On October 10, 2012, Amanda Todd, a Canadian teenager committed suicide after months of bullying from numerous people online and in person. She posted several videos on YouTube before she died. Here is a link to her cry for help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRxfTyNa24A. In her video, Amanda describes how a mistake she made as an 8thgrade student followed her everywhere she went, leading to alcoholism, depression, cutting, at least one physical beating, several attempted suicides (including one time when she drank bleach), and finally to suicide through hanging.
Over the last several years, bullying has been a big issue. There have been numerous stories in the news regarding teens who were bullied and it has been a major theme on the FOX television show Glee.
In other recent news, Max Duke, a 14 year-old boy in Victoria, TX was suspended for standing-up to a bully. You can read the story here at ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-dad-protests-son-suspended-standing-bully/story?id=17482938#.UKPpsobWEgw. After being suspended, Max was sent to the alternative center. After protests from his parents, the boy has been allowed to return to his school, but one wonders how messed up our society is when raising awareness about bullying is being promoted on one hand, and on the other hand, people willing to stand up to bullies are being punished.
What happened to Amanda Todd is a grievous tragedy. Her story raises another question in my mind. “Where were the Christians?”
Why did this girl have no-one, why was no Christian willing to share with her about the love of Christ? Why did no Christian invite her to church? Where was that support?
Pondering over this issue since mid-October has spurred me on to ask yet another question, “What is the proper Christian response to bullying?”
In the book of Judges, we find a very interesting pattern. God’s chosen people turn their hearts from God and then they are punished. Actually, they are oppressed and afflicted according to Judges 2:18. And in the midst of their affliction, the people realize the error of their ways and repent. Once the people repent, God sends a judge to “save” the people. This pattern happens several times over throughout the book, but from it we can learn that God seeks to deliver his people when they are oppressed.
Looking at the New Testament, we find Jesus calling his followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). In fact, Christians are supposed to love and pray for their enemies. Prior to these verses, Jesus tells his followers that if an evil person slaps them on one cheek, they are to turn the other to that person also (Matthew 5:39). At first glance, this may appear to suggest that Christians are to be nothing more than doormats for bullies, but that is not at all what Jesus is saying.
What Jesus is actually promoting here is a form of non-violent resistance. By turning the other cheek, it convicts the person of the wrongfulness of his or her ways. It is an attempt to help them see their own errors and repent. In the 60s, Martin Luther King, Jr. also promoted non-violent resistance with the same intention of winning over the afflicters. His message was focused on stopping the evil.
As Christians, I believe we are called to put an end to injustice and stop evil whenever possible, but we are not to do so through violence. We are to love our enemies (and that includes bullies) and we are to stand up for justice. Our goal should never be to retaliate towards bullies out of anger, but it should be to show them love even as we point out the injustice that we must stand against.
When I state that Christians should stand against injustice, I do not simply mean that they should take a stand when Christians are persecuted. I think they should take a stand when anyone is unjustly persecuted. God created humanity in his own image, and in that respect, all people regardless of race, gender, sexual inclination, socio-economic status, political leaning, educational level, or religious preference, bear God’s image. Granted, that image is broken and marred by sin, but no human is any less valuable in God’s eyes than anyone else.
With that being said, Christians should promote equality and peace in all aspects of life. Christians believe that they worship the ONE true God, but they do not believe anyone should have to suffer for worshiping the deity of his or her choosing.
Christians believe that God intended for marriage to be between one man and one woman, but Christians should not believe that anyone should have to suffer or be ridiculed from choosing a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered lifestyle.
Christians believe that no one should be oppressed for ethnic, gender, or socio-economic reasons. As such, Christians should be vocal about issues such as genocide in Africa. The intent is not to demonize those performing genocide, but for them to bring those people to an understanding of a better way to treat humanity.
I want to encourage Christians to make a distinctive choice not to persecute others for being different in anyway, but more important, to stand up for the well-being of anyone who is treated as less than human for any reason.
It is never ok to bully someone or a group of people, and it is never ok to turn a blind eye towards persecution. Christians need to be courageous, and they need to stand-up for humanity, after all, humanity is the responsible agent for caring for the rest of God’s creation. If humans cannot even act humanely towards other humans, how can they care for the rest of the planet?
What happened to Amanda Todd should never have happened. Who are the courageous Christians out there willing to stand up for victims and willing to stand up to bullies? Who are the Christians who are willing to share the love of Christ with both the victims and the victimizers?