Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Shawn Hannon that was originally posted to the “Lutheran Grilled Cheese” blog on October 14, 2011. Shawn serves Hope Lutheran Church in Arcade, N.Y. He is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. This article was a part of Hope’s email devotions and is republished with permission of the author.
The ELCA publishes a magazine every month titled The Lutheran. The cover story of the January 2011 issue was “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 that over 90 percent 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.
It’s not a joke
Only bullying is not funny, and it certainly wasn’t a joke to Jamey Rodemeyer, the Williamsville North teen who took his life. And it certainly isn’t funny to the millions 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. It attacks the people it affects 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 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.
God’s take on bullying
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 Scripture we hear God defined as “the father to the fatherless and defender of widows” (Exodus 22:22, Deutonomy 10:18, Psalms 10:14, 68:5, Jeremiah 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.
So to the bullies, we say stop!
To the bystanders, we say act for God in stopping it.
And to the bullied, we say God loves you, you are not alone.
Find a link to Joe McGarry’s blog Lutheran Grilled Cheese at Lutheran Blogs.
You might also want to read:
The congregation’s responsibility to address bullying
Evangelism and scabby crosses