The brilliant Eli Reimer. The first Down Syndrome person to walk in to Everst base camp.
I was contacted recently from someone in the US to see if I could support and publicize the efforts of a charity group known as The Elisha Foundation (TEF). The attached video showed stirring footage of 15 year old Eli Reimer who has Down Syndrome, trekking in to Everest base camp as part of a team which included his father. People who know me closely will understand that I have a special interest in the development and promotion of Down Syndrome issues so it was with keen anticipation that I tuned in to the video.
Slick and well edited, I was ready to hit the ‘share’ button and was already composing a short promotional blog piece in my head until Eli’s father spoke to camera.
My secular/liberal sensibilities were instantly rattled by a stream of evangelical Christian bunkum! I really didn’t like the way his son’s brilliant efforts were being undermined by his father’s medieval mindset which attributed his son’s achievements to ‘The Lord’ rather than a far more divine entity- Eli Reimer himself.
Christian fundamentalism like all religious fundamentalist movements, for me, really does leave the human race floundering in its mire of superstition, ignorance and petty factionalism, and it's such a pity that vulnerable people like Eli are used as unwitting pawns in these people’s dubious campaigns. In fact some Christians like former England football coach, Glen Hoddle, have expressed their belief that 'being born with Down Syndrome is a punishment from God for sins carried out in a past life'!
Christian fundamentalism might play well in Boidy-Bong, Idaho or within the comfortable living rooms of vile Tea Party activists, but over here in secular and religiously diverse Europe, that strategy risks alienating a lot of potential supporters. In the UK, less than one percent of the population attend a Christian Church.
As someone who used to be involved in organising outdoor activities for socially disadvantaged youngsters through a registered charity, I am 100% behind extending opportunities in the great outdoors to the disabled and those outside of the traditional routes into the outdoor activities. I also have no problem with Christian or other religious groups providing those services, But please God/ Jehovah/Allah, keep your proselytizing propaganda out of the equation and bestow your praise on your charges, not some abstract illusion.