Friday, October 1, 2010

Something Must Be Done

I must confess. I was both bullied and a bully in school. I was always the fat kid which made me a prime target for bullying and teasing. In response to that, I bullied other kids mostly to prevent myself from being the target. Even as a child I remember knowing that what I was doing was wrong and I not liking myself when I bullied others. I just felt it was what I had to do to fit in and save myself. I do not say this to justify my actions or to absolve myself from responsibility. I wish I could go back an talk to myself as a child and show him that there is a better way.

For as long as there have been humans there have been those who push others around. There are few who escape school without being bullied in some form or fashion. Kids can be very cruel and despite the old rhyme words do hurt and they do leave scars. With the advent of the Internet kids are coming up with new and inventive ways of torturing their classmates. Now teasing is not only instantaneous, but it also goes viral. A victim is not only humiliated locally in a class or a school, but also worldwide.

Adolescence is tough for any kid, but it can be especially brutal for those struggling with sexual orientation and gender identity. In the last three weeks, six kids have taken their own lives because of homophobic bullying, three in the last week. This is a situation where one death is too many. The sad truth is that while these six have made national headlines there are dozens if not hundreds more kids who are hurting because of bullying. How many more have to die before we understand? Suicide is a statement. It is a final cry for help that goes unheard or unnoticed. Listen to the cries from these kids and let's do something about it.

Why is sexual orientation a means of discrimination? Is this bullying based on certain Biblical views on homosexuality? The very Scripture that teaches us to love one another as Christ loved us is being used as a reason to hate and bully LGBTQ people. Despite what your views on homosexuality are the Bible is crystal clear that we are to love each other. There are those from the American Family Association and other groups who claim that hate crime and anti-bullying legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity is part of some "homosexual agenda." They claim that all bullies should be punished no matter what the reason. But if we do not look at the reason and examine the motives behind the bullying then we will never solved the problem.

If you are a pastor or a youth director, talk to the parents in the church and then talk to your kids. Let them know that every person is a sacred child of God created in God's image. There is no reason for bullying and there are no excuses not to take a stand against it. We need to talk about this in the Church. If we claim to have "Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors." then this is a subject we must face. Something must be done. And if you are a kid who is being bullied remember that tomorrow will be better and there are those who love you very much. Suicide is not the answer and there is no coming back.

And for those kids that I picked on in school, I am truly sorry. I wish I had the strength back then to do what I knew was right.

1 comment:

Ron Goetz said...

My son was an active Christian in high school. He was heavily involved in music in our UMC congregation, and was at church even more than his mother and me. And he was president of his high school Bible club.

About ten years ago he came out of the closet. He was forbidden by our UMC pastor to appear on the platform for music. The Bible club advisor suggested that he step as president "for the good of the club."

After he came out, he attempted suicide three times. Conservative Christians, at church and in the public school, closed ranks against him. They silenced him.

He was angry--angry at the church, angry at the Bible, and angry at God.

It took him about six months to recover from the shunning. Our local Metropolitan Community Church was instrumental in his healing. He slowly realized that God was not against him, that the Bible was not against him, and that the church wasn't against him, just part of it.

You choose the label. Some will call the reaction of these folks God-fearing courage in the face of pressure to be politically correct. Or perhaps standing against the tide of wickedness that threatens our land.

I call it injustice and oppression that could have cost my son his life. I could call the pastor and the club advisor "Church Bullies" or "Bible Bullies."