Tag Archives: bullying

Discussing Violence in Church

Last week I attended the annual Christian Formation Conference held at Kanuga, a conference center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina outside Hendersonville (near Asheville). The conference theme was Hope in the Midst of Crisis: From Tragedy to Healing through Forgiveness. Plenary sessions and workshops largely focused on how we address the issues of hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing in a world that is often beset by tragedy on a national as well as personal level. From the events of 9/11 (World Trade Center) to 12/14 (Sandy Hook) to our cities today, stories were shared and processes for healing were shared.

I was invited to give a workshop based on a book that I compiled and edited, Reclaiming Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace Coverthe Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence (Morehouse, 2015) based on a conference of the same name held in Oklahoma City in April 2014. In preparing my workshop I hoped to broaden the conversation to discuss how many forms of violence (such as gun violence, inter-partner/domestic violence, bullying, and video-game addiction) are issues that need to be addressed and acted upon as imperative to our baptismal promises of “respecting the dignity of all human beings” and “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to turn the other cheek as well as speak out against injustice in our world.

While I was caught up short the two days before my presentation over lunch with some Christian educators who shared their opinions with me (as gun owners with licenses to carry concealed weapons), I knew I had to tell the truth (from my perspective) and focus the conversation on why and how we should be having such conversations in our churches. It is why I put the book together. And my angst following this lunch conversation showed me how much our church needs to engage in this conversation. It is not about being opposed to hunting, target shooting, and banning of all guns. It is about creating a world in which we can create safe places and promote the gospel of peace. Continue reading Discussing Violence in Church

A Cry for Help

But the child’s sob in the silence curses deeper than the strong man in his wrath. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It’s a troubling phenomenon: several gay teens have killed themselves in recent weeks after being harassed because of their sexuality. They were bullied. They were not accepted for who they were – children of God. As people of faith we are called to speak out against those who use their self-proclaimed power to intimidate, condemn, and belittle others. And it is important that we teach our children (of all ages) to respect others as Christ modeled in welcoming the stranger and embracing the outcast.

Our churches need to be safe places for adults, teens and children to learn how to practice tolerance; to understand our mission to respect the dignity of every human being. If the religious community can’t act and become a voice to all generations, we are just as guilty as those who cause the pain of others.

Some articles and resources to assist in the conversation. Don’t wait another day to begin the work. The lives of people (young and old) you know (and even more so, don’t know) depend on it.

Articles & Action:

Resources for Study and Conversation:

  • The documentary Bullied, produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, will premiere today, Oct. 5, in Washington, D.C. Bullied tells the story of Jamie Nabozny, a Wisconsin student who fought back against anti-gay bullying. Kick off National Bullying Prevention Month by ordering your school’s free copy of Bullied here.
  • Download the Study Guide for Bullied, which gives a definition of bullying, how to identify someone who may be a victim, and how to assess your school (or church) environment.
  • The Trevor Project and It Gets Better website features video clips of LGBT adults sharing their own high school horror stories, while telling kids to stay alive because brighter days are coming. So far, there have been 131 videos posted and more than 300,000 views.
  • Bully Bust is a program to stand up to bullying and promote upstander behavior.
  • For the Bible Tells Me So is a film about the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families – including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, A study guide is also available for further discussion.
  • Burst: Bullies and Mean Girls is a short-term study from Abingdon Press (United Methodist Church affiliation) for youth. It’s website also offers a variety of links including movies, books and other websites.
  • If You Really Knew Me is a program that began in July 2010 on Tuesday evenings on MTV. Yes – MTV. Watch the trailer to see how you might tap into this program with your youth.
  • The Golden Rule Pledge website offers bullying prevention resources for churches.
  • From the New York Times (Dec. 5, 2010): Cyber-Bulling and What a Parent Can Do

What resources, programs or action do you plan to engage in?

Bullies and Intolerance

August 2010 may go down in history as one of the hottest summers in our lifetime.

It may also be remembered as when American society ratcheted up the rhetoric, intolerance, and hatred. Many have predicted polarizing extremes as being a driving force in the future. The Institute for the Future is one, and we can see how what were once “fringe” groups and opinions have now taken front-and-center. According to IFTF, “strong opinions will meet strong social networks to create intense feedback loops. We can already find, connect with, and collaborate with anyone who shares your beliefs – no matter how extreme you are. Dark innovation will thrive.”

The news services and blogosphere are full of stories of such polarities. And they are bringing out the worst in people:

  • The building of an Islamic Center in New York City (Not a mosque, and not at Ground Zero, but in the vicinity). Bishop Mark Sisk of New York shares his thoughts.
  • Court ruling on whether same gendered couples may marry (All are equal and loved in God’s eyes)
  • President Obama is a Muslim (False)
  • Illegal immigration and whether everyone born in the United States has the rights to be a US citizen (Isn’t that what the 14th Amendment of the Constitution states?)

What is the root of all this? I believe it is the increase of the Rich/Poor Gap as well as the growing diversity of our country. This gap has always been with us, but we are able to see images of each other and the issues that affect us more visibly due to technology and 24/7 news feeds. While new media provides new opportunities to organize for giving (such as the grassroots responses to recent natural disasters), new media also publicize economic differences vividly.  This triggers violence – not only physically, but verbally. And that’s what I believe we are experiencing this summer.

Those who have “power” and were once the dominant force in politics, religion and business (aka – Anglo-European Protestant men) are now seeing themselves as a “minority” which is threatening to their underlying assumptions that God is on their side. I believe it comes down to that – power and authority. Making the other seem less than human, so that one’s self-identity remains intact and in control.

I don’t listen to Glenn Beck, Fox News, or Sarah Palin. And I don’t follow the other extreme on the ‘left.’ I’m an adult – I can weed out the fiction from fact if I do some research. But what about our children? Bullying is at an all-time high in our society – could it be children are learning from our “national leaders”? What kind of role models do they find in sports, entertainment, political and religious leaders today?

Enough of a rant. My body temperature is rising. I’m going to get an iced tea and read Isaiah 1:17: “Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” and my Baptismal Covenant: “Seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself” and “Striving for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.”

Here are some articles and resources to help put things in perspective:

Lastly, resources ADULTS need to pay attention to from Teaching Tolerance: