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Receiving the Gift of Friendship
Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics
POD; Published: 4/14/2008
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6232-7
Price: $ 41.99
414 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Does what we are capable of doing define us as human beings? If this basic anthropological assumption is true, where can that leave those with intellectual disabilities, unable to accomplish the things that we propose give us our very humanity? Hans Reinders here makes an unusual claim about unusual people: those who are profoundly disabled are people just like the rest of us.

He acknowledges that, at first glance, this is not an unusual claim given the steps taken within the last few decades to bring the rights of those with disabilities into line with the rights of the mainstream. But, he argues, that cannot be the end of the matter, because the disabled are human beings before they are citizens. "To live a human life properly," he says, "they must not only be included in our institutions and have access to our public spaces; they must also be included in other people's lives, not just by natural necessity but by choice."

Receiving the Gift of Friendship consists of three parts: (1) Profound Disability, (2) Theology, and (3) Ethics. Overturning the "commonsense" view of human beings, Reinders's argument for a paradigm shift in our relation to people with disabilities is founded on a groundbreaking philosophical-theological consideration of humanity and of our basic human commonality. Moreover, Reinders gives his study human vividness and warmth with stories of the profoundly disabled from his own life and from the work of Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen in L'Arche communities.

Don Browning
— University of Chicago
"Receiving the Gift of Friendship is a profound and moving argument for the humanity of profoundly disabled persons, their capacity for friendship, and their ability to reveal our relationship with God. It will be viewed as a breakthrough contribution to the emerging field of practical theology and the ministry of the church."
Jean Vanier
— founder of L'Arche
"Are people with severe intellectual disabilities fully human? In the most remarkable way Hans Reinders reveals to us their capacity to relate and to receive and give the gift of friendship. . . This book is necessary reading for all philosophers, theologians, and those in the human sciences. We are confronted here with how the exceptional, the different, the one who so often is put aside opens new doors for understanding the truth of who we all are and how we can all develop more humanly."
Trevor R. Parmenter
– University of Sydney
"Hans Reinders goes to the very heart of the mystery of what it means to be a human being. If we truly believe we can see God in every other person, then we shall have reverence for all human beings, irrespective of whether they are disabled or not. Reinders comprehensively challenges the perceived lack of personhood of people with profound intellectual disability through the prism of the Trinity."
John Swinton
— University of Aberdeen
"The ‘blessing of intimacy' is not one that is available to all people, particularly those whom we choose to name ‘profoundly intellectually disabled.' Why would we desire to claim such people as friends? What can they give that we might desire to receive? And yet, at the heart of the gospel is the deep promise that God desires to befriend human beings, not for what they are, for what they have done, or for what they will do, but simply because they are. In this rich and deeply insightful book Hans Reinders opens our eyes and hearts to enable us to see and live this oft-forgotten truth. . . This is a powerful book that will make a difference in people's lives."
Allen Verhey
— Duke Divinity School
"This wonderful book helps us to understand not only the humanity of persons with profound disabilities but also our own humanity as cherished children of God. Moreover, it helps us to understand how a friendship with a profoundly disabled person, whose very humanity is sometimes questioned, might remind us of our own humanity, for we too are dependent on God's grace from first to last."
"Those interested in disability theology will appreciate Reinders' work for being unapologetically theological as he challenges existing paradigms, offering possibilities far beyond the language of justice and rights. Perhaps the true significance of this work comes from his invitation to move beyond using rationality, capability, and achievement to define ourselves. This is a move many will find profoundly counterintuitive, yet it is also consistent with the Christian story."
Reviews in Religion & Theology
"Receiving the Gift of Friendship is a deeply learned book, and yet reading it is a most moving experience. . . . It should find its place in postgraduate reading lists, particularly those whose theological concern is for ethics, and where the question of theological anthropology is not only interesting, but urgent."
Practical Theology
"This book makes you think, it challenges notions many people take for granted, it causes us to re-think certain categories on being human and is perhaps one of the most important books written on theology and disability for some time."
Anglican Theological Review
"This superb book is a model of method in theological ethics and a substantive contribution to the theological literature on disability, friendship ethics, and theological anthropology."