by Bonnie Perry, Adventist free-lance writer and homemaker living in Rockville, MD
Once upon a time, very long ago and far, far away, there was a tiny village where the villagers, for reasons one can only speculate upon, had come to the conclusion that it was a very evil thing for a person to wear (and some felt even to NEED to wear) eyeglasses.
Many of the more religious among the villagers pointed out that it was contrary to nature to wear those ugly things. Obviously God had originally intended for people to see with only their eyes. And furthermore, they reasoned, scripture was full of scathing passages referring to those who would not see. It was perfectly clear to them that these people were openly practicing sin by putting on their eyeglasses, and sin was sin and could not be condoned!
Others agreed to a point, but felt it was important to make the distinction between the inability to see clearly and the actual wearing of eyeglasses. They firmly believed that if a vision-impaired person bore his burden patiently and without glasses, there was no sin. The sin was in the putting on of eyeglasses.
Then there were others who did not care to discuss why, when, where or how; they just knew in their heart of hearts that it was wrong, and their biggest fear, particularly as parents, was that their vulnerable children, being exposed to such behavior at a tender age, would think it acceptable, and might wish to wear eyeglasses themselves.
At any rate, it was an extremely emotional issue, and especially threatening for some who suspected they were not able to see as they should. So, as man is prone to do, they persecuted even harder what they were afraid of in themselves. Names like “old four eyes” abounded.
Naturally among those poor unfortunates who found themselves with failing eyesight, there was much anguish. At the extreme there were some for whom the prospect of being totally ostracized by their community was too painful to face and , in utter despair, they took their own lives. Others, perhaps blessed with a stronger will to survive, but still fearful, became more resourceful. Sneaking under the cover of darkness to the sleazy little optical center across the tracks, they associated with others of their kind and purchased glasses, which they used only in utmost secrecy. And, if the truth were known, several of the village’s most respected leaders and pillars of the community wore contact lenses, which could only be detected at extremely close rage by those trained to discover them.
The psychological and emotional damage done to those in the community with dimmed eyesight was phenomenal. Ironically, when some psychologists and religious leaders closely studied the personalities of those with glasses they believed that the very damage their own society had caused was merely another symptom of the original “problem.”
As the condition was studied there arose an interest among some in helping to rehabilitate those stricken with it.
Consequently, some people with vision problems were rushed off by their families to Vision Psychologists where they spent hours discussing the fact that their parents had not provided enough light for them to read by when they were children. Needless to say, the parents of these counseled experienced tremendous guilt, which often led to more business for the counselors.
One organization which sprang up was called Eyeglass Anonymous. Its basic premise was, if a person would just admit that he could not see without glasses, then with the help of God and others like himself, he could go through the fourteen basic steps and at the end of the process he would be able to see clearly. It was simply a matter of choice. E.A. boasted a success rate of about 30%, but it was hard to know who was still secretly using glasses in private.
The very existence of this group made many of those who wore glasses feel even more hopeless. Obviously, if it was simply a matter of choice then it was their own fault if they weren’t cured. This caused them untold guilt and grief.
There was a small group, however, made up of both sighted and vision-impaired people who began to proclaim that needing and wearing eyeglasses was not sinful. They claimed that they, too, believed God had not originally intended for people to have to wear glasses, but that when people did need them it was as a result of sin, and not a sin itself. They believed that the villagers had erroneously interpreted the scriptures in using them to condemn those whose eyesight was impaired. Many of those who actually wore glasses told of their own experiences, of either having been born with impaired vision, or having developed it so young that there had been no conscious choice involved at all. They wanted others like themselves to know they were not perverted simply because they could not see well, and that they had as much right to see, with the aid of glasses, as those who could see without them. And, most of all, they wanted it to be known that God accepted vision-impaired people just the way they were, and He didn’t mind at all if they wore glasses to help.
Needless to say, many sighted people laughed derisively at all of this. Some even got angry and made snide remarks about the vision of the sighted people who were supporting those with glasses.
All in all it makes one wonder just who among the villages was having the real difficulty seeing clearly.