Why Christians Are Pro-Bullying

May 2, 2012

You want to know what the next big cause is?

No, environmentalism isn’t going away. Though it turns out that those eco-friendly wind farms actually contribute to global warming by stirring up all the hot air floating above us. Water and shoes and war and nutrition aren’t going away as causes either.

But people need a sexy new cause to keep their attention. And the spotlight on bullies has been growing brighter for a while, and I think it’s going to stay that way for a long time. And like most pop-culture causes, it didn’t start with Christians. In fact, I have yet to see any prominent Christians throw their hat in the bullying ring at all.

So I have a question for you, Christians. Are we going to let this be another cause that’s too “liberal,” or “secular” for us, and let it pass us by? Or are we actually going to do something?

The Tables Have Turned

The anti-bullying crusade has been picking up steam for few years, but I think it has finally reached critical mass. It started several years ago when schools enacted “zero tolerance” policies. Though principals were probably kind of heavy-handed with it. A bullied kid could get thrown out of school for physically defending himself.

Then you had the “It Gets Better” campaign on YouTube more recently. Lots of celebrities got on board with that one, including Ellen Degeneras, Anne Hathaway, and Neil Patrick Harris.

Last month saw the release of the “Bully” movie. The ‘Biebs has been a vocal advocate of the film.

If you or your kid is a bully, the tables are turning on you.

Why the Church is Pro-Bullying

What I want to know is where the hell are the Christians?

If you’re wondering why people think the church is irrelevant, this is a case in point.

Nearly every cause that people get passionate about, the church lets pass by. People are still whipped up about environmentalism. They want to stop “global warming.”

Now, I don’t really believe in man-made global warming. But why should that matter? We should have heaped on an even bigger ethical dilemma on people: that we are destroying God’s creation. Christians should have taken their share of control of the environmental movement. We should have been motivating people with God while other people are motivated by fear of cooking to death. (Aren’t we accused on a regular basis of preying on peoples’ fears?) But we let it pass by and the hottest environmental discussions we had were about how old the Earth actually is, and how long it took to be created. A completely irrelevant debate.

Now we’re going to do the same thing with bullying. Why? Because it’s seen as a gay cause. The bullied kids being showcased are almost always suspected of being gay. The LGBT community owns this thing.

And the evangelical church can’t be seen as standing up for gays. God forbid we stand up for the queer kids, or partner with the LGBTs. (Even though this isn’t just a gay issue. It’s a “fat” issue, and a “dorky” issue” and a “special needs” issue.) We’d rather be silent. If we’re silent, we might as well be pro-bullying.

People Get Bullied, Then They Hit Back

I had a bully in middle school.

And I finally got him off my back by cracking him right in the face. I wasn’t much of a fighter. But it was enough to send a message.

Christians think there’s a “war” on Christianity, that we’re being marginalized and bullied and picked on.

The fact is we marginalized ourselves. We made ourselves irrelevant. And to a lot of people, we are the bullies. And when someone feels bullied long enough, eventually, they hit back. That’s what people are doing to Christians.

We ought to be taking control of the bullying conversation, telling people that every child is made in God’s image. But instead, in between barking about how the government is too big, we’re arguing about the laws the government should pass to restrict other peoples’ freedoms.

What do you think? Is bullying the next big thing? Should we jump on board and take the reins. Or is the Christian community going to let this one pass by?

65 responses to Why Christians Are Pro-Bullying

  1. I think you’re on to something, Matt. I’ve been wondering for a while now what the next crisis would be that the Church missed.

  2. So very true. Our church is wanting to start a bullying campaign but have had several hiccups along the way. One of the first problems I am seeing is that bullying exists heavily in my own church, and sometimes I am even the guilty party.

    Thanks for calling us out!

  3. Global warming is causing bullying. Global warming causes everything to happen.

    Not rational? It doesn’t have to be rational. If I can get the media to pick up on my theory, it’ll soon be taught in school textbooks.

    So yea.. I’m sticking to it. Global warming causes bullying.

  4. You raise a lot of good points (prepare for the flame wars! :)

    As much as people freak out about “too much government”, it seems to me that the this tendency for the government to step in (for good or ill) when the private sector, individuals, and yes, even the church falls short.

    School desegregation was not going away “on it’s own”, so the government stepped in. (A good thing, IMO.)

