Friday, November 8, 2013

Christians, We Need To Prevent & End Bullying

prevent and end bullying
Tearful Eyes


If you have been following the news on a regular basis, in this past decade, you are more or less aware of bullying in our schools. You have been made aware of cyber-bullying. All children, especially those who identify themselves as Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) children and teens are especially vulnerable to vicious, sustained bullying. The type that makes a children want to end his/her life. In fact, many have! Those who have ended their lives to "bullycide" have been children and teens who have "come out" as GLBT or been believed to be GLBT. I'm aware of some controversies of a "zero tolerance" policy toward bullying being that if infringing on religious liberty, because homophobia is considered to be the cause of much bullying and cyber-bullying. As Christians, we must deal with this issue of bullying and with GLBT issues. For God speaks clearly to both issues, though the word bullying is not a Scriptural word, nor is the GLBT acronym.

We who have followed the news, in recent years, have seen a 12-year-old girl, Rebecca Sedwick make headlines because of her suicide due to months of bullying. Phoebe Prince, another teen, made headlines years ago when she ended her life due to months of bullying. Phoebe even made the cover of a magazine, but who wants to make a magazine cover that way? Years prior to this, it was Megan Meier who made headlines due to ending her life because of cyber-bullying. We probably know that Megan Meier, through her devastated parents, inspired a nonprofit named after her. It seeks to prevent and end cyber-bullying. And there have been lesser-known children and teens who have killed themselves because of bullying. As Christians, we must strongly oppose all forms of bullying, including "anti-gay" bullying, just as strongly as we are to speak out against any other sin. Bullying, even according to common sense, violates any sense of compassion, empathy, and acceptance of others. By bullying we mean a sustained pattern of behavior that harms victims emotionally, not just single unkind or nasty words or actions.

When I was growing up in the 1970's and in St. Louis, Missouri, bullying was seen as a "rite of passage." Well, that is, it was as compared to today. As a teen, I experienced my share of bullying at a church-based school that I had attended for one or two years. But the bullying did not get as severe and chronic as it had been at a public middle school I was sent to in 1974. I know I was an easy bullying target for school bullies to vent their aggressions and frustrations out on. When I was growing up, I behaved differently and moved rather differently, explaining that. My peers called me vicious names which aren't fit to be put into print. They hit me, punched me, tripped me, stole my lunch money and even chased me home. Once time (that I remember of) two girls caught up with me after class, knocked me to the ground and when I hauled myself up, they chased me home from school. Eventually my mom and my late stepdad found out, and they took me to the local police station. They were told, "I discouraging you from pressing any charges against the girls. You wouldn't, if you only knew what these girls go through at home." This just told me that bullying was not a big deal, certainly not the law enforcement.

The following year, I was in for an unpleasant surprise. As though I had been the problem and the one to blame, I was placed in St. Louis County Special School District. In the past, I had been placed in special classes and in one residential home for children, but never in a public special setting. This time, I was told that I was so placed "for your safety and because teachers could not protect you." I was given the educational label, "behaviorally disordered," which I resented. It was done because my placement had to be justified and because I was, far from being aggressive, withdrawn in conduct. The majority of my special education peers were aggressive and acted out. I developed "an attitude" toward this setting and them, growing defensive and suspicious and with trust issues. I had finished out the rest of my school career in Special School District and in other special placements. I entered adulthood with similar fears, anxieties and insecurities similar that I still battle to this day, and I'm in my 50's. Make no mistake about it, bullying causes long-term emotional damage and is as scarring as any other form of abuse; it's sad that it takes suicides of bullying victims to get us to take it seriously.

When I was growing up, no one, young or old, "came out" about their sexual orientation. So bullying motivated by homophobia was virtually unknown. But because we live in a different day and age, people of all ages, including teens and even children, are "coming out." And when they do, they often experience vicious bullying and hate. Though we as Christians are to oppose homosexuality, this DOES NOT mean that we are to condone or ignore the vile, hate-filled bullying of GLBT people, including children! Bullying, like any abuse, springs from hate, spite, anger, and a lack of empathy for the feelings and rights of others. Like any abuse, bullying is ungodly, unScriptural and unChristike. No matter who it is directed at! Fear of the violation of our religious liberties should not keep us from opposing bullying, including of GBLT people. It is right and God-pleasing to denounce all bullying.

Much bullying and cyber-bullying can be prevented from happening in the first place. Christian moms and dads, love your children unconditionally and raise them to derive their worth in Christ, and to be caring, compassionate and kind. Try to never let them walk alone, where they are easy prey for bullies and predators. Supervise their online activity (best of all, try to restrict their access to it). If your child is reported as a bully or reports being bullied, take it seriously. Teachers and educators, believe reports of bullying, hold the bullies accountable and get victims support (which does not include a segregated special school setting). Churches and pastors, do not be afraid to address bullying, including bullying of GLBT people. For bullying affects Christians, including Christian children. You know how Jesus treated disreputable people, sinners and outcasts with respect, compassion and care. How would He deal with today's bullying of people, especially those with differences?

Photo Courtesy of MorgueFile.com.
Photo by Shakira.

This photo can be found
here.
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