What does the Bible teach about Disability?
Sometimes in discussion with antagonistic unbelievers a charge will be levelled against the Bible that it discriminates against disabled people. Frequently they will cite verses such as Leviticus 21:16-23:
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord's food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He … shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.’”
This raises two questions. Firstly, is it true that the Bible discriminates against disabled people? And secondly (since I will argue that it’s not) how does the Bible portray disabled people, and what does it reveal about God’s heart for people with physical, sensory or cognitive impairments?
First of all, the passage above has to be dealt with. It’s there in the Bible and we can’t avoid it. But it has to be taken in the context of the rest of Scripture. Could the God who also said: “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:14) really have meant that disabled people were inferior to others and unworthy to offer worship?
The descriptions of the tabernacle and the worship that was to take place there are redolent with symbolism. Many of the items and even measurements have been shown to have a meaning that points to something in the coming ministry of Jesus, the Messiah. And so this instruction about temple worship is not a declaration of the inferiority of people with impairments; rather it is symbolic of the perfection that God deserves from us – no half measures in our worship of Him – and also of the perfect, unblemished sacrifice that Christ was to offer in His death on the cross. I find it interesting that people with intellectual disabilities were not on the list of those debarred from priestly office. Could it be that we see as a disability something that God sees as an asset? More of that later.
A Creational View
It is clear from the opening of the Bible that humanity is God’s intentional creation, and is created in love. John, whose Gospel opens with an echo of the “In the beginning” of Genesis, emphasises this in his first epistle: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
Just as humans are created in love, they in turn are to rule the world in love.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26)
It stands to reason that a God who creates in love and whose “mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9) would expect his people to rule with love, not with a harsh domination.
It’s also clear from the creation story that both men and women are made in the image of God. He is not confined to either gender; men are not more reflective of his nature than women (or vice versa!). It’s also clear that both men and women are now separated from God by sin, as illustrated in the story of God seeking Adam and Eve after the Fall: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[a] of the day, and … hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8)
So the Bible has a very high view of humanity, both men and women. It is also very realistic about the evil and suffering that comes into our lives; it makes no attempt to minimise the extent of it or the fact that none of us is exempt from its ravages:
“Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
Suffering from God’s perspective
We are told that God has the tenderness of a father towards his children:
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ” (Psalm 103:13-14).
We are also told that He loves and cares for all He has made without exception:
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9).
God is also portrayed as participating in His people’s suffering:
“In all their distress he too was distressed.” (Isaiah 63:9, NIV)
And throughout Isaiah 53 a picture is painted of the God who suffers on His people’s behalf and bears their suffering Himself.
Suffering from our perspective
From a human viewpoint suffering often seems unjust, as it did to Job when his suffering seemed out of all proportion to anything he might have done to deserve it:
“What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high? Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he see my ways and number all my steps? “If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit; (Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!)” (Job 31:2-6)
But the Bible also explains (and many of us can testify to this from our own experience) that suffering can be the very thing that drives us back to God when we have drifted away from Him:
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word… It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:67, 71)
This is how C.S. Lewis expressed it: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”1 In this, we begin to catch a glimpse of the redemptive possibilities of suffering.
And it turns out, to everyone’s surprise, that suffering can even result in very good news indeed:
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
What Disability is Not
This gives disability a purpose which it lacks in almost every other religion and philosophy. For it turns out that disability is not karma, as some eastern religions would tell us:
“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (John 9:1-3)
It is not a curse, as some communities still see it:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Affliction or disability are not hindrances to God’s grace in our lives – quite the opposite:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me... For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
And, in contrast to the culture of Bible times, the culture in some parts of the world today, and the hidden culture that afflicts our own hearts when we shy away from disabled people (for a recent survey by Scope revealed that 67% of us say we are uncomfortable talking to disabled people), disabled people are not untouchable. Jesus demonstrated this when a woman with a haemorrhage crept up behind Him to touch the hem of his robe. She was healed and He singled her out for special honour because of her faith. (Luke 8:43-48) When a man with a contagious skin disease broke the law that excluded him from venturing into the city, and fell at Jesus’ feet imploring Him, “Lord if you will, you can make me clean”, the immediate response was to stretch out a hand and touch this man whom the law forbade Him to touch, and declare, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:11-13). When God chose to incarnate Himself in the person of Jesus, his attitude towards disabled people was quite revolutionary in His day, and if we’re honest, in our day too.