    Nowadays, some people are being bankrupted by their medical bills, and the private sector isn’t exactly “fixing” that problem, so some people feel that the government needs to step in. (I won’t debate whether that’s right or wrong here.)

    Same thing with bullying–it’s a problem, no one else is really doing anything about it, so the government will step in. Personally, I’m doubtful that government intervention will be of much help, but here we are.

  5. Even when I was a christian, I was bullied by christians. So, I appreciate your post.

  6. I think a lot of it is because we are the ones bullying. Not all, but some.

    It’s easier for us to talk about how to be a better follower of Christ, a better leader or influencer, how to be a better Christian, and discuss how to “go make disciples” but when it comes to real issues such as these, we aren’t loud enough. We sit back and watch everyone have a voice when we are the ones that should be doing than sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else be heard.

    The same could be said about Suicide and Depression. These topics are “hush hush,” kind of like “Dont ask, don’t tell.”

    These are issues that need to be heard and they need to be talked about. It should be strongly encouraged in the Christian Community.

  7. Thank you, Matt, for the post. People need to get involved with this issue, just as they have with the anti-human trafficking movement as of late.

    One thing I don’t want to see, however, is a response to this issue in the same veins as often seen when the words ‘abortion’ and ‘homosexuality’ come up. That type of response does way more harm than good–it makes us look even more like bullies.

  8. Thank you for posting this. As someone who has suffered at the hands of bullies in her own family, this cause is very important to me, but one I haven’t taken a very active role in furthering. As Christians, we don’t need to get together with other Christians and form groups to champion these causes. We can join these preexisting groups and serve right along non-believers. I think this could change others’ view of the church and Christians as irrelevant and may lead to other opportunities to minister. And now that I have come to this realization, I will be more active in helping the human cause!

  9. I was bullied as a kid and eventually, like you, wound up popping one of them and showing them I wasn’t going to take it anymore. So I know it can be a real problem, but I just can’t hop on the anti-bullying bandwagon, personally.

    My problem is two-fold. First, bullying is entirely subjective. What can be considered simple, playful, harmless teasing in one circumstance gets labeled bullying in another. There is no universally acceptable definition of bullying that applies to all people in all circumstances, so to advocate for a one-size-fits-all solution of “no bullying” seems absurd to me. Further, I’ve seen firsthand cases where the specter to bullying is raised just because someone decided someone else was intolerant. Specifically, a teen decided homosexuality was wrong and said so – going no further – and was labelled a bully.

    Second, even if some universally agreed upon standard was created, how would such a thing possibly be enforced? If bullying is a no-no, some kids will do it just because it’s “forbidden”. It’s the same principle as telling a kid not to touch a hot stove – it only drives the idea further into their brain. From my own experience, when I talked with an adult about being bullied, and the bullies were called on the carpet about it, things just got worse. Every moment away from adult supervision became an opportunity to pick on me, and I lived in fear of being away from adults. Only once I eventually stood up for myself did things get better.

    Do we really want to teach our kids that because some people can’t handle certain behavior, that it’s banned across the board? Do we really want to teach them to live in fear, to be totally dependent on the “security” offered by others?

    I want to teach my kids to treat everyone as individuals, to embrace the unique personalities around them and learn to behave appropriately in multiple circumstances. I want them to learn what it takes to stand up for themselves when necessary, even if that means getting hurt. I want them to know what real life is, not this ideal that we’ve dreamed up and decided life should be.

    • I agree with your point about bullying being subjective, and I didn’t think I would. The word is misused like “racism” to silence critics. But true bullying may be like pornography – hard to define, but we know it when we see it.

    • This got me thinking–maybe a possible rule of thumb to define bullying might be “behavior that will get you arrested or fired as an adult”? It probably wouldn’t work for all forms of bullying, but it might be a start.

      The thing that always got me about bullies was the way behaviors were dismissed as “kids being kids” when they’d probably send an adult to jail for the same thing. A full-grown adult throwing rocks at people or shoving them into lockers wouldn’t be a “bully”–he’d be a criminal.

      Being a girl, I think I was on the receiving end of different sorts of bullying–pretty much “mean girl” stuff or being groped. (There was more than one guy in school that thought grabbing my boobs was hilarious.) You can (hopefully) at least a restraining order on a guy for the latter. The evil mean girl stuff–I don’t know how I’d define that. But, yeah, that’d be “know it when I see it” territory.

