bullying

 

“BULLYING – abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger and more powerful.”

In junior high school I weighed about 145 pounds, I was gangly and scrawny, and my oversized ears and nose made me an easy target for the big boys waiting in the gym where I had to go after lunch on my way to my next class.  Punching, poking, slapping, and pushing became such a stressful occurrence that I ended the school day with an extreme gastrointestinal disorder.  But the physical abuse was more tolerable than the name-calling and ridicule of my physical appearance.  I recovered from the punching and poking much sooner than the hurtful words.

The teachers were aware of the ongoing abuse.  Their advice was to fight back.  Not only was that a stupid idea, the big boys collectively weighed about 800 pounds, but it was an unacceptable option in the tradition of my faith.  The end result was that a young junior high school student blamed himself for the abuse and felt he actually merited the bullying because he was not only ugly but a coward as well.

We hurt each other with actions and words most often unaware of our indiscretion.  Mindlessness is not a virtue but it is forgivable.  Bullying is not mindless.  It is intentional, demeaning, diminishing, and tragic.  Today’s media headlines tell of young girls who are bullied at school and on social media and then choose suicide as the only option.  As young as twelve years old, they end their lives over an act of social injustice which tells them they are unworthy of living..

Yes, it is injustice.  Bullying is an action and an attitude.  It is an outrageous verbal and physical assault on those who are vulnerable, those who are unable to fend for themselves.  It is cowardice at its ugliest.  As a nation we are witnessing bullying in our highest government offices, in the powers seated in Washington, D.C., in the Oval Office of the White House.  We witness bullying in corporate offices, in the entertainment industry, in the factory, and in schools.  It is fed by bias, racism, discrimination, sexism, xenophobia, and unfettered ego.

We are building a world where bullying is not tolerated.  In that world the pain inflicted by words and actions on weaker victims will no longer exist.  The tears and sorrow suffered in grieving for loved victims will no longer exist.  The strong and powerful will be made to serve and the meek will be exalted.  That world will manifest someday, but until then it is our responsibility as members of a righteous humanity to oppose bullying at all levels of society and courageously expose it for the cowardice which it is.

REVELATION 21:4

rainbow-solidarity

racial thoughts

As a young man I always knew it was out there somewhere in the nether regions.  I saw it in movies and television shows.  Sometimes it plastered the front page of my newspapers.  But, it was always in somebody else’s world, not mine.  My world was orderly, civil, simple, and pleasant.  Neat, uncomplicated, unthreatening, predictable.

I liked my life that way.  It gave me a sense of assurance that tomorrow would be just as uneventful as today.  Life was unexciting, unchanging, uninvolved, unemotional when it straddled that fence-riding, noncommittal country lane to nowhere.  No threats, no worries, no anxieties, no challenges, and certainly no engagement with that demonic something that was out there in the backwoods waiting for an opportunity to destroy and devour my world.

But, it inevitably happened.  It came charging out of the woods screaming, “Here I am, you stupid bastard.  Your ancestral nightmare is coming out of the shadows of generations past to turn your contrived, serene, peaceful, simple, orderly, civil world into a pile of dung.”

“I am loud.  I am cruel.  I am vindictive.  I am dangerous.  I am violent.  I am judgmental and I am screaming in your face to destroy your perceived sensibilities.  I will make you angry, then depressed, then guilty, then sad, then angry again and I won’t go away because I am that vile, force of darkness which you have denied in your stupid little Pollyanna world.  Now, white boy, deal with it.”

The voices of past hatred, intolerance, and bigotry rocked my white man’s world.  I felt the pain of those who had been oppressed for so many years.  I heard the suffering cries of a black man who was lynched.  I smelled  the horror of the Jews being turned to ash in the incinerators.  I saw the tears in the eyes of the native Americans forced to relinquish their lands to the white invaders.   And my ancestors, white men, were responsible.  Guilty as charged.

Responsible for the genocide, the murder, the decimation of indigenous peoples, the plight of slaves, the hoarding of earth’s resources, the destruction of nature’s beauty.  It was my people who pillaged and plundered everything which God had intended for all mankind to use wisely. It was my people who claimed to be superior to all other races, who believed they had a God-given right to dominate, who believed their God was the only true God.  It was my people.

Oh Lord, hear this white man’s cry.  Chastise, discipline, punish us as a people for closing our eyes and shutting our ears to the needs of the world’s oppressed minorities.  I ask your forgiveness but I also accept your righteous judgment.  Grant me the courage to personally right the wrongs which I can and to walk shoulder to shoulder with all brothers and sisters in shoes of equality and compassion.

Once again there are certain of my people who would return us to the horrors of centuries past.  Do not let this seething anger which I feel rising today over the words and actions of my misguided white brothers overwhelm the work which needs to be done in active non-violent confrontation.  Calm my soul, focus my attention on your faithfulness and righteousness in the days ahead.  As they sang it in the 1960s, “We shall overcome.”  Hatred, bigotry, intolerance, racism shall be overcome with you, Lord, leading the charge.

Amen

 

 

 

 

….and my neighbor is ?

Refer to the good Samaritan parable from the book of Luke 10:25-37namaste rainbow

“25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He (Jesus) said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?                                

2And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he (Jesus) said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.

Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

King James Version (KJV)Public Domain

“Go, and do thou likewise.”

From the first time I heard this story in Sunday School and VBS about the good Samaritan, I have been intrigued by the characters and the roles they played in Jesus’ lesson on Christian behavior.  In it Jesus defines the meaning of “neighbor”.  Obviously it is not limited to what we in contemporary society would consider a neighbor, i.e., the couple next door or the man down the street.

