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Becoming Friends of Time
Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship
By John Swinton
Time is central to all that humans do. Time structures days, provides goals, shapes dreams—and limits lives. Time appears to be tangible, real, and progressive, but, in the end, time proves illusory. Though mercurial, time can be deadly for those with disabilities. To participate fully in human society has come to mean yielding to the criterion of the clock. The absence of thinking rapidly, living punctually, and biographical narration leaves persons with disabilities vulnerable. A worldview driven by the demands the clock makes on the lives of those with dementia or profound neurological and intellectual disabilities seems pointless.
And yet, Jesus comes to the world to transform time. Jesus calls us to slow down, take time, and learn to recognize the strangeness of living within God’s time. He calls us to be gentle, patient, kind; to walk slowly and timefully with those whom society desires to leave behind.
In Becoming Friends of Time, John Swinton crafts a theology of time that draws us toward a perspective wherein time is a gift and a calling. Time is not a commodity nor is time to be mastered. Time is a gift of God to humans, but is also a gift given back to God by humans.
Swinton wrestles with critical questions that emerge from theological reflection on time and disability: rethinking doctrine for those who can never grasp Jesus with their intellects; reimagining discipleship and vocation for those who have forgotten who Jesus is; reconsidering salvation for those who, due to neurological damage, can be one person at one time and then be someone else in an instant. In the end, Swinton invites the reader to spend time with the experiences of people with profound neurological disability, people who can change our perceptions of time, enable us to grasp the fruitful rhythms of God’s time, and help us learn to live in ways that are unimaginable within the boundaries of the time of the clock.
Introduction: Time, Disability, and the Fragile Brain
Part I. Time and Disability
Chapter 1. Thinking about Time: The Tyranny of the Clock
Chapter 2. Time and Progress: Disability and the Wrong Kind of Time
Part II. Learning to Live in God’s Time
Chapter 3. Time and Christ: A Brief Theology of Time
Chapter 4. Becoming Friends of Time: Love Has a Speed
Part III. From Inclusion to Discipleship
Chapter 5. Time and Discipleship: Inclusion, Discipleship, and Profound Intellectual Disability
Chapter 6. Time and Vocation: Slow and Gentle Disciples
Part IV. Reclaiming the Heart
Chapter 7. Time and Memory: Dementia and the Advancement of Time
Chapter 8. Time and the Heart: Affective Remembering
Part V. The Horror of Time
Chapter 9. The Horror of Time: Acquired Brain Injury and Personality Change
Chapter 10. The Time Before and the Time After: Brain Injury, Human Identity, and the Hiddenness of Our Lives in Christ
Chapter 11. Time and Ritual: Funerals for Friends
Conclusion: Being in Christ, Being in Time: Every Body Has a Place
Appendix: Redeeming Time: A Lived Funeral
"How Swinton brings together God, time, and disability transforms the understanding not only of disability but also of church, society and ordinary life. This is a profound and moving book, both pastoral and prophetic. It takes further the insights of Jean Vanier, and above all invites us into the truth that ‘time is for God, God is love, time is for love.’"
—David F. Ford, Emeritus Regius Professor of Divinity, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge
"John Swinton reckons with how people who deal with medicine (meaning most of us) reckon with time. Swinton writes as a scholar, a nurse, a father, a husband, and a Christian. Previous books on ‘Time’ and ‘Faith’ have been unhelpfully detached from people who actually navigate an earth recognizable by humans who still read books. Becoming Friends of Time is written for people who use their own incarnate bodies to care for others while also thinking critically about how our bodies are being used and evaluated as machines."
—Amy Laura Hall, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Duke Divinity School
"With characteristic wisdom and grace, Swinton’s book invites us to reimagine time through rediscovering the gospel and the life of Christian discipleship in all its fullness in relation to the human experience of disability. His writing is elegant and embodies the gentle, time-full cadence it speaks about, offering a host of compelling insights along the way."
—Thomas E. Reynolds, Associate Professor of Theology, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
"With his usual insight and wisdom Swinton has written a timely book on time and disability. Swinton's work is profoundly human and humane because it is so determinatively christological. Becoming Friends of Time is a gift for all of us who struggle to survive in a world of speed."
—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School
John Swinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
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Books in Series:
Studies in Religion, Theology, and Disability
Becoming Friends of Time - Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship
Disability and World Religions - An Introduction
Disability, Providence, and Ethics - Bridging Gaps, Transforming Lives
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