  10. I have a lot to say about this topic. I was bullied mercilessly for many years as a child attending a Catholic elementary school. I was taunted on a daily basis, spit on, had rocks thrown at me and was even beat up. I prayed for it to stop but it did not. It left scars that have continued to plague me throughout my personal and professional life. It lead to very low self-esteem, substance abuse, pre-marital sex, and losing my faith in Jesus. Yes, eventually, it lead to a moment of complete loss of faith, but God called me back to Him in a powerful way.
    When I was a kid, I was a skinny, buck tooth, pimply faced, out-spoken goody 2 shoes. I couldn’t figure out how to surpress my natural love for life. Perhaps I resisted changing because I didn’t want to believe that being myself meant that people would torment and torture me. Eventually I learned I had to conform. Unfortunately, being ME almost got me killed.
    As I write this, there is an eighth grader from Naperville in a hospital where he is recovering from a suicide attempt resulting from bullying. Like I was, he is self expressed, intelligent, outspoken, curious and delightful…yet heartbroken and tortured. He has been an outspoken Christian and now he is tortured at school and called “gay.” He denies he is gay but I don’t care if he is or not.
    PLEASE, as Christ followers, let’s embrace this young man! Let’s flood him with LOVE and acceptance and show him what it really means to be JESUS in the flesh! To love unconditionally!
    He is a child of God. We all should rally around him. Christians PLEASE fight against bullying! Defend those who are bullied! Do NOT turn a blind eye to this young man who is a child of God!!!
    Are you with me on this???

  11. Have you ever read “Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories”?

    My cousins had a copy, and I read some of them when I was about 9 years old, and they gave me the heebie jeebies. They were all horror stories.

    Later, when I was older, I realised that they were moralistic tales told published by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. And quite a lot of them had a very strong anti-bullying message. There was one story about some boys who thew stones at a girl called Doris, and damaged her voice box. It really scared me.

    Perhaps they need a revival.

    • Hi, Steve Hayes, I grew up with Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories. I loved them! And yes, there were some pretty hard-hitting stories about child abuse and bullying, all told in Uncle Arthur’s kindly old voice. I remember the Doris story. It was called “When Doris Lost Her Voice”. She disobeyed the shorter route her mother had warned her against, and paid heavily for her disobedience, but in the end, happiness was restored. There was always redemption for an erring child at the end of a Bedtime Story, and a lesson learned. I have long thought that these “character building stories” should have a wider readership…. and yet, I grew up in Uncle Arthur’s religion, and attended Adventist schools, where I was dealt with cruelly. I have recently released a book, CHURCH SCHOOL BLUES about my years of being bullied church schools. In fact, the Bedtime Stories are mentioned several times in the narrative. Obviously, some of the Adventist children didn’t take those lessons to heart, but that’s not the fault of the Bedtime Stories! Bring them back!

  12. We should take the reins, but I’m afraid we’re going to let it pass us by. We’re awfully good at focusing on gnats and missing camels.

  13. I realize this is off the main topic of the post, but I would like to hear more at some point about why you don’t believe that anthropogenic global warming is real.

    I think you raise a good point when you talk about why you’d expect Christians to be at the forefront of the environmental movement, as stewards of God’s creation. For what it’s worth, though, I’ve heard Christians dismiss environmental concerns because of their Christian beliefs — they expect Judgment Day to happen long before we run out of natural resources or overheat the planet with CO2.

    • Yes. Most Christians who are obsessed with the end of the world are morons.

      About global warming, I’m an agnostic. To me, there is just too many factors and not definitive enough evidence to conclude that we are the cause of any warming trend. The earth’s temps have been in flux forever. And every time I turn around, an “expert’s” predictions turn out to be wrong. Something like 20% of the oil from the gulf spill was never accounted for – the earth just seemed to clean it up. I think the earth is just more resilient than we think.

  14. The message from the church is the same as it’s always been. Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. As far as the environment, be good stewards of the earth. I know I don’t want my church getting into the politics of these issues.

    • I’ve been around “a while”, been to many churches, and now consider myself a Baptist refugee, so I have to take issue with your statement that the message from the church has always been to “love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.”

      Churches, for the most part, have been, and still are, more concerned with everything BUT Jesus’ greatest command. It is still about the rules and not the relationship, the organization and not the community. Again, not across the board, but for the most part.