In Biblical Jewish culture, the Samaritans were a race to be ostracized and avoided at all costs.  At the well, the Samaritan woman drawing water was shocked and probably miffed that a Jewish teacher (Jesus) would ask her to draw water for him. John 4:7-26 In all probability, the Samaritans hated the Jews just as much as the Jews despised them.

So when Jesus uses a Samaritan traveler as the pivotal character in his parable, those hearing his message were undoubtedly shocked.  And when Jesus takes this heresy further to cast a favorable light upon the Samaritan, we should not be surprised that the ruling hierarchy of Pharisees desired to be rid of him and his teachings.  Their hatred and intolerance was justified by centuries-old racism supported by an archaic system of religious righteousness.

Jesus reckons with this racism by first stating that a priest and then a Levite came upon the traveler (we are not told anything about his background) and kept to the side of the road in order to avoid contact with him.  Perhaps they feared for their own safety should the robbers still be nearby.  Or perhaps they did not want to contaminate themselves by touching a corpse.  The priest and the Levite, although holy men of the Jewish faith, lacked the compassion to lend assistance to the dying traveler.  The Samaritan, however, even though a despised citizen of a neighboring country, felt compassion for the wounded man and gave immediate assistance to the point of ensuring his safe passage to care and recovery at a nearby inn.

“And who is my neighbor,” asked the lawyer of Jesus in the scripture, verse 29?

Jesus tells his story and then the lawyer in verse 37 answers his own question, “He that shewed mercy.”

Which character of this parable do I play?  Am I the priest or Levite, men unwilling to be involved in saving another’s life?  Am I the good Samaritan who cares enough to risk his own life for that of a stranger?  Or perhaps I am the traveler, wounded and left to die on the highway of life, saved only by the grace of a compassionate savior.

Who is my neighbor?  Certainly John next door, my tax accountant at the mall, the restaurant owner at my favorite Italian place, even the Muslim couple who smile to me whenever they walk by my house.  I consider my pastor my neighbor, my car salesman, my insurance agent, and my local sheriff.

OK.  What about the strident atheist at school, the repugnant Republican congressman, the white supremacist in Georgia, the drug dealer in the city, and the redneck who flies a Confederate flag on his pickup truck?  Are they my neighbors?

Jesus was not categorizing anyone when instructing us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus does not see anything but a person’s heart and the innate love and compassion within that heart.  Jesus wants us to do the same.

Who, then, is my neighbor?  The Nazi who would kill a gay man?  The racist who would lynch a black man?  The Jew who would harm a Palestinian?

If I were to come upon an injured man on the highway and that man was Trump, would I stop to assist or pass by on the other side of the road?  Yeah, it gets really funky now, doesn’t it?

I am supposed to love my neighbor.  Love is not always a warm, fuzzy feeling that tingles all over.  It is also a willingness to be actively compassionate toward every creature of God’s creation.

“Go, and do thou likewise.”  I know that if I just carry the willingness, God will honor my efforts.smiley 3

 

BUILDING 429

In my little world there’s an inside voice that tells me, “yes Larry, you are on the right track,” or, ” no Larry, you are screwing up”.  It’s a good personal barometer of fair or foul weather lying ahead.  Get out the sunglasses or put on the hip boots.

I take lots of things in life pretty seriously, sometimes too seriously.  Often I take myself too seriously.  I can be too thin-skinned for my own good and in the past I have spent days brooding over unkind remarks which honestly had no bearing on me as a person.  I guess I often allow ego to run my life.  I can be judgemental and I can be overbearing.

I usually believe that I have a fairly decent handle on the world and world affairs.  I see myself as a sane, rational human being.  On my better days the future has a rosey glow and I feel like I will live forever….well, almost forever.  On less optimistic days I truly have no desire to live a long, long life.  Why bother?  Who really cares?

But rarely do I find myself shaken to the core with a realization that simply has never occurred to me before.  I don’t know where it came from, I don’t remember thinking that peculiar thought before.  It’s discomfitting and it’s challenging.

That’s what has happened today.  I share opinions about the world, society, people, spirituality, sobriety, serenity, politics, etc., etc.  And I know that mine is just a small voice participating in a raucous conversation.  We share thoughts, we agree, we disagree and we go on with the day’s agenda.

However, never have I considered that there are people in this country, in this world who do not want to live in a society of non-violence.  We know some can’t, that some are caught up in political turmoil and social injustice.  But, I always thought that given their druthers, they would choose peace.  Apparently, that’s not true.

It’s obvious by responses on Facebook where conciliatory Congressmen are booed and ridiculed.  It’s equally obvious from reading letters to the editor in my newspaper.  We see it on our screens everyday.  Lord forgive me for being so blind and for living in a world of make-believe.  I should be old enough by now to know better.  Some folks simply love violence and actually thrive on it.  That is the utopia they seek.

So by now you might be asking, “Larry, where are you going with this?”

I’m a tired man with high blood pressure, aches and pains, cholesterol issues, emphysema and bunions on my toes.  I don’t have the financial resources to buy an island in the South Pacific where my cat and I can live in a peaceful disconnect from the world.  Hell, I barely have enough to feed my cat.  We are both getting older and, I don’t know about Max, but I am weary of the world’s agenda.

There’s a contemporary Christian song by BUILDING 429 which says:

“Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing but am I alive
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong”

That sums it up for me.  This is not where I belong.  The guns, the violence, the hatred, the racism, the bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia………

“So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.”

smiley 3