In the Bible, disability is not seen as caused by God, even though God is sovereign over it. When Job suffered, it was Satan who caused it, even though God permitted it. In fact, when Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) we’re told that He didn’t sin, but his unfolding conversation with God showed that he was mistaken; it was not, in fact God who had taken away, and it was God who restored to him more than he had lost. However, if disability is not caused by God, disabled people are created, valued and loved by Him:
“So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?’” (Exodus 4:11 NKJV)
Disabled people in the Bible
Joni Eareckson Tada once observed:2 “Our Saviour chose to flash His credentials as Messiah through ministry to disabled people…. A disability magnifies God's grace.... We in our wheelchairs get to prove how great and how trustworthy God is.” But positive images of disabled people in the Bible are not confined to Christ’s ministry; they are found throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Perhaps the best known example is Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. He was the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. He became disabled when his nurse fell with him in her arms as she was trying to flee from danger. We don’t know if he suffered injury to his legs or brain injury affecting the motor responses in his leg muscles, but either way he had a mobility impairment for the rest of his life. When David became king, he made enquiries as to whether there was anyone left from the house of Saul to whom he could show kindness for his friend Jonathan’s sake. When he found Mephibosheth, he did not single him out for his disability – he simply did what he would have done for any son of Jonathan. Nor, when he discovered his disability, did he recoil from honouring him; he treated him exactly as he would have done if Mephibosheth had been a powerful warrior. He welcomed him to his table, gave him Saul’s land and provided servants to farm it for him. This story becomes a powerful metaphor for the kingdom of God, where abled and disabled people sit together side by side as equals at the feast table.
Moses is another example. He was too frightened to speak to Pharaoh because he had a speech defect. (Exodus 4:10-16) We don’t know whether this was an actual speech impediment, or whether he suffered from a disabling degree of anxiety. Either way, God provided support for him in the form of his brother Aaron who was sent along to be his spokesman.
Elijah was very impressive in public; he called down fire from heaven in front of all the people and shamed the false prophets of Baal. He had great spiritual authority and was unafraid to challenge the king’s wrongdoing. And yet the day after his great triumph he was in hiding, suicidally depressed, and begging God to take away his life. God’s response, in 1 Kings 19, is very tenderly to care for his physical needs (food and sleep) to take him to a place of safety, and to speak to him in a voice of the utmost gentleness. How is it, then, that so many Christians feel stigmatised by their fellow-believers when they experience mental ill health?
In 2 Kings 7 there is a curious story in which the heroes are four disabled men. The King of Aram has laid siege to Samaria. The people in the city cannot leave and no one can enter; consequently the people are starving. A donkey’s head changes hands for the equivalent of £70, and people are even reduced to eating the bodies of those who have died of starvation. God supernaturally causes the Aramean army to hear the sound of an approaching assault force and they drop everything and flee. Four men with leprosy (who have been excluded from the city because the laws do not permit them to live in the community with a contagious condition) are discussing their future. They decide that their only two options are to die a slow death from starvation, or to surrender to the Arameans who might kill them, or might in fact imprison and feed them. They decide the risk is better than the certainty of starvation. But on arrival at the Aramean camp, they find the place deserted and all the Arameans’ possessions and food abandoned. They eat their fill, and then realise that they can’t keep this good news to themselves; so they break the rules by returning to the city of Samaria from which they are banned and sharing the good news of their discovery. The food is distributed and the Samaritans are saved from starvation by the action of these four men. This, too, is a striking metaphor for the church, with disabled people contributing to the life and health of God’s people.
