By: Lori Heine
In the LGBT community, we face bullies constantly. And we know all too well that the torment does not automatically stop when we leave school. This epidemic has put the lives of our youth are at stake -- and those of many adults, as well. We must deal boldly and decisively with this problem. We can't always count on the general public to help us. We can't afford to let concern about this be just another passing fad. Bullying may be a hot topic right now, but sooner or later, the public will get bored with it and move on to something else. The average American seems to have the attention span of a five-year-old. Most people stop being entertained by trendy problems long before they've done the hard work necessary to solve them.
Society suffers from great confusion on the issue. This is leading to some serious misunderstandings about how to deal with it. From whence comes society's notion, for example, that it's kind for us to coddle bullies? The first concern we need to have is to protect those who are being bullied. Then -- and only then -- can we focus on helping the instigators of the abuse.
Boldness before God is indeed where we must begin. We must realize that God made us to be victors, not victims. No one has the right to bully us. God has given them no special pass to ignore Christ's Golden Rule in their dealings with us.
God certainly knows the difference between real compassion and any counterfeit. Sometimes boldness, in the protection of those most vulnerable, is exactly what true compassion requires. Nor does true compassion allow bullies any convenient excuse to go on tormenting others. We can petition God -- with full confidence -- for boldness in the face of any oppression. Even when human authorities are so befuddled, befogged or compromised that they are of no help at all.
Bullies are often intelligent and highly manipulative. For everybody's sake, the idea that they're always like the mean kid on The Andy Griffith Show who takes Opie's lunch money should be dispelled. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, as well as both genders. A recent article reported an upsurge in senior bullying in retirement communities, so they come at all ages, too.
Standing up to a bully doesn't always work. Unlike the way it works out in black-and-white sitcoms, there's no deep vein of nobility in them to tap into if we face them bravely. If there were, they probably wouldn't be bullies in the first place. But the main impediment to dealing effectively with bullying is that those who are supposed to protect us so often seem to be on their side.
Bullies often perceive themselves as victims. Many of them were themselves bullied once upon a time. In their eyes, they're merely asserting themselves against a world that's against them. Force is all they've ever known. Strength is the only quality they grew up respecting.
When we fight a bully, the powers that be tend to view this with a certain moral myopia. They frequently treat both parties as equal combatants, as if each must be jointly to blame for the conflict. Usually they refuse to take sides, or to understand that the aggressor and the one aggressed against may not both be equally at fault.
Bullies know this. And they take full advantage of it. Because when the authorities deal with the situation this way, it always -- always -- benefits the bullies. It puts those being bullied at an even bigger disadvantage than they were already. And the authorities fail as moral teachers because they're just as confused as the bullies. When I was a little tomboy girl at school, I was one of the bullies' favorite targets. When I fought back, the teachers and the principal refused to recognize that I had any right to defend myself. The reports sent home always made it sound as if I had been equally responsible for the problem. I ended up getting pushed around at school and then punished and pushed around at home as well. Eventually I had to give up even trying to defend myself.
If violence is the only answer, the one measure that meets with any respect, the one being bullied may eventually use violence against him- or herself. I was strong enough to withstand the torment, and I realized that God loved me even when few others seemed to. Today, gay and lesbian kids are often explicitly told that God hates them. They don't even know that in reality, God loves them as much as "He" does anybody else. They may never know that -- perhaps may never even live long enough to find that out -- unless we tell them.
As representatives of Christ in the LGBT community, we must retain the moral center that allows us to make the world a safe and livable place for everyone willing to get along with others. When those who would advocate on our behalf seem to lack a moral compass, they do not help our cause. If anything, they harm it.
They must be able to differentiate between those who respect others, minding their own business most of the time, and those who prey upon or victimize others. If they can't tell the difference, it becomes impossible for them to protect the innocent. They can't effectively advocate any cause -- no matter how worthy -- because they have lost all necessary credibility.
People who just plain don't seem to know the difference between right and wrong do not make credible advocates for the LGBT community. They come across as flakes, at best. At worst, they appear to be advocates for evil.
Others then become frightened by the violence, chaos and moral bankruptcy they see loosed upon their world. Who do they scapegoat for this? All too often, it is us.
Boldness before authorities who should protect us -- yet often don't -- must also be a priority. We must never accept no for an answer when we ask for help. Nor must we depend on the kindness of those in any position of authority. Or of power. As Christians, we must bring the authorities back to a moral compass about bullying. If we don't do it, nobody will. All too often, all the authorities care about is their own comfort and convenience. We must make it more uncomfortable, and more inconvenient, for them not to protect the vulnerable than it is for them to sit on their hands and do nothing. And if they are unable to tell the difference between the bully and the bullied, then we must be the ones who help them recognize it.
Since one of the leading excuses for anti-gay bullying, specifically, is a supposed concern for Judeo-Christian morality (because "homosexuality" is "sinful"), it's time we hoisted the powers-that-be on their own petard. T-shirts, wristbands and popular TV shows are not getting through to them. LGBT Christians, and our allies in the Church, understand how to speak the language of those authorities charged with the protection of our kids, because what we believe -- at least for the most part -- they claim to believe, too. We may be able to reach them when others can't.
It makes no sense to decry the lack of discipline in schools one minute, then mealy-mouth and excuse the bullying of gays kids the next. This lame flip-flopping is brought to us daily by social conservatives nationwide. It's time to call them out on it.
Christians understand that kids cannot be treated like little adults because, even though they may have adult bodies, inside they are still children. Our non-Christian peers -- even in the LGBT community -- do not always get this. If educators who are Christians grasp it, we must show them that adults have the responsibility to protect all kids. If it's wrong for straight adults to treat kids differently when they're nubile and sexy, it's certainly no less wrong to turn a blind eye when they're treated differently because they might be gay.
Those charged with the protection of our young are being blinded by their lust for political power, and their desire for things to be made easy for them. They are letting these be their priorities, instead of their responsibility to those entrusted to their care. No bumper sticker, no pep-rally, is going to reach them. We must do it ourselves.
Must we have boldness before the bullies? Of course. First, we must realize that God is never a bully, that God does not back them in their torments, and that according to the overwhelming testimony of Scripture, God sides not with the oppressors, but with the oppressed.
Our ultimate authority is always God. We can appeal to earthly authorities by calling them before God's justice. And by reminding them that God's eyes are always upon them.
There is a moral compass. True North is nothing short of Heaven itself. In boldness, let us point the way True North. And let us march.
Lori Heine serves on Whosoever's board of directors. She maintains a blog called Born on 911 and also contributes to the Whosoever News Blog.
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