Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Culture of Bullies

What do School Bullies, Domestic Abuse, and Abortion have in common?
They are all the result of an imbalance of power between people who are supposed to be in relationship, and they are a sign of the lack of relationship between humanity and God.

I recently read a book by popular author Jodi Picoult. The title of the book was "Nineteen Minutes" and it is about a boy, Peter, who has been bullied in school from kindergarten until the age of seventeen, when he finally "takes care of it" and goes on a rampage, shooting and killing 10 students, and wounding many more. Many of the students he kills are his tormentors. Some are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has taken all he can stand and he decides that they aren't going to hurt him any more. The system has been totally incapable of stopping the abuse and his own parents don't realize the agony that he endures every day.

One glaring deficit in the life of this boy is any kind of relationship with God. His world is empty of meaning and he can find no value for himself in it. He doesn't find unconditional Love anywhere.
Even his parents have measured his worth, unknowingly, by comparing him to his stellar older brother, who was killed a year before in an accident.
He feels totally overwhelmed and hopeless and his behavior seems to reflect Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The reader can't help but wonder if the outcome for this kid would be different if he knew that there is someone who loves him more than anyone else can, and that he is valued and cherished by a loving Father who is perfect, and who promises "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." and "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for their's is the kingdom of heaven".

I am not, in any way, excusing the way Peter deals with his enemies. He becomes a bully in his own right when he picks up weapons and makes himself the tormentor. He destroys the lives of not only his victims, but parents, grandparents, siblings, and turns his small, peaceful town into a killing field. He becomes a monster and he deserves to be punished.

As the story proceeds, we find that another central character, Josie, a girl that has become popular, but used to be Peter's best friend, is dating Matt, the worst of the bullies. Matt takes daily pleasure in making Peter's life a living hell. He is also abusing Josie. He pushes her around, he is insanely jealous and he has driven Josie almost to the point of suicide. This is "Battered Wife Syndrome" going somewhere to happen. He has a hold over her, like he abuses Peter. They are both mentally and emotionally battered.

The author does an excellent job of illustrating a serious problem that kids in our society face every day, but she doesn't explore the ramifications of the bigger picture.
We condemn bullying between children, we try to create policies, awareness programs, and
we examine the relationships between particular kids.
I think we need to stand back even further, though. I think we need to look at the fabric of our culture.
We are a culture of bullies. The weakest and most vulnerable among us have the least protection, legally and socially.
The beautiful have all the perks. The ugly, the weak and the poor have to stay out of the way.
The strong and the skilled climb to the top of the social ladder, without looking at who they have pushed out of the way getting to the top.

Beauty, intelligence, skill, and physical ability are all gifts. They are given with the intent that they are to be used to bring about good. The weakest among us have gifts too. They have been given so much Grace in the challenges that they face. The strong are supposed to help them share their gifts.
We should welcome them into our human family as blessings.
Our culture, however, is on a "seek and destroy" mission against those that are inconvenient, or weak or make us feel uncomfortable. There are "tests", there are "procedures".
We are a nation of bullies, only accepting into the clique of humanity those that can achieve, or those that make us feel like we are "winners".

There have always been bullies. Since Cain and Able, stronger people have been tormenting and killing weaker ones.
Our job is to teach our children the dignity of every human life in the eyes of God. They must understand that they must cherish the life of every human being, from the innocent unborn, to the elderly. From the beautiful and able, to the not-so-beautiful and disabled. The weaker in their circle need to be built up and the bullies need to be confronted, and well, we have to love them too.
Our children need to believe in their own unique, distinct and unrepeatable place in their world. They have to be taught that they are loved unconditionally, not just by their families, which are mortal, but by their Heavenly Father. They have to know that that love will never fail. Only then are they able to weather the storms of human relationships.

This is an uphill battle in this world today, but it's where we are and the time we are given.
There is no greater Love than that we show to "The Least Of These".


Andrew & Laura said...

That is a very interesting take on this book. I really liked it, and your points didn't even register to me as I was reading it. I think I'd actually like to re-read it now. You're a smart cookie! said...

Excellent analysis!

And the last shall be first, and the first shall be last . . .