      The teaching pastor of the church I currently attend is wrapping up a series of messages that addresses the question of “What Is Christian”, very well but I have to say, this church disappoints with some of the policies on who may and may not serve as volunteers. I just can’t reconcile this, and if I were one of the people being welcomed to attend, to give my money, but told I can’t serve in some capacity, I would feel bullied, in a sense.

      Very interesting article, Matt.

  15. I was bullied pretty much throughout my elementary and Jr. High school years. That was a factor in my decision to homeschool. However, much to my surprise, even homeschools can have bullies 8-O. My personal approach has been two-pronged: talk to the bully about their behavior, give them consequences and (when I remember) pray with them; teach the person being bullied how to stand up to them and pray for them. It is definitely easier to handle bully issues in our school than in public school. My older son (3rd born) was an 18 month old bully. When he didn’t get his way, he bit his sisters or pulled hair or kicked and hit them. When time outs were proving ineffective, I one day put him in his crib for an extended time out and taught the girls basic self defense that would keep them safe without hurting him. The girls caught on quickly and that avenue was closed off from him.

    I think that bullying is a family issue that is the responsibility of the parents to handle. They should be the ones guiding their kids on how to act toward bullies or making their kids experiences the consequences if they are bullying. The parents of the bullied should be interacting with the parents of the bully to try and enlist their help end ending the bullying. As Christians, we should be weighing in on the topic by bringing up resources for handling bullies, how to lovingly deal with your kid if you find out they are bullies. We should be bringing grace and truth into the discussion as well discussing the biblical concept of “sowing and reaping” and how Jesus told us to handle conflict in relationships while he was alive. This is not an issue that can be handled by rules or law. It is a relationship issue.

    • In response to the mom who home schools so that her children are more protected from being bullied like she was in school: Absolutely yes, we should pray for and with our children and try to teach them the best way to respond to bullies.

      The reality is that most kids are not home schooled. Also, most parents are unaware of the extent that their chid is being bullied. If it is brought to their attention, they may or may not be concerned thinking it is some type of ritual of childhood. Or they may try to address it simply by telling the child to pray or by telling them to remember that “sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you.” I tried these things. They got me laughed at.

      The issue here is not a once or twice instance of name calling or a student occasionally shoving you in a hallway or saying something embarrassing about you in front of a crowd. I understand that these things can not be controlled and are a part of life. Bullying is, in my opinion, systematic, predictable, verbally abusive behavior repeated over and over on a regular basis. This is something that should be addressed by Christians, by schools, by parents, by counselors and yes, church leaders and politics if that is what it takes. Why wouldn’t people who follow Jesus want to stop and help a child who is being abused, taunted and ridiculed by their peers? Please help me to understand.

      An 8th grader is in the hospital after multiple suicide attempts. He is fighting the demons born of relentless school yard bullying. He come from an excellent, strong Christian family and has wonderful parents. I follow Jesus and therefore I can not be silent on this issue. How about you?

      • I guess I didn’t express myself very well, because I didn’t think I suggested being silent or disinterested. I was pretty consistently targeted in elementary through 7th grade for teasing and bullying through three moves. Most of it was verbal stuff, but I also had stuff stolen and then returned ruined, I had chalk and salt and other powdery substances that should have been used for science experiments thrown into my hair and the teachers did nothing. Looking back, I saw this progression in me from being an outgoing, friendly girl to someone who could barely make eye contact by 7th grade. Then we made one more move and by the grace of God, I was no longer a target. I would never advocate silence.

        What I DO recommend is to encourage kids to talk to their parents, which is what I did. They helped me to figure out when to ignore it, when to take a stand and there were a couple of times when they stepped in and talked to the child or parent of the child. They didn’t always give the best advice, but they listened and did their best. Parents should be their child’s biggest advocate and defender and take *whatever* steps are necessary to ensure their child’s physical and emotional safety. That is the main idea that Christians should be advocating and promoting. Jesus’ recommendation on handling conflict was to have the two parties (kids) come together and discuss the problem, then bring in witnesses (parents) and then, if that didn’t work, get others involved (school administration and teacher). If that doesn’t work or the administration doesn’t want to deal with it, then figure out other options to keep your kid safe.

        If parents are unaware of the extent of bullying, I would ask the question “Why?” Why aren’t kids talking to their parents about it? Is there some kind of code of ethics among kids to not be a “tattle tale?” Is it they believe all the Nickelodeon/Disney shows that portray parents as totally clueless and ineffective as true? Are families too busy doing things to talk together? Is it because so many kids are growing up in broken homes and living latch-key lives or the parents don’t know how to parent because they grew up in latch-key lives? Is it because the school rooms are so stuffed with kids that teachers can’t see everything that is going on in their class or during recess?

