Wondrously Wounded by Brian Brock is a multi-layered Christian theological analysis of disability that critiques not only the stigma of disability in today's church but also the context of modern capitalist society which gives shape to this stigma—to the fearful or averted gaze upon the differences of those labeled disabled. Brock is an academic theologian who has studied medical ethics, which makes Part Two of the book so compelling as he reflects on his own personal experience with the prospect of prenatal testing of his son Adam, who is later diagnosed with Down's syndrome and autism. The book is organized into five parts with two chapters in each part. Brock's primary audience is theologians who are likewise immersed in discourses of the Christian Bible. For a secular disability studies audience, this book may be of interest to a disability studies student or scholar who can approach this text with an open mind to learn about faith-based Christian interpretations of disability in Scripture and in the church community. As someone who is neither Christian nor an expert in theology, I was sometimes overwhelmed by the intricacies and depth of the theological analysis. Without a doubt, fellow theologians can appreciate this ambitious book's complex analyses in a different way. Nonetheless, I learned quite a bit from my non expert position about a Christian account of disability, or rather, what I see as Brock's reclamation of disability as God's wondrous creation (not a sign of evil or sin) through Christian primary sources. I will attempt to capture some of Brock's argument here.
Brock launches a critique of today's church as a place that is not always welcoming of people with disabilities. He incorporates disability studies criticism of the charity model and medical model, and he returns to teachings such as those from Jesus, Augustine, Gregory, Luther, and Paul in order to excavate or re-claim the radical aspects of Christian tradition that see inherent value in all human beings in all their differences. Brock locates disability in big themes such as the fall of man, the nature of sin and evil, and the healing of the resurrection. He criticizes the contemporary church for mistakenly linking evil and sin with disability, and for perpetuating the idea that the resurrection will erase or "heal" all disability. Brock wrestles with these problematic stigmatizations and brings in his unique perspective as a father of a son with disabilities. About his own son and reflecting on the theological question of the healing of the resurrection, Brock argues, "There is no other, better, or different Adam who was not affected by his genetic palette" (194). In other words, I see Brock re-framing the debate about the healing of the resurrection and arguing that Christians need to reorient perception through the eyes of wonder and in awe of God's creation; to accept fellow human beings exactly as they are.
In order to reorient this perception, though, Brock argues that Christians must face the arrogance of able-bodiedness that categorizes disabled others as somehow less than because they cannot perform certain tasks. He writes, "Disability precipitates crises of self-knowledge and brings sin to the surface. Sin is an irreducible part of a theology of disability because theology has a concern with the misperceptions arising from living a lie in relation to one's self" (143, original emphasis). I personally found this argument to be evocative in the way that Brock re-frames sin, arrogance, and the fantasy of "living a lie" in terms of a confrontation with disability. In other words, to me, Brock is arguing that the arrogance of able-bodiedness is a fantasy, that it is part of the sinful world to live in fantasies and not in the life that is given by God. Lastly, although his son Adam does not have the capacity for normative speech or to self-represent in normative political terms, Brock contends that Adam is intrinsically capable of faith in God and that Adam's unique witness displays God's hospitality and welcome in a world that is not always hospitable and welcome, especially to those with disabilities. Brock advocates for a theology of disability that embraces wonder, which means having a stance of openness, living in the present moment ("wonder can only be lived in the present tense" [162, original emphasis]), and receiving the life that one has been given and not living a fantasy outside of it.