Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Love and Acceptance for All?

I had a Facebook chat with a friend the other night.  It was a former high school classmate of mine but our friendship goes back further than that.  In fact, if I remember correctly, we met in 5th grade when he moved to our town.  We had lost touch after high school but now, through the magic of Facebook, have reconnected some 20 years later.

I remember back when we were in school, he always claimed he was going to be a politician - or a preacher.  (I'll save the irony of those two vocations being linked for another blog.)  So when we became Facebook friends, naturally I asked him which of those two paths he took.  He answered neither and he had entered the business world.  His reason:  Once he had come to terms with who he was, he realized that a career as a politician or a preacher wasn't possible.  He was a gay man and felt that because of this, neither of his childhood aspirations was possible.

I'm not going to spend the rest of this blog discussing the moral and ethical issues of a gay lifestyle.  It's a topic that most people - for better of for worse - have already decided upon.  What I am going to discuss is people - and how we treat each other.

I remember "talking" with my friend and upon hearing that he didn't realize his childhood dream, feeling my heart break for him.  I felt that again the other night as we were IMing back and forth.  Naturally, the recent news of all of these kids committing suicide because of their sexuality has really struck a chord with my friend.  I had been reading some of his posts where he's been sharing parts of the "It Gets Better" campaign on his wall.  And it got me to thinking.  Then it got me to worrying.  So when I saw him on Facebook, I asked him if life was really that bad for him back in high school.

I remembered him always having friends.  He wasn't unpopular.  And I don't remember people picking on him.  But, as is often the case when we are teenagers, I was caught up in my own little world of drama and didn't see what was really going on.

He was being teased and called names.  He was beaten up.  And worse, he couldn't share any of this with anybody.  None of his friends knew the truth.  His parents didn't know the truth.  He became very adept at pretending to be someone he wasn't.  And it took it's toll on him. 

As he shared some of his experiences with me, my heart broke again and my eyes filled with tears.  To discover that one of my friends had endured horrible things was awful.  What was worse was to realize that, not only did I do nothing about it, I didn't even know it was happening.

This is not about gay or straight.  It's about how we treat people.  As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.  As decent human beings, we need to treat people with respect.  Nobody should have to endure being tormented and tortured by others for any reason.  Nobody deserves to be looked down upon because we perceive them as different.

I wish this behavior could be chalked up to ignorant teenage angst.  But it can't be.  We can be just as bad as adults as when we were kids.  If someone is of a different religion, a different political party, a different sexual orientation, a different ethnic background - a different anything - some people feel as if it's alright to disregard them and treat them differently.  It's not.  Shame on us for thinking it is.  And shame on us for doing it!

Everyone deserves to have a place where they are loved and accepted.  If we can't provide that, Heaven help us all.