David Watson raises a point that gets right to the heart of one of my big questions. The paragraph below comes from his response to a panel on disability and theology including Stanley Hauerwas and Hans Reinders.
Hauerwas and Reinders in particular have raised important questions about the ways in which we view human beings in a liberal society. By “liberal,” I’m not referring to a political position. I mean a society that presupposes autonomy, individuality, and agency on the part of its members. In this sense, both Democrats and Republicans are liberal, as are most forms of Protestantism. If our society places a high premium on autonomy, individuality, and agency, then people who are impaired with regard to their decision-making capacity occupy a very strange space, They are ostensibly people, though without full command of the capacities that define personhood and serve as ports of entry into the social world. They are outliers, and that is a dangerous way to live.
Watson nails a sticking point for me. Traditional Protestant soteriology — including Wesleyan — is mute in the face of persons who do not have the kind autonomy, agency, and cognitive competencies that Humanism and the Enlightenment take as their starting point. Our story about salvation is nonsense in the context of less mild forms of autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities.