On March 21, 2009, The New York Times carried the obituary of Nancy Eiesland, 44, theologian, perhaps best known for her 1994 book, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability. Dr. Eiesland was an associate professor at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Much of Dr. Eiesland’s work focussed on disability and religion. She was also co-editor of Human Disability and the Service of God (1998), and Contemporary American Religion: An Ethnographic Reader ( 1997).
Dr. Eiesland was an important figure in shaping disability perspectives on religion and critiquing Christianity for its failure to capture disability experiences and perspectives. Douglas Martin, in her New York Times obit, remarks:
The reason, which seems clear enough to many disabled people, was that her identity and character were formed by the mental, physical and societal challenges of her disability. She felt that without her disability, she would “be absolutely unknown to myself and perhaps to God.”
By the time of her death at 44 on March 10, Ms. Eiesland had come to believe that God was in fact disabled, a view she articulated in her influential 1994 book, “The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.” She pointed to the scene described in Luke 24:36-39 in which the risen Jesus invites his disciples to touch his wounds.