Reading Religion review of “Crippled Grace”

Crippled Grace: Disability, Virtue Ethics, and the Good Life by Shane Clifton

Review by AARON KLINK on November 12, 2018

Shane Clifton, Professor at Australia’s Alphacrucis College, combines insight and honesty in this exploration of Christian theology and disability. Books of theological reflection by the parents, siblings, and teachers of the disabled are plentiful. Books of theological reflections by disabled theologians are rare. Clifton’s voice is important because he reflects on theology as a disabled person. (In the disability community, debates over terminology are political. Some use “person with a disability” or “differently abled person.” This disabled reviewer chooses “disabled person.”) At mid-life Clifton became a quadriplegic due to a bicycle accident, an experience that shapes his reflection even as he is mindful that his challenges, questions, and experiences of an acquired disability are different than those of people born disabled or with a different disability. Attentive to the variety of experience of disability, he employs the stories of others in addition to his own to ground his reflection. The narratives he shares are realistic, brutally honest, and are both moving and gut-wrenching at times.

The book opens with the narrative of the father of a severely disabled daughter named Sunshine who is also a committed Christian. The story of his own reflection on his daughter’s disability becomes one of the touchstones of Clifton’s account. It is only after this story that Clifton turns to a chapter that outlines various Christian views of theodicy.

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