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Bully

When my wife and I walked into the small darkened theater I saw something that has been as unforgettable to me as the film we were about to see. Scattered and spread out among the many empty seats, a few parents sat with children in a manner that, as I recall, looked more like a visit to a doctor’s office than to a Saturday afternoon cinema.

The film, Bully, a 2011 documentary about bullying in US schools was far more than I expected. Released in theaters on March 30, 2012, the film follows the lives of five children who experienced at bus stops, in school buses, classrooms, locker rooms and bathrooms, the kind of ridicule and assault that held them in daily fear, and, when discovered, broke their parents hearts.  The stories focus on two children who eventually took their own lives, and left their parents with a desperate desire to give their silenced children a voice that will make a difference for others.

Some of the most provocative moments came not only as bullied children were personalized, but as it became apparent that the adult community claimed helplessness in the face of the fact that children can be cruel.

My guess is that the parents and children in that darkened theater around us all had their own story.

Over the last few hours, my mind has gone in many directions. Scattered thoughts have been a reminder that bullying (i.e. aggressive behavior that uses force or coercion to humiliate and exploit the weakness of others) isn’t just an evil of childhood.

We’ve been talking about the story of Job who, in a sense, was bullied not only by a powerful, self-absorbed enemy, but also by friends who ganged up on him in his weakness—to defend their own defective view of God and life.

If that seems like a stretch, there is the Philistine giant Goliath who successfully bullied the armies of Israel until a little boy came against him in the name of his God (1Sam 17).

Israel’s King Ahab and his wife Jezebel used their power and royal wealth to grab the vineyard and destroy the life of a little man named Naboth (1Kings 21).

Then there’s the prophet Nathan who even had to confront “a man after God’s own heart” with a story of a rich man who owned large herds, but who used the pet lamb of a poor man to feed a house guest (2Sam 12:1-14).

You will probably think of other examples that reflect a heartless disregard for others in an effort to prop up ones own sense of entitlement or false pride.

What took me apart as I watched the movie was to see how easy it is to ignore, to rationalize, and even to morally justify the swaggering, posturing, and misuse of power that does so much damage to others—and to those who love them.


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32 Responses to “Bully”

  1. SFDBWV says:

    This is our Memorial Day weekend; we remember our war dead as well as loved ones who have passed on with flags and flowers to adorn their graves.

    As a people we here in the USA rose up against a bully King and tyrannical style of government and because God hates bullies the unimaginable happened and a group of Christian men forged a nation, and not just a nation, but one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.

    Defeating the world’s largest standing army with a rag tag group of men who would rather be dead than have their children live in bondage to a tyrant and bully king.

    Such liberty and such dreams will always need to be protected from the bully’s of the earth, and even when they creep in amongst us their time and season is marked and when those who suffer under them have had enough the bully is shown for what he really is a coward.

    There are a great many of issues that have brought our current society to the darkened state it is in, the most prevalent being the absence of God in not only our schools but in every area of our society and especially the home.

    Either a boon or a curse, I have dedicated my life to standing up against