Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bullying (Easter 7 Year B)

It has been an interesting week.

Our work on the New Monasticism is drawing to a close. The book just needs a few finishing touches. It feels like our lives have been overtaken by this book for the last few weeks.

But this week we moved on. We started our next project. Together we are writing two books on foster care and non violent (re)parenting we hope to have the first completed in about five weeks. In addition, I am researching corporal punishment in the public school system. I am shocked by what I am finding. So now our minds are becoming occupied with abuse and violence and the victims of it.

Last night, Andy and I went to the movies. We went to see the documentary film, Bully. It was not what we anticipated, yet nevertheless was thought provoking and profoundly disturbing. We had expected facts and figures, statistics and interviews. What we saw were five interwoven stories, with mainly the young victims and/or their families talking. There was no outside commentary on it. All were intensely grieving. Two of the five families had children who had killed themselves as a result of bullying, one was a teenager, the other only eleven. The third family had a son who clearly had some developmental difficulties. Actually a smart kid, who had been born at 25 weeks, but he looked a little different. All he wanted was to make friends. He was being bullied to the extent that there were concerns for his safety expressed by the filmmakers. The fourth family had a fourteen year-old daughter who had been bullied continually. She was in detention as she had finally retaliated, unfortunately by taking a gun on the school bus. The final family had a daughter who was gay, and dressed like a boy. The bullying she received was so bad that the family ultimately pulled her out of school.

Then I read the lectionary passage, the prayer of Jesus in John 17. As so often happens a couple of words, or a phrase, jumped out at me. It was as if they were highlighted. The words were “protect them”. Jesus is praying to the father-mother that the ones Jesus cared for would be protected. I am reading this in a very wide way. I am not interpreting it as Jesus referring to the immediate company of followers but to the whole world. Jesus’ heart was to see humanity protected with an ensuing unity.

It is a theme that has been picked up many times in popular fiction and songs. John Lennon’s Imagine is a classic example.

I think last night’s film showed as a society we fail. Those who are weak or different are not protected but are victimized. It is a sad reflection on society.

When we do not protect we do not act as Christ in the world.

Perhaps, even more disturbing in the film were the clips of school personnel talking to the children. They, also, were bullying the children, insinuating that it was the kid’s fault and doing little to protect them. It showed that the parents, too, were bullied by the school personnel when they tried to seek help for their children.

One of the many books I am reading is called Dangerous Schools: What We Can Do About the Physical and Emotional Abuse of Our Children by Irwin Hyman and Pamela Snook. I suspect I will be using several quotes from it in my thesis.

The authors talk about how 90% of the population, learn at an early age that it is okay for someone bigger and stronger to inflict pain. He talks about how people love to watch movies or play video games where heroes win by the use of violence. The authors comment, “We are a nation of violence junkies.”

The movie highlighted a huge problem, which is not limited to schools. It is not one we will be able to solve. However, hopefully, our eyes will continue to be opened. We will see victims of violence, we will see the weak, we will see those who are different, we will see those who have no voice and we will be the ones to try and protect . . . to be as Christ to them.

Blessings + Jane