        My other question is why has bullying become such a problem, especially since so many schools instituted “zero tolerance” anti-bullying policies after the Columbine shootings over a decade ago? Is there some way we as Christians can reach out to the kids who are bullies and show them the best way?

        I will pray for that 8th grade boy who is suffering so much.
        God Bless!

        • Thank you for your prayers! It’s funny that I hear this term “zero tolerance” a lot lately and, I have to admit, I thought it referred to drug use or weapon possession in school not to bullying. Your thoughtful response got me thinking….

          I wonder if there might be a way, perhaps through a training with the help of a video or live demonstrations, that we could teach children and parents how to respond to bullies in ways that disarm or at least discourage them. Being that some of us who are bullied are scrawny, the famed and successful “one punch back” defense might not always work – especially with girls. Hopefully there are other ways! There are certainly things we can teach parents, staff and bystanders so that bullying is less acceptable in the middle school environment.

          My son wrote an essay on this after he was bullied in middle school. He suggested bystander could say specific things to the bully and to the victim but I don’t recall what those things were. Would talking to a teacher help? I hope so. Perhaps, like you say, the classrooms are overcrowded. Providing specific tools through training for parents, students, teachers and churches would perhaps be more effective than simply having an awareness campaign.

          I’m curious if anyone has experience or ideas of what you would tell a middle school student to say or do in response to being bullied in school. Ideas lead to solutions and I’d love to hear some ideas!

          God Bless you and thank you for your time and patience! Also, thank you Matt for bringing up this topic!

  16. I totally agree. I would go as far as to say we (Christians) are called to get in front of causes like this, however big or small.


    Dare I say most of us spend far too much time trying to figure out what being Christian even means. I have confidence though, that the ah-ha moment will come, flooding us with the knowledge, we (Gods people) ARE the church. Then the “take action” part of our walk with God (seeing all causes as mini opportunities to spread love) will become obvious to us.

  17. If you think about it, bullying is really a form of human exploitation and I think many Christians are waking up to exploitation as an issue. It is currently popular to be a part of “movements”, which I think do some harm because there will always be a new, more “current” movement coming down the pike. I believe Christians need to do our part with creating awareness. However, if we would truly live as Disciples (i.e. walking in Christ’s footsteps, doing what He did) setting a 24/7 example and reaching out in love individually, as well as corporately, I believe it could be even more powerful than temporarily jumping on the latest bandwagon.

    • Oh, total agreement here. We are constantly tweeting and making special Facebook avatars for the cause of the week, just to stroke our egos and feel like we’ve made a difference. I want us to make an even more meaningful difference than popular culture expects.

  18. (1) Just because what you’re calling “the church” doesn’t rise up as one to respond doesn’t mean that Christians aren’t.
    (2) I’ve often noticed that fundamental Christian communities (which are not the same as what the media generally calls “fundamentalist Christians”) refuse to play by society’s rules. If the media can disguise issue as another, they can claim support for the first by tying together support for the other. (This is what partisan politics is all about.) Perhaps silence is a way of refusing to play the game. Jesus was silent at his own trial. Christians have a history of being persecuted.
    (3) Also consider that many Christians have been the target of bullying themselves. (Remember Columbine?)
    (4) Another thing to consider: perhaps fundamental Christians are simply quiet, and the “loud ones” the media pokes fun at don’t really represent them. Case in point: the Amish. With very few exceptions, you hear nothing about them except the quality of their work, and when there is a story (e.g. forced haircuts), it’s so different than what you hear from the rest of the country that it’s tame by comparison.

  19. Why are Christians Pro-Bullying?

    I believe it is because they like to bully or be bullied…

    Of course it’s all done in the name of either “God” or “love”.

    They bully from the pulpit, they bully while evangelizing. I had a friend who went to a church where his actions (and he wasn’t a “sinful person”) were routinely criticized. If he didn’t walk out of church feeling like he had been challenged to live a better life, he was disappointed.

    Look at the popular pastors… Many of them bully… You wouldn’t want to condemn something you believe you are supposed to be doing, that’s too close to home.

