God’s people and bullying

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Like it or not, no matter how devoted, sincere, or saved they may be, Christians have always been, and are still, human. This fact has plagued our faith (as well as all others) since the beginnings. Humans are mortal beings, wrapped in a fleshly body, and existing in a sinful world. Whether saved or lost, humanity is beset by an unending array of problems, illnesses, troubles, habits, failings, and all the other trappings which combine to make us who and what we are. Regardless of our objections, dissatisfaction, and denials, our spiritual self is embodied within our mortal bodies.

Likewise, our thoughts and ideas should be pure and lofty. Instead, we are in danger of leaning towards the baser urges and evils of our existence. Our love, humility, and care battle with the crude, vile, and disgusting musings common to all humanity. This wickedness, bullying, should not be a part of our lives, but it is present in many of those around us.

This wickedness, bullying, should not be a part of our lives, but it is present in many of those around us. Click To Tweet

Paul the apostle reminds us bluntly, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23 KJV). He makes no exceptions, no excuses. Any humans claiming perfection prove themselves imperfect simply by their own conduct. A wicked aspect of our failings as humans causes a desire to dominate and control others. In other words, ‘bullying’. Once limited to schoolyards and lower social orders, it now flourishes in all quarters, especially in the world of social media.

Disorder even in faith

Discipline and good behavior are appropriate in a functional society. When those who, rightly or wrongly, abuse their position to physically or emotionally abuse their peers, the good order gives way to the rule of bullies.

This has various manifestations

  • Those in positions of power abuse their authority and torment those under their charge
  • Persons who assert dominance, even when it is unwarranted or unsanctioned
  • Co-workers who, due to their own emotional disorder, abuse their peers.
  • Religious leaders, who do not show the love and wisdom of Christ violate the trust and/or authority placed in them and inflict a broad range of abuses on those (even children) entrusted to their supervision
  • Organizations, typically dysfunctional, but sometimes, high functioning, are fertile grounds for the severe abuse of workers of lower rank or seniority
  • Especially malicious are those who are able to hide their identities or their faces on social media and inflict tremendous abuse on unwitting victims; sometimes with tragic results.

Bullying has become such a concern in our society, the government has dedicated resources to address the problem, see www.stopbullying.gov for example. Concurrently, the faith community has established its own websites, see 10 signs your church is bullying you from crosswalk.com for an especially powerful discussion about our faith communities.

History of the faith

Elementary school history classes present interesting accounts of the religious experience in early American churches. One fond recollection is of the practice in some congregations where an usher was stationed at the rear of the sanctuary to monitor the behavior of the flock during services. He was equipped with a long pole with a metal knob on one end. If a gentleman began to doze, he would receive a nudge on the shoulder from the usher’s extended wake-up device.

In the event a lady or child was beginning to nod off, the opposite end of the pole carried a feather; the perfect thing to tickle one’s nose if the service began to lag. Modern times have brought a newer technique; a wife’s sharp elbow jab into a sleepy husband’s ribs now keeps eyes open. Such discipline is humorous to discuss. However, things are sadder and darker in some circles.

Anyone can bully

A recent account from a woman described her disturbing interview with the minister of her congregation when she was a preteen child. Part of the church’s practice involved periodic interviews of parishioners by the chief minister, apparently to assure continued spiritual growth. On the occasion in question, the 12-year-old girl met alone with the minister for her evaluation. The meeting began simply. Then the conversation went in a new direction. He closely questioned the child about her preferences for her underclothes. She felt uncomfortable. But this was the minister. She eventually admitted that she liked to wear a particular style of undies.

The minister declared they and she, were sinful. The discussion continued. Finally the child promised to change her taste in clothes. Then it was over. To this day, she doesn’t know why the episode happened. This experience was, to say the least, disturbing.

There are many things wrong with this whole encounter. The minister asserted used his power to abuse the child. She was bullied. It is that, pure and simple. It should have never happened. No child, and no adult should have to go through this. This is totally out of place in a religious encounter.

 

We must do better

Listening to a victim’s story is heartbreaking. One can’t help feeling shock, anger, and sadness. When someone is bullied, he or she may lose all sense of self-worth. Bullying can destroy one’s spirit. This mental abuse is repeated day-in and day-out. Victims often are further abused when they ask for help. Society as a whole has not yet learned that bullying is as serious as rape, attempted murder, and other assaults. This must change.

When someone is bullied, he or she may lose all sense of self-worth. Bullying can destroy one's spirit. Click To Tweet

Bullies can attack anyone. Our image involves a child as victim. But adults, the elderly, the disabled, and the person next door can be the target of these attacks.

Christians and other people of faith should be among the first to reach out to help. No lesson is clearer in our faith that the commandment to help others. Kindness and care for the weak and oppressed are among the best qualities of humanity.

Anyone who is bullied deserves the care and protection of the community. There is no excuse, no need, no justification for this abuse. We must stand together.

Are you ready? Are you willling to take a stand? This is evil, it can show its face anywhere, anytime, in any group. What stand are you willing to take against bullies?

This is evil, it can show its face anywhere, anytime, in any group. What stand are you willing to take against bullies? Click To Tweet

 

 

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