Saturday, February 2, 2013

Stop Staring, Please

Two and a half weeks ago, my dermatologist performed a Moh's surgery procedure on me to remove a patch of squamous cell skin cancer from the inside of the bridge of my nose. It really is more of a nuisance than a serious threat but the healing process has not been fun. It was painful at first and came with a swollen, partial black eye and an obnoxiously large bandage that blocked my vision. The big bandage took a week to get reduced to a large bandaid, and now I'm down to a small circular one that I almost forget is there ... until I go out in public.

This whole ordeal has given me a new perspective, and not just on the issue of why we need to use sunscreen. I already knew that and have chosen to ignore it for most of my life. The bandage is a consequence of my bad choices and a reminder that I have made a lot of them. But the reason I'm writing this is because the bandage has also become a trigger for making me realize how badly most of us react to those who are different from us. It's a realization that may even be uglier than squamous cell skin cancer.

It's only a bandaid people!

Little kids stare at me like I have a third eye. Adults in the airport pretend not to look, but then I catch them stealing glances. It's as if I had a giant growth sticking out of my forehead and it has made me think, "What if I did?"

What if, like the young man my wife and I saw in Times Square this week, instead of a two-week stint with a bandaid, I had a lifelong attachment to a giant growth that deformed my face and forehead? What if I had Downs Syndrome? What if I had a speech impediment? In other words, what if I could never take the bandaid off? Do we even realize how much we can affect the personality of someone simply by staring at them because they are different?

I doubt it.

Though this is a good reminder about how we treat people who are different from us, it is obviously not some profound insight I got from having a bandaid stuck to my face. The real reason I'm writing this came last Sunday when, in the midst of my two-week bandaid ordeal, our minister addressed the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in his sermon. I agreed with everything he said: That homosexuality is clearly condemned in the Bible; that same-sex "marriage" is an oxymoron; that we as a society should reject it; and that our reactions to the homosexual agenda are largely unproductive and makes things worse. All that said, it made me think, "What if your bandaid is homosexuality?"

I once flew with a flight attendant who commented that you could tell he was a homosexual "from outer space" ... and he was right. How do we -- how do I -- treat people like that? Is my first reaction to stare; to mock ... or to love?

Now, I know there are those who will argue with me about comparing the permanence and innateness of homosexuality with a bandaid that I can take off at will. I think there are good reasons to reject the idea that homosexuality is not a choice. I know there are good reasons to argue that homosexuality defies natural law and is therefore objectively immoral. I reject the very idea of same-sex "marriage." I am not arguing those points here. I could be wrong about them but if I am my point becomes even more relevant.

Let's assume I am right. Let's assume that, like my squamous cell skin cancer, the bandaid we stare at is there because homosexuality is a cancer that comes as a consequence of immoral behavior. So what? My being right about homosexuality has nothing to do with my treating other people -- most especially homosexuals -- with love and kindness, even in my own private conversations about it.

I have been guilty of failing at that responsibility -- that's what my bandaid really taught me.

We need to love homosexuals more than they love homosexuality, whether it's a bandaid they can take off or not.