  20. The real issue to me is that most of the people yelling really aren’t concerned about bullying. They’re just using the bullied kids to advance their overall LGBT agenda.

    Why do I feel that way?

    Because bullying has been going on for decades. I was bullied all throughout my school years in the 70s and 80s. I have a false tooth in front that I see every time I open my mouth because a bully slammed my face into the side of the school building when I was a kid and cracked the tooth right off. There was no anti-bullying campaigns back then.

    And then until recently, there was no anti-bullying campaigns for the kids who were short, or fat, or wore glasses or weren’t as rich as the “popular” kids. No, it’s about the “gay” kids. It’s not truly about bullying…because if these people were really concerned about the bullying of children they wouldn’t be fixated on kids who claim to be gay. It’s not being honest to say the main concern of these people is bullying. If these kids were Christian kids, you wouldn’t see Ellen DeGeneres making a big deal about it. Dan Savage wouldn’t be doing an “It Gets Better” campaign. Heck, Dan Savage recently called a bunch of Christian youths “pansy assed” because they didn’t want to sit and listen to him distort Scripture and insult their faith. (He later said he wasn’t really doing that but I saw the video and he was bullying the Christian kids.)

    If people were all about stopping ALL bullying, I’d be all in favor of jumping in the fray. As is, I see a lot of people with their own social/political agendas trying to couch it as being anti-bullying but only when it’s children who advance their agenda.

    • I agree with you that right now it’s a gay issue. But that’s why we need to jump into the fray and take control of our share of the issue. We can be the defenders of the kids being left out.

    • Well, at the risk of being told that I’m “everything that’s wrong with America” again, I’d like to point something out–

      The “It Gets Better” campaign came about because of the (relatively higher) suicide rate among gay teens and young adults. Which, I may also point out, hasn’t exactly been something that many Christians have been chomping at the bit to do anything about.

  21. Jason, I agree with you. The only time that bullying makes the news is if it’s an issue with homosexuality. I assure you, plenty of other kids are at this very moment being bullied, but they aren’t getting news coverage or web-sites or celebrity endorsements. Their experiences aren’t sexy enough for coverage.
    I have been a teacher in public elementary schools in 3 states, over a course of 2 decades. Bullying will NEVER be eliminated because little bullies grow up to be adult bullies. And some of them get jobs in the schools system.

    The other problem with Christians standing up to bullying is the ‘turn the other cheek’ syndrome. In the world of fight or flight, I will fight. But I am told by Christians and non-Christians alike, that I should take flight, be
    a pacifist Christian. Translation, a doormat Christian. {{shudder}}
    If I am to be a Christ-follower, then I will follow ALL of his example, not just the pacifist side. Did you know he had expressions of outrage? He yelled in church? He admonished his discples, as well as his friends? He expressed frustration? He also loved and forgave and ate with sinners, but let’s look at the total picture of Jesus, not the mamsy-pamsy version only.
    As a teacher, I have sat in on plenty of ‘anti-bullying’ seminars, but the truth of the matter is that as long as there are parents who encourage bullying, there will be bullying. Honestly, as some of you have pointed out, bullying exsists in all aspects of America, not just among children, and not just on the playground. So as a Christ follower and teacher and mother and human being, I will take a stand against bullying. But I won’t jump on the bandwagon. I will be involved in every situation that comes in my path, but I have different bandwagons to addresss.

  22. I agree that the church needs to speak. However you say, “In fact, I have yet to see any prominent Christians throw their hat in the bullying ring at all.” I just wanted to share this link with you. It’s from the “It Gets Better” Campaign. This is, Mark Hanson, the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. Thanks for raising this issue.


  23. I have to admit, beyond 8th grade, the other major experience I had of being bullied, was by gay activists who suddenly gained control over the master’s program at the school I was attending. They bullied me so badly that I am still unable to practice in my field due to fear from their far reaching influence. (I believe they had something to do with the sabotage of my first job as a therapist out of college).

    I was in my 40’s and going to school for a Masters degree in Professional Counseling. I was ridiculed over and over in front of my peers and other teachers. I was verbally, threatened, humiliated in front of a board after they made up false charges about me claiming I had a negative attitude, they even attempted to stop be from graduating. When that didn’t work, they told me that forever a record of “disciplinary action” would be on my academic record. I have yet to have the courage to check my record to see if the humiliation of their false charges are really there.

    What was my crime? Our first assignment was to bring in an artifact that “defined us” and explain its influence. I brought in a Bible.

