Much has been made out in the news of late with the suicide deaths of gay teenagers and young adults due to ongoing bullying. I am, in part, am upset by all the media coverage because it is not just the gay teens who are committing suicide due to bullying, we have have straight teens & young adults who are bullied to the point of suicide as well. So let us take a little time amongst this conversation to highlight many of our “least of these” who are persecuted incessantly.
I carry this paraphrased quote with me from Tony Campolo, “democracy isn’t where the majority rules, but where the minority is safe.” This quote might be based around a politics of the country, but walk with me here & you’ll see, it extends deeper.
Bullying can be defined as a habitual badgering and intimidation of smaller or weaker people. And to me that hits on not just a cultural thing, but a spiritual & relational ministry issue. Jesus Christ, as I understand him was not about the high & mighty folks, in fact was (dare I say bullied) crucified by a stronger (earthly) entity. Jesus was about showing compassion and standing up for the “least of” the people in society. Check out that incident with the adulterous woman. So as a Christian man, a follower of the Way of Christ, I cannot help but feel compelled to stand up & be on the look out for the least of these in my community.
What takes us in the wrong direction?
Coming back to the majority/minority quotation. To me that has a profound effect on how we live our lives together in the USA. We have a polarized political climate, wrought with winners/losers and examples of putting people down. It is not hard to imagine that we actually promote a culture where bullying is accepted among our adult communities. We utilize/victims of mob behaviors to excite fear to scare individuals into brutish behaviors. What do our children see, hear, and learn from us? Is it a Christ like strength that stands before the mob on behalf of the beaten down & bullied?
The Masai, and African tribe, is noted sociologically for unusual greeting (considering they were a fairly fearsome fighting tribe) of “Kasserian Ingera” or translate “How are the Children?” This question permeated the land and became a marker for the health of that tribe. If the children were living in a peaceful, safe, and provided for environment then they were considered to be a thriving tribe.
How are our children? In regards to bullying in suicides, they are two linked epidemics (along with depression a third player in the epidemic) which threaten the mental health & lives of so many of our teenagers & young people. Suicide can account for around 4,500 deaths a year in teenagers, some 100 attempts for each “success” and 1 in 6 of those suicides are related to bullying directly. So how are our children?
My hope is writing this is not to denigrate peoples efforts to raise awareness about the bullying of gay teenagers & young people. In fact, I hope you see a spiritual reasoning to educate and strengthen yourself & your youth community into standing up for those in minority positions, whether that be sexuality, gender, idealism, religion, social standing, race, etc. (the scenarios of a person/s in a position of power over a weaker person/s is vast). I’m concerned that in speaking so vocally about gay teens & young adults we gloss over those others who are bullied.
One group that I’ve worked with the past in educating our teenagers about suicide and the breakdown of their piers that led to suicide as ‘the option’ is the Jason Foundation. Here is a list of resources to educate yourself on & tips as a youth worker. Check out the US Health Service & Resources initiative of “Stop Bullying Now” to help educate on bullying. Facebook is also chipping in to help stop cyber-bullying.
What are your thoughts, suggestions, resources for helping bullied kids