Home Christian News Meet ‘The Autism Pastor’ Lamar Hardwick: Preacher, Author, Cancer Warrior

Meet ‘The Autism Pastor’ Lamar Hardwick: Preacher, Author, Cancer Warrior

In his forthcoming book, “How Ableism Fuels Racism,” Hardwick recalls this incident and interrogates how the suffering of both Black and disabled bodies has been normalized — in part, he argues, because pain has been associated with bodies viewed as morally inferior.

“Enslaved Africans were considered inherently disabled,” Hardwick told RNS. Categorizing Black folks as inherently flawed and in need of white supervision “justified racial slavery as an act of Christian benevolence,” he added.

Hardwick argues in his book that ableism and racism are interlinked, creating a hierarchy of bodies based on who is perceived as better, and more believable. This hierarchy also plays out in theological debates — theologies authored by people of color, including liberation theologies, are viewed not only as doctrinally inferior, but as originating from people groups that are inherently deficient, he contends.

After his chronic battle with cancer led him to retire as lead pastor of Tri-Cities Church, Hardwick posted a GoFundMe to tide his family over until disability benefits kick in. But even in retirement, Hardwick is scheduled to speak at several conferences on the topic of faith and disabilities this spring.

His community continues to pray for healing. “His priority will always be reaching those that other people think are unreachable,” said Stoval. “And I just don’t, I don’t think we have enough people doing that. I don’t want to lose that yet.”

Asplund told RNS that after his wife died from cancer, Hardwick preached at her funeral — and he wants Hardwick to preach at his funeral, too.

“He’s a champion,” said Asplund. “It slowed him down, but he’s ready to finish his Ph.D., he’s ready to go on and teach and write.” Asplund added that several of his own doctoral students at Regent University already cite Hardwick as an authority on the topic of faith and disability.

As for Hardwick, he continues to describe himself as “unshaken.” “It doesn’t mean things are not shaking. Lots of things are shaking and moving and rocking and being flipped over all around me,” he said. “But as far as my soul, I feel very solid.”

This article originally appeared here.