    I never was and never will be “anti-gay.” I was judged and bullied. I’m sorry but it is true. Perhaps Christians will dislike this because I am not taking a stand against gays but I know enough to know that not all gay people are evil like these women were to me.

    OK, I have to go cry for a while now.

    • Christine, that is a great perspective to this story and one that is often dismissed. In an effort to so “self-critical” of the church, we tend to squint and ignore some of the details. Thanks for sharing your story.

  24. Hi Matt! This is a good topic and it definitely is a trigger point for many, including me. Here is a counter-point to your argument that we should be at the forefront of bringing it up as a problem and condemning it as evil: What if we Christians, instead of bringing it up and demanding change and basically, talking, we quietly pray and ask God for His protection over our kids and all the kids in school and ask Him for His plan to help alleviate the problem? Then we quietly start working in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and cities to implement His plan. We won’t get the press’ attention and the glory for “solving the problem”(which will never really be solved until Jesus returns), but isn’t providing a quiet solution better than voicing our opinions and wringing our hands publicly?

  25. I have been bullied most (ok, all) of my life. First verbally by family, then physically at my bus stop, then more verbal by “friends”, etc. Literally all of it was done in part, if not fully, by people who would claim to be my brothers & sisters in Christ. Dozens more watched & did nothing. If the church wants to take a stand on bullying, we need to start from the inside out & tell kids not only to “not be mean”, but why they shouldn’t bully others and how it hurts not only the victim but the bully themselves. I have seen several bullies lose a lot of friends because they saw how the bully treated me and didn’t like it.

  26. Excellent article. The ultimate bullies: Catholic priests.

  27. Most excellent, Matt! You know, I’ve had the privilege of meeting Lee Hirsch (Director) and some of the families in the Bully film. The very question I asked them was, “How have the local churches supported you?” The one’s with gay kids received little if any support. The rest did because their kids weren’t gay.

    When the Western Church begins to see this and all issues through kingdom eyes, and not political eyes, it should lead us to repent and begin the healing process of ourselves and those we marginalize. Sadly, American political ideology has intertwined itself into the fabric of American Christianity that we feel we have to choose sides. Jesus chose to do the will of the Father. We must do the same.

  28. First, I agree that the prominent church leaders should step up on this issue, but it isn’t accurate to say the church is totally quiet on this. I have been part of bringing in national speakers on bullying and cyber bullying to talk to private and public school teachers, parents, and concerned citizens. I have been teaching for 4 years to my students (who are the front line in the war on bullying) about the power they have in building people up and defending the ones who are cast aside, and I know I’m not the only student leader doing this.

    Yes, “big church” is behind the times on this but student ministry has been fighting this battle far longer than the media has cared.

    • Maybe that is the problem – that the people who are doing the work aren’t getting the appropriate exposure. I am sure that I am painting with a broad brush here, and there are probably lots of little things happening under the radar.

  29. This may be slightly off topic, but all I hear about kids being bullied and how horrible and evil bullies are, I rarely hear anything about how to teach kids who are being bullied how to respond. My son was bullied for almost 2 years by the same group of boys. We told our son to ignore them. He did. They continued to bully him. We finally told him that if he chose to slam a couple of these kids up against a locker and tell them to leave him alone we would stand behind his decision. He did exactly that. They don’t bother him anymore. I know standing up to a bully isn’t always the solution, it just happened to be in our case. I often think the zero tolerance policy creates more bullies, because the ones being bullied are afraid to get in trouble for fighting back. I just don’t think it’s ever a good idea to tell a child he’s not allowed to defend himself.

    • I was bullied all my life growing up. At times for being overweight, but the most hurtful stuff came when I was teased for being visually impaired…

      For several years, I had the bus driver drop me off a block early and asked him to hold the bus so I had time to run home before the other kids could get off the bus to beat me up. Funny thing is, I was strong enough to fight back (and did actually beat up a few of my “bullies”, but at school I was still scared and intimidated.

      Anyway, I gave my son the same advice you did. If someone is hurting you physically, stand up for yourself, fight back. We know the school wil suspend you the same, but the the Govt. is too foolish to know the difference between being bullied and self-defense. But regardless of what the school does, we will stand by our son if he makes a smart decision not to get let kids bully him.

