A disabled 22-year-old Duke University graduate named Megan has started a blog to discuss her experiences with aggressive Christians who want to lay hands on her and pray in an effort to heal her. According to The Friendly Atheist, Megan, who has a rare connective tissue disease called epidermolysis bullosa, had heard people all her life asking, “What’s the matter with Megan?” and has named her blog “The Matter with Megan” in response.
”Having a visible disability is like shark bait for ignorant people lacking scruples,” she wrote in a blog post called “Please Don’t Pray with Me (In Airports)”. “I swear, the mere sight of crutches is like blood in the water.”
She described an incident that took place when she was 15 years old. She was at an airport waiting to board a flight when two women descended upon her family and asked her mother, “May we pray with your daughter?”
“(T)he next thing I knew I was caught in what can only be described as a quite unholy prayer sandwich,” Megan wrote. “The woman and her mother placed one hand on my back and one on my chest and right there, in the middle of the Ft. Lauderdale airport, began to feverishly pray on my body for Jesus to heal me. Between shouts of JESUS CRISTO! and HEAL HER FATHER GOD! their bodies shook violently, as if wracked by father, son, and holy ghost all at once.”
Situations like this, she writes, are not uncommon, and seem to happen particularly often in the Ft. Lauderdale airport.
“What IS it about the fucking Ft. Lauderdale airport?” she asked, relating a story of another trip in which a stranger asked her mother if he could pray for her. “I choked out a yes,” she said, “and picked a spot on the pavement to stare at and waited until it was over. He held out his hands and prayed for God to heal me, but with the added twist and flourish of asking God to take the Devil’s hands off me.”
The incidents, she said, while well-meaning, have left her with “scars on me as real as the ones on my body. Rather than heal me as they intended (and you know the old maxim about good intentions), they helped break my self-esteem.”
She concluded the essay by saying that she wishes people’s good intentions could be tempered by greater amounts of “good judgment.”
“I think that’s what God probably would have preferred,” she wrote. “Heaven knows I would.”
UPDATE: Raw Story spoke with Megan B and learned about life with EB (epidermolysis bulloma) and the path that led her to start her blog and advocate for the rights of disabled people.
Since her birth, Megan said, people have been offering to pray for her. Her parents have told her that after she was born, people placed her family on numerous “prayer chain” lists, offered blessings and even sent holy water.
“Personal prayer is one thing,” she said, “and I’m not going to deny anyone who wants to pray for me and my condition.” Regardless of anybody’s views, she said, “It’s nice to have good energy coming towards you.”
However, it is when people single her out in public settings and imply that her condition is the result of “the devil’s handiwork” that crosses a line, as well as “the underlying assumption that my life is so drastically terrible and miserable that I must need intervention from the Heavenly Father.”
Once a man approached her “in the shoe department at Nordstrom” and told her that he was “very adamant” that God would cure her condition by the following Thursday if she just believed with her “whole heart.”
“I was, like, 14, then, and I still have EB,” she reported.
Fortunately, these types of aggressive instances of proselytizing are rare.
“I would say more often than not it’s just a lot of stares and a lot of comments in general,” she said. EB produces scars on the skin’s surface that resembles burn scarring. People, especially children, are often asking what happened to her, if she was in a car crash or a fire.
The blog post “Please Don’t Pray with Me (In Airports)” was originally conceived as a monologue for a series of skits about feminism and issues that women face at Duke University. The committee assembling the program decided that the piece was not feminism-oriented enough to merit inclusion.
“They had an open call for submissions and I submitted this piece,” said Megan, in hopes of exploring and elucidating the topic of disability rights as they relate to feminism. “They thought it was hilarious, but they didn’t pick it because they didn’t feel like it was a feminine issue.”
The decision, she said, was “a bit stinging,” because “there is a lack of disability-related issues in the feminist dialogue.” The monologue, she said, was “about self-esteem and about self-image and that’s definitely a feminist issue.”
“Everyone has self-esteem issues and body image issues, but when you go out the door every day and have a definite fear that someone is going to think you’re contagious, as if you’re some sort of leper,” she continued, “that’s really scary.”
When asked how people might better approach her and other people with visible disabilities, Megan said simply, “Treat me like a person. I am a human being exactly like you. Say hello, ask how I am, but don’t make it the central focus of your interaction with me.”
“I think that anyone with a disability deserves decency and respect and human dignity,” she concluded, “as much as anyone else, regardless of their physical appearance.”
[Image of patient in wheelchair and care provider via Shutterstock.com]
[Ed. note: This piece originally called Megan an atheist. It has been updated after hearing from the blogger, who says she doesn’t identify as an atheist.]