Why "Wife Swap" was important to me


No, I’m not thinking about changing my wife. No, I’m NOT going to marry another one (shame on you!). Yet, the latest episode of the ABC show Wife Swap was perhaps one of the most important hours of television I ever watched.

The episode featured a swap between a wealthy, evangelical Christian wife from Texas with a lesbian wife from California. It was very entertaining, indeed. Yet, watching the initial shock on the face of the family from Texas, when they learned the “new” wife was gay, was not the most significant part of the show.

It was the end, when the re-united couples face each other, that had the most impact. The Republican wife hinted that she was afraid that the lesbian wife would corrupt her children, that she was a sexual predator. She called her “depraved.” This caused the lesbian wife to cry bitterly and say, if I remember correctly, “why is it that people like you like to hurt people like us.” Her tears came straight from the heart, and they pierced mine.

That “face off” at the end of the show reminded me of a very important fact: the “other” is also a human being. Through those tears, I saw her humanity. I saw that she was someone like me. I do not approve of her lifestyle: I believe it to be sinful as God has taught me in His scripture. Yet, that does not take away from her humanity. That does not give me the right to smear her human dignity. The Lord will judge her (and me) on Judgment Day. On the Day of Resurrection, I will not be thinking about that lesbian wife on Wife Swap; I won’t even be thinking about my family, which I love so dearly; I will only be concerned about my sins, as the Qur’an told me: “Each one of them, that Day, will have enough concern (of his own) to make him indifferent to the others” (80:37).

The same goes with the other side of every conflict burning in the Muslim world. When we realize that the “other”–be it Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or even Shia–are human beings like us, we won’t strap bombs to our bodies and blow up a pizza parlor at lunchtime; we won’t fly planes into buildings killing thousands of innocent people; we won’t set off a car bomb near a mosque on the Day of ‘Ashura. When the non-Muslim American who wants to curse at a Muslim woman, walking the street wearing hijab, realizes she is a human being like him, he will hopefully think twice.

Yes, Muslims have been the victims of injustice. Yes, the majority of the world’s refugees are Muslims. Yes, Muslims are currently suffering under military occupation. Nevertheless, these ugly facts do not justify committing ugly acts of terrorism. Our Lord is Beautiful, and He only accepts that which is Beautiful. Killing innocent men, women, and children is not, and never will be, beautiful. It is an ugly aberration of our beautiful faith.

Believe it or not, watching Wife Swap reminded me of this.

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