How Ableism Fuels Racism

Dismantling the Hierarchy of Bodies in the Church

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Publishers Weekly starred review

"Marshaling fine-grained historical detail and scrupulous analysis, Hardwick persuades."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

As a Black autistic pastor and disability scholar, Lamar Hardwick lives at the intersection of disability, race, and religion. Tied to this reality, he heeded the call to write How Ableism Fuels Racism to help Christian communities engage in critical conversations about race by addressing issues of ableism.

Hardwick believes that ableism--the idea that certain bodies are better than others--and the disability discrimination fueled by this perspective are the root causes of racial bias and injustice in American culture and in the church. Here, he uses historical records, biblical interpretation, and disability studies to examine how ableism in America led to the creation of images, idols, and institutions that perpetuate both disability and racial discrimination.

He then goes a step further, calling the church into action to address the deep-seated issues of ableism that started it all and offering practical steps to help readers dismantle ableism and racism both in attitude and practice.

A Note about Disability Language
Introduction: In Their Own Eyes
1. Disability, Blackness, and Early American Christianity
2. The Road to Racism: Ableism, Religion, and Racial Bias
3. John Piper and the Politics of Desirability
4. Do No Harm: Religious Rhetoric, Disability, and Healthcare
5. Blackballed: Ableism and the Black Church
6. The Disabled God and the Rise of American Jesus
7. Bodies of Work: Exceptionalism, Ableism, and Our Theology of Work
8. Disability, the Cross, and Unraveling Shame: Remembering Jesus and Reimagining Disability
Conclusion: Jesus, Joy, and Justice


"A mix of insightful theology, historical research, and personal narrative, this book is necessary reading for anyone who seeks justice in the church. Hardwick highlights the history of ableism and racism in US churches and invites us to a joy-filled reversal of the shame that comes from worshiping these idols."

Amy Kenny, director, Disability Cultural Center, Georgetown University; author of My Body Is Not a Prayer Request

"Ableism has been a fixture in our society for far too long, determining which bodies are deserving and which ones are not. It has also influenced architectural designs that dictate who can occupy public spaces--upholding views that trample on the dignity of the disabled community. Hardwick draws a connection between race and disability and what we must do to dismantle a hierarchy of bodies to achieve a more just society in our churches, communities, and the world. As he says, 'disability is not a dirty word,' and I join him in asserting that the time to resist believing this is now."

Terence Lester, founder of Love Beyond Walls; author of All God's Children, I See You, and When We Stand

"Lamar Hardwick provides a sweeping review of the way historical and theological ableism upholds American Christian racism. Grounded in his own embodied experience and pastoral perspective, Hardwick has given us a book that is relatable, persuasive, and perhaps most important, constructive. He not only levels incisive critique but also shows how embracing disability theology helps confront the shameful underside of American Christianity, heralding a fuller vision of God and humanity."

Erin Raffety, researcher, Princeton Theological Seminary; lecturer, Princeton University

The Author

  1. Lamar Hardwick
    Studio South Photography

    Lamar Hardwick

    Lamar Hardwick (DMin, Liberty University) is the former lead pastor of Tri-Cities Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and the author of Disability and the Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion. He is a graduate of the Yale Divinity School Clergy Scholar...

    Continue reading about Lamar Hardwick


"A searing indictment of the ableist theology that has fueled racial bias in the American church and society. . . . Building his analysis slowly and methodically, Hardwick elucidates how the intersecting forces of race, ableism, and Christianity exert their power far beyond church walls. . . . Marshaling fine-grained historical detail and scrupulous analysis, Hardwick persuades."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)