Of course, disability comes to most of us eventually; most of us are in our temporary non-disabled phase! There are examples of people who, by reason of old age, have lost their physical faculties, but that is no barrier to them playing an essential part in God’s plans. Isaac, by the end of his life, is too blind and too confused to be able to distinguish between his sons, or discern that a trick is being played on him. And yet the blessing which he pronounced on his younger son Jacob had lost none of its spiritual power, and the things which Isaac foresaw for his sons did indeed come to pass.
Similarly, Jacob, renamed Israel and, by the end of his life too frail to get out of bed, quite deliberately switched his hands over and placed his right hand, the blessing of the firstborn, on the head of the younger of his two grandsons. Joseph, the boys’ father, remonstrated with him, but he made it clear that this was no mistake; despite his physical frailty he had seen that God had particular plans for the younger boy, and like his father Isaac, the words he spoke in his weakness at the end of his life came to pass.
In the New Testament, as well as Jesus’ healing ministry to many disabled people, there are examples of disabled people portrayed in a positive way, and of God using disability for good in people’s lives. Zacchaeus was of abnormally small stature; so much so that he had to climb a tree to see Jesus above the heads of the crowd. He had a history of making himself feel 'big' by defrauding people when he went to collect their taxes. Jesus noticed him, valued him, sat and ate a meal with him in his home. Being loved by Jesus enabled him to change and become generous.
St Paul became blind as a result of his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. We know from his own writings, and from the facts that he did not recognise the high priest and needed to use an amanuensis to write his epistles, that even after Ananias had been sent to restore his sight to him, he had a continuing eye problem. He wrote to the Galatians:
“You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.” (Galatians 4:13-15)
These are just a few of many examples of people vital to the purposes of God who had disabilities. Gideon seems to have had an anxiety disorder; Leah may have had a squint; Jabez was labelled negatively by others, but refused to be defined by that label; Naaman was more disabled by his pride than by his physical condition; Samson, despite being blinded, destroyed the temple of the idolatrous god Dagon; one of the first evangelists was the man who had been born blind (John 9). The Bible is full of people whose disabilities were no barrier to them playing a vital part in the history of God’s people.
Disability in the Bible
Disability is seen in the Bible as something that catches God’s attention:
“Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’ And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’” (Mark 10:46-51)
This man whom others regarded as a nuisance and tried to silence, was noticed, loved and ultimately healed by Jesus.
Disability is something that makes people deserve greater honour:
"Then Jesus said to the man who asked Him to eat in his house, ‘When you have a supper, do not ask your friends or your brothers or your family or your rich neighbours. They will ask you to come to their place for a supper. That way you will be paid back for what you have done. When you have a supper, ask poor people. Ask those who cannot walk and those who are blind. You will be happy if you do this. They cannot pay you back. You will get your pay when the people who are right with God are raised from the dead." (Luke 14:12-14, NLT)
This point is made even more clearly in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-26)
Disability and Jesus
Jesus is one who can call upon His Father to annihilate His enemies, but instead chooses the way of weakness. In so doing, He identifies with all those for whom weakness is a way of life but not a choice:
“While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.’ And he came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you came to do.’ Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant[b] of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?’” (Matthew 26:47-54)
This in turn is presented as an example for us to follow:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Jesus is also a Master who serves, again setting us an example. For the body of Christ to function fully, we must have an attitude and practice of serving one another, but we must also allow our disabled brothers and sisters to serve us, and must be prepared to learn from them and allow them to lead us:
“Jesus… laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.’ …When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’” (John 13:3-17)
Jesus is also totally inclusive. In fact, for his time, he was absolutely revolutionary in whom He welcomed: infectious people (Mark 1:40-42); disabled people – the Gospels are peppered with stories of His disability ministry; adulterers (John 8:1-11); social outcasts (Mark 2:14); foreigners (Matthew 8:5-13); women (Luke 10:39). His life was reinforced by his teaching; in the Sermon on the Mount He turned the world’s values upside down and declared blessed those who society considered cursed.