    • katdish,

      Actually I’ve been working with a local non profit and our school system in developing a program where bullying is identified and the bullies and bullied are both given services that help to deal with the problem. It is important for targets to receive support and useful training. Many terrible scenarios where bullied individuals snap and either kill a bunch of people or kill themselves or just shut down can be avoided when they receive help instead of being told “keep your head down and it will get better.”

    • Definitely! I can’t tell you how much goading it took from my parents to get me to stand up for myself – I was too afraid to get in trouble!

  30. The problem with us Christians is that we disagree on the issues related to bullying (read: homosexuality, same-sex marriage, etc.) more often than we agree. The only way that we can make ourselves visible in the fight against bullying is to have a UNITED front that says, “Enough is enough with bullying.” However, how can we have a united front if we disagree more than we agree with each other? We believe that we are the body of Christ, and as a body, we must move as one. If we wanna move to the right, we must all move to the right. But that’s just easier said than done since some of us have a different idea on where to move. The result: we remain still – which is contrary to what Jesus did – He moved following God’s will and He became the ultimate advocate for those who are hurting in the society.

    When are we, Christians, going to move as one, united in the fight against bullying? Oh to dream…

  31. Not everyone believes in God. We can’t just shove His name in people’s faces and expect them to care. No, they’d probably get angry with just the mention of it. “Those Christians – can’t they do anything without throwing God’s name around?” So, in my opinion, your example of Christians joining the environmental movement is completely shot. Maybe a different approach that wouldn’t be shoving verses and God’s name down people’s throats, but other than that, no. It wouldn’t have helped anything, it would’ve just made people dislike – maybe even hate – Christians and God more. Not exactly what we’re going for here.

    As for Christians joining the bullying movement, and your theory that we aren’t joining in because most of the victims are gay? Well, that might be true – for some Christians. Who’s to say there’s not a whole Church out there saying, “You know what, all men are created equal in the eyes of God, so why not help these people out?” And that’s just it – you CAN’T say there isn’t, because you don’t know. They may not be making such a huge difference it’s known nationally, or even globally, but they could be trying to make a difference locally, and that’s just as good as anything else.

    My point is this; please don’t classify all Christians as a whole. There are so many people who call themselves Christians, but really know nothing about it, and so many Christians who interpret the Bible in different ways. Westboro Church being a prime example – people who call themselves Christians, but whose so-called ‘Bible’ is verses that revolve around hate, rather than focusing on the very foundation of the Bible, which is love. I was raised in private Christians schools, and no one ever told me to hate gays, or that gays were a crime against God. If anything, they main thing they told me was to love EVERYONE as I love myself, because that’s what Jesus did. Because that’s what Christianity is.

  32. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wondered why the churches were so far behind with various positive social movements. I’m old enough to remember the Civil Rights Movement, and how nobody in my church was on the board with that, at least not publicly. Same with the Environment. The attitude there seemed to be that Christians considered the earth a throw-away world which all the good people would be leaving, anyway, so it was a waste of time and even possibly blasphemy to try to save a planet that God was going to burn up at the End of Time. The anti-bullying movement isn’t exactly comparable to the Civil Rights Movement or the Environmental movement. As several have already commented, bullying is difficult to define. Bullying that involves physical assault already comes under certain laws, but verbal bullying is difficult to measure although the long-term damage may be worse. I have always been against legislating it, but I am for Christian organizations facing the fact that bullying occurs among them, despite the fact that they advertise their schools and organizations as places where people behave better than the unchurched. This is an especially serious problem for religious organizations because being bullied has a negative impact on the bullied person’s religious experience and religious identity. Bullying disengages you from the group, and when that group is your religious group, then they lose members. I was bullied. I left the church as an adult. The cause and effect wasn’t quite that direct, but after I wrote the book, CHURCH SCHOOL BLUES, I finally admitted that being treated as I was certainly affected my later feelings about religion in general.

  33. I don’t know why all this attention to bullying and the finger pointing at Christians reminds me so much of what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany. Hitler blamed the ills of society on the Jews. First it started with accusing them of being greedy and dishonest. He went on to stir up hatred in Germans against Jews. That hatred against Jews set the stage for his “final solution”. What I see is a vehemence against Christians because they dare believe what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. God made this world and He made woman for man–and not man for man or woman for woman. This is what true Christians believe. God is not apologizing for what He has said in His word, and as a Christian I also will not apologize for saying what His word has said. I believe that there are difficult days ahead for Christians.