Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bullying -- some things to think about

You have probably heard about the high-schooler in Massachusetts who was hassled by other girls to a point where she committed suicide in January. Right now, the school itself is on trial for doing virtually nothing to stop it.

I know what you're thinking: Can things be that bad in a school that a student might become at risk of taking his/her own life? You bet they can -- as I know from unhappy personal experience.

Over the past couple of years an anti-bullying campaign has run public service announcements on television. When I learned what their definition of bullying was, I realized that I had been a victim of such off-and-on for 15 years, in various places -- one of them a Christian academy, the last place where you might think it would occur. (I'm not going to waste time and space detailing specific incidents, only telling you that it affects me even today.) What's more, in my case one of the bullies was my own father.

Now, you can respond to bullying in two ways: You can become a bully in your own right or you can use your experience to take the side of those who have similarly suffered. Generally, I've chosen the second option, which has led me into some strange alliances because I was willing to stand up for the underdog.

I grew up in a household where Dad harbored deep resentment toward the white race, and much of the African-American culture in the 1970s maintained similar feelings. However, in those days my chief tormentors were themselves black and virtually all of the people who "had my back" were white, so not only were most of my childhood friends white but I also began to react to anti-white rhetoric. That unnerved my parents, who thought I was trying to run away from my heritage; however, it was simply a matter of emotional safety. During my teenage years the issue of "gay rights" became a hot topic and I saw homosexuals as specifically being unfairly targeted; as a result, as a young Christian I even considered becoming a gay-rights activist. (This is not to say that I have ever condoned homosexual behavior or believed it's morally OK -- I simply saw gays as scapegoats.) In fact, in my 20s other Christians -- and I mean leaders -- picked on me, and at least twice they tried to freeze me out of a fellowship.

Today, most of the bullying I see comes from the political right, especially when it comes to the "culture war." When I returned to Pittsburgh from a year in Atlanta I noticed a campaign to rid the nations of corrupting influences -- the media, "liberals," the government -- and that if we elected the "right" (pun intended) people to office God would bless our nation. (A lot of groups raised a ton of money doing that.)

However, when I consider the life of Jesus, I saw a man who actually chose to be around the outcasts of His day -- tax collectors (considered traitors), prostitutes, women, Gentiles, the poor. See, those people had no status in Jewish society and the "high and mighty" looked down upon them; indeed, there was a "health-and-wealth" gospel which suggested that adherence to God's Word would lead to riches and status. The "super-rabbi" who turned out to be God in the flesh turned that convention on its head, which is why the priests, leaders and Pharisees hated His guts.

This is why I see the "religious right," as much as it tries to paint itself as defending our "Christian culture," as sabotaging our witness instead. I stopped subscribing to most Christian media long ago because of its propensity for blaming outsiders. Going further, I've gotten into more than a few arguments with people who constantly attack President Obama because he doesn't govern according to their worldview. I see today's "tea-party" movement as trying to intimidate those who don't agree with its myopic agenda.

Yes, I consider all of that "bullying" -- and I for one won't put up with it anymore. I would think that the serious Christian, following the example of our LORD, would run to the side of the wounded. But when you're too worried about your own status to do real ministry to the "last, least and lost," the Gospel itself becomes "last, least and lost." It comes down to the "Golden Rule" -- "Do to others as you would have them do to you."


GodIsConservative said...

I must disagree! Either you're deluded, or you have an agenda. If you're deluded, then know that the Bible & Constitution support private property, and that (forced or coerced) redistribution of wealth is decidedly unbiblical. Annanias' & Saphira's property was theirs to do with what they wished, and they sold it by choice, not by force of Gov't edict. If you have a hidden agenda (like Jim Wallis?) then you'll get your just reward.

"Justice" implies something forced, and is therefore unscriptural. Jesus will tip the scales of justice when He returns - which seems to be right around the corner.

BlueDeacon said...

GodIsConservative -- Did you even read the piece? And have you even read the Bible (the very word "justice" is all over the prophetic books)?