Our denomination publishes a magazine every month called The Lutheran. The cover story of the January 2011 issue was entitled, “Bullying the Pastor.” When I saw the magazine sitting in its regular place among other reading material in our fellowship hall, I thought it would be funny to give the article a little more visibility. Over the next several weeks I placed the magazine all over the church. One week it would be on the welcoming table everyone passed on their way into church. The next week it would be sitting right next to the coffee pot over 90% of our parishioners over the age of 10 frequented. Every time I would put it somewhere new, it would make its way back to its regular home just to be moved by me all over again. It was our joke. I am not bullied and everyone at Hope knew that. I played with the presence of the article because I thought it was funny.
|Jamey Rodemeyer, age 14|
Only bullying is not funny, and it certainly wasn’t a joke to Jamey Rodemeyer, the Williamsville North teen who took his life one week ago. And it certainly isn’t funny to themillions of others who are bullied every day at their schools, work places, or even in their homes.
Bullying is one of the worst kinds of ways we live with one another, and yet for decades we’ve been too quick to dismiss it as “kids being kids” or as a joke. It is the repeated hurtful acts of others meant to shame, belittle, and cut down. The people it affects it attacks from every angle. It manifests itself in physical acts of violence, dangerous rumors, name-calling, and threats. For children it can be so bad that in 2006 ABC News reported that 160,000 kids skip school every day for fear of being bullied, but even at home they cannot escape the cyber-stalks and slander of their aggressors.
And it is affecting all of us. Bullies in school are significantly more likely to commit series crimes as adults. Those bullied are just as likely to become bullies themselves, if they don’t attack their bullies or take their own lives first.
But like so many of the sinful ways in which we live with one another although bullying is reaching new heights, it is certainly not a new problem. As long as people have lived with one another some of those people, often the weak and vulnerable, have been subject to the torments of others. But for as long as it has been happening, God has spoken against it. In fact, the Bible is full of reminders of that. Again and again in the scriptures we hear God defined as “the father to the fatherless and defender of widows” (Exodus 22:22, Deut. 10:18, Psalms 10:14, 68:5, Jer. 49:11, and so many more!). That is saying much more than God runs a mean orphanage. The orphans and widows were without place in society. They were outcast and ignored if they were lucky and reminded of their plight verbally, physically, emotionally, and socially if they were not. But these people, God continuously reminds, are ones for whom he especially cares.
Bullying, from pastors to students to co-workers, must stop, because it is not a joke and it is not simply “kids being kids” to our God, the friend of the lonely and the defender of the picked-on.