People with learning disabilities – the foolishness of this world?
Jesus recognised that God’s profoundest communication came not in words to the minds of the wise:
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Or, as the Amplified Bible renders it, “the childish, unskilled, and untaught”.) (Luke 10:21)
Those of us who work with people with intellectual disabilities observe that they are frequently quicker to hear from God than the rest of us. They are often seen as foolish in the eyes of this world, but are wise towards God. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:25 that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
It follows that people with learning disabilities are specially chosen by God:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
Importantly, how we treat "the least" of all is how we are treating Christ:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
Amos Yong summed it up superbly:3 “If people with intellectual disabilities represent the foolishness of the world, what hinders our viewing them as embodying the wisdom of God?”
This suggests that seen from an eternal perspective we should revise our whole view of disability. We who thought we had the advantages in life – the strong, the clever, the ones the world regards as gifted –find that on a spiritual level we have been severely disabled compared to our brothers and sisters who lack those intellectual giftings, but whose spiritual life is marked by abilities and giftings we never knew they possessed.
Disability and our Christian community
So, as a Christian community, whether an organisation, a church or a Christian Union, what can we do to ensure that the status of disabled people that we find in the Bible is worked out among God’s people today?
The first thing is to approach disabled people with humility, in the way that the Bible instructs us to approach everyone:
“For by the grace given to me I say to every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” (Romans 12:3-8).
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others..” (Philippians 2:3-4)
We should serve disabled people exactly as if we were serving God himself:
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me... And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:40-42)
Crucially, we must allow disabled people to use their gifts to serve us, the church and the community:
“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
The Christian disability charity 'Through the Roof' recently completed a survey4 of disabled people’s experience of church. One thing that emerged is that among the disabled Christian community there is such a wealth of spiritual wisdom and maturity, we can only ask why more of them are not represented in church leadership.
We must treat disabled people with more, not less, respect and honour. As we saw, they are to be given pride of place at the feast table (Luke 14. 12-14) and treated with greater honour (1 Corinthians 12. 23):
“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.” (Romans 13:7)
We must be clear that God takes unjust treatment of disadvantaged people very seriously indeed:
“I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted.” (Amos 2:6-7)
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’”(Isaiah 35:3-4)
This may mean that at times we have to fight for the rights of disabled people:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
We must go beyond mere inclusion. Disabled people don’t simply need to be included (although that’s a good starting place) – they need to belong. And in the church, of all places, there must be no “them and us”. John Swinton explains this distinction very clearly:5
“The problem we have with society is a real emphasis — and a quite right emphasis — on inclusion. I think at one level that’s fine. However, inclusion is simply not enough. To include people in society is just to have them there. All we have to do is make the church accessible, have the right political structures, make sure people have a cup of tea at the end of the service or whatever. There is a big difference between inclusion and belonging.
To belong, you have to be missed. There’s something really, really important about that. People need to long for you, to want you to be there. When you’re not there, they should go looking for you. When things are wrong, people should be outraged — absolutely outraged that people are doing things against people with disabilities.”
We are the body of Christ, and so we should do everything that Christ’s body did when He was here on earth. Where disabled people are concerned we should touch, embrace and love them as He did. Even after His ascension, Jesus gives us an astounding but clear example of physical love in action. In Revelation 1 the risen and ascended Lord appeared to John, His closest earthly friend. John saw him clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. So awesome was the sight that John fell at his feet as though dead. And then Jesus did something truly remarkable. This towering figure placed His right hand on John. The only way He could have done so is by getting right down there in the dust and dirt where John lay. May we be willing to go to where disabled people are and be right there with them, touching them and showing God’s love and care.
1 C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (1940; Repr., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), p.91.
2 Joni Eareckson Tada, in a video message recorded for the Enabling Church Conference, Bethel Convention Centre, West Bromwich, 3rd June 2014
3 Amos Yong The Bible, Disability and the Church, (2011; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
5 John Swinton http://www.ucobserver.org/interviews/2013/02/john_swinton/