The charge of bullying tends to be selective, readily applied in some instances while ignored in others. In any case, it consists of coercion with the intent of dominating. As such, it is a practice that is virtually pervasive.
I became painfully aware of bullying in grade school. Not as a rule directed toward me, because I was less vulnerable than most. However, I occasionally attempted to protect others. Consequently, my mother was afraid that I might be seriously injured. At one point, she threatened: “If you don’t stop fighting, I will kill you.” I understood this as hyperbole.
The Jewish people have been a prime target for bullying. It was with this in mind that I authored The Elder Brother: A Christian Alternative to Anti-Semitism (University Press of America, 2005). “The vestiges of anti-Semitism (anti-Jewish prejudice) remains with us to the present,” I allowed on that occasion. “It raises its ugly head first in one connection and then another. It thus gives the impression of never lurking far below the surface” (p. v).
Christians are also targeted. So that it is estimated that more were martyred during the last century than all previous centuries combined. Then more recent studies report that the number doubled during the last year, as compared to the previous one.
Anti-Christian bullying usually takes a less violent form. So that the adherent is not allowed to exercise his or her convictions. Should one insist on doing so, then to be demeaned as hateful, and held up to ridicule.
This rules out what is said to be hard love. That which C. S. Lewis had in mind when he insisted, “Because God loves us, he strives to make us lovable.” So that a person may be legitimately critical of a person’s behavior if this is thought to be detrimental. “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’” Jesus allowed. “But I tell you : Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43-44).
Homophobia is said to give rise to bullying. In the village culture in which I was raised, homosexuality was not promoted in the manner in which it has subsequently come to pass. Still, such practice was allowed—providing there were no extenuating circumstances.
Fast forward. A situation was recently reported where the teacher promoted a homosexual lifestyle in the course of his lecture. After the students were dismissed, he overheard one of them take issue. Irrate over what was intended as a private comment, in contrast to his public advocacy, he had the student put on probation for alleged bullying. Although he might be more readily charged with this offense.
As a reality check, one might disapprove of homosexual behavior for a number of reasons. Sometimes on religious grounds, traditional practice, health considerations, and the like. But should one want to alter his or her sexual orientation, this is sometimes prohibited. Even though one study showed that over 40 % of those involved made a satisfactory adjustment.
Examples could readily be multiplied, were that to serve any legitimate purpose. Instead, several observations would seem in order. (1) As noted above, the charge of bullying is often highly selective. So that some instances are suspect, while more credible alternatives are disregarded. This is in keeping with a highly biased social agenda.
(2) Qualifications aside, we should allow for differences of opinion. Initially, because presuppositions vary. So that if one thinks that Scripture is normative in matters of faith and practice, it should influence his or her conclusions. While others embrace different presuppositions, which may seem less plausible.
Then, too, we must allow for additional insights. Such as recalls one of my favorite quotes, “The more we know, the more we realize that we do not know.” This gives rise to what is sometimes identified as paradigm shifts, which accounts for a more likely theory to emerge.
(3) We ought not to assume that because someone disagrees with us that it is generated by hate. Since it may be with the best of intentions. Or, as suggested above, motivated out of hard love.
(4) We should likewise allow for voluntary compliance to what we understand as truth. In this regard, “Whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17). Rather than to revert to coercion.
(5) Qualifications again aside, we ought to discourage bullying. Out of respect for the integrity of others, as created in God’s image and for his gracious purposes. Rather than tolerate or encourage in some instances, while repudiating it in others. Or so it would seem.
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