation with Reverend Dr. Lamar Hardwick. I hope that's okay. This episode may just end up being about…

Sy Hoekstra: No shade at any of our other guests!

Suzie Lahoud: No! And that's the thing. We've had so many phenomenal conversations and I just feel so privileged, but I think part of it is just how these interactions end up intersecting with where we're at in our own lives. And for me, if you've been listening to this show, I shared a couple times about the fact that I'm pregnant. I'm expecting my second child. I hope that's not overshare to some people, but I think it's important to understand and to look at how these ideas are contextualized as women. How our theology is contextualized as women in our everyday experiences. And, you know, being pregnant and having a baby, that's such a powerful, spiritual experience. And it can be a really powerful time in terms of the way that you see and experience God. And part of that is because it kind of brings you to your breaking point in a lot of ways. It forces you to press up against your limitations as a human being. But also it's incredible that you're doing that as you're being a part of this process that you really have no control over of having new life brought into the world. And so it's really this kind of miraculous time where I almost feel like, it's almost like heaven opens up in a way to have this miracle happen.

And so all that to say, the day that we, and I'm going to get real personal here, and content warning for those of you who have had difficult experiences in your pregnancies, the day before we were supposed to record with Dr. Hardwick, I thought I was having a miscarriage. The night before. And so it ended up being this really traumatic 24 hours. And this was late in my pregnancy. I was about to start my second trimester. So it's just kind of one of those things that you, obviously no woman, no mother wants to go through that. No couple wants to go through that. And Sy and Jonathan were incredibly supportive and understanding. And, but I got some good news the next morning that actually everything, it looked like, as far as we knew, was going to be okay. It hadn't gone in the direction we thought it was going to go. And so I came back from the hospital and hopped on the podcast…

Sy Hoekstra: Literally.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, like right after walking through the door. And it was, just like Sy said, it was so healing for me. Because I realized what I had really been hitting up against was the fear of my humanity that he talks about, and just hitting up against my limitations as a physical being and things that are just completely outside of my control. Because, you know, in that moment, when you think you're losing a child, it's just, all you can do is release because there's nothing you can do.

And so I think I've still been kind of coming back to that daily, as I'm still, you know, more tired than I normally would be, and feel that, you know, dealing with some brain fog and lack of acuity, and feeling maybe not quite myself, but remembering that that's okay. And that God not only embraces me in that, but there can actually be celebration in that. There can be a blessing in that. And even, you know, I had a conversation with Sy after we had that experience with Dr. Hardwick, or that discussion with Dr. Hardwick, and he was saying, “You know, pregnancy is actually considered, legally, it's considered a disability.” And it was interesting because, if I'm honest, prior to that podcast episode, Sy, if you had said that to me, inwardly I think some of my sort of feminist inclinations would have been like, “No, it's not. Don't call it a disability.” Because something in me had to change in the way that I viewed disability. That you saying that is not telling me that I am less than. Or that I, you know, have something that I need to overcome to be worth as much, or to be able to, like you said, produce as much.

Sy Hoekstra: Right. No, I'm saying, “Welcome to the club. It's very nice in here. Come join us.”

Suzie Lahoud: Exactly. And that was so freeing. And yeah, I think part of that was I'd found that community. I'm, you know, I'm like, “Well, if I'm in the club with Sy and Dr. Hardwick, you know, I'm in good company.” I don't need to try to hide this and pretend that this isn't happening and pretend that I, you know… I function differently now. I can embrace that and yeah, be liberated in that. So that was really, really powerful for me and continues to be, like I said, something that I've been holding on to.

Sy Hoekstra: Okay. So Suzie, the really interesting point that I think that brings up- and this is again, very closely tied to colonialism- is patriarchy and racism and homophobia and ageism, like, whatever you want to think about, all of them are basically an accusation- not only, or not fundamentally- but involve an accusation that a whole class of people are disabled, right. So like, women are incapable of dealing with their emotions, right. Or are just fundamentally less rational. Like that's just, all that is saying is women are disabled. Black people are incapable of handling emotions, but in different ways, right. Become violent, are lazy. Like again, those are accusations of disability. Homosexuality was actually a diagnosable disability in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [of Mental Disorders] for a couple of versions of it.

So I just think being able to say both that, like all those things are untrue about people. Like they’re not, it is not true that that entire class of people is disabled, but like the step further than that, like that, where you, I think you have to get to, if you're fully embracing the Kingdom of God would be to say, “But even if they were, that would not justify anything that we do to those people,” right.

It isn't true. Like I want to be accurate, obviously. But I also, the accusation that you are, that is, that's what it is, it's an accusation that you're less than, because you're disabled. That's what, that's what racism is, you know. Or it, in some ways, obviously racism is more than that. You know, misogyny is more than that. But that's what it includes. So I just wanted to put that out there because I think that's kind of, it's just another way of stating what I think you just said you realized through that conversation.

Suzie Lahoud: Wow. Yeah. And that’s such a profound point too, Sy, because it's, what you're pointing out is it's an accusation based on a lie. So you need to not only call out the accusation, you need to get to the root lie.

Sy Hoekstra: Yep.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, because again, also going back to our conversation with Professor Du Mez, which, I mean, I'll be honest. I could talk about that one all day long. I'm still processing that one. I mean, even this idea of, you know, telling men that certain behaviors or certain inclinations are inferior because they're too feminine. So that's, one, an accusation- that they're less of a man. But two, it's based on a lie that women are less than; that to bear any similarities to a female is an insult to your humanity.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, it’s playing off that fear.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. And so I think, yeah, that's such a profound point that, you know, as we try to excavate our faith from these untruths and from these idolatries, we need to not only be able to recognize the accusation, but we need to be able to get past that to the lie at the root of that accusation. What is it that makes that accusation sting? And is that based on biblical truth or not? Is that based on how God sees us and sees humanity, or not?

[“Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in briefly, then fades out.] 

Sy Hoekstra: Thank you so much for joining us today, everybody, for part one of this two-part conversation that we have split up into these mini episodes, just to give people some time to reflect and chew on a little bit of the things that we've been learning. We appreciate you being with us.

Please remember, if you can, go and check out ktfpress.com and consider subscribing. We really appreciate it. Also, if you can't do that, take a look at the free mailing list. Sign up for that also at ktfpress.com. Follow us on social media @KTFPress on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Subscribe or follow this podcast on whatever app you're using. Give us a rating and review. We really appreciate anything that you can do. All those things are actually quite helpful to us.

Our theme song, as always, is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra. Our podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam.

And we will see you all next week!

[“Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades back in. Lyrics: “Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” Song fades out.]  

Jonathan Walton: Maya was playing that game in elementary school where you write, you know, a word and then you do, like hers was “laugh,” so it’s L-A-U-F, and then you move your fingers through the paper, and you pick a number. And it's eight. And inside the eight is a question, right. And Maya…

Sy Hoekstra: Hey Jonathan…

Jonathan Walton: Yes?

Sy Hoekstra: Jonathan, is it you or Maya who doesn't know how to spell the word “laugh”?

Jonathan Walton: Oh, what did I say? L-A-U… Did I say L-A-U-F? What did I say?

Sy Hoekstra: [laughing] Yeah, that’s what you said.

Jonathan Walton: [busts out laughing]

Suzie Lahoud: [in a faux British accent] LAUF.

Jonathan Walton: [in a faux British accent] LAUFTER. LAUFING.

Suzie Lahoud: Laufing. That’s a very Winnie the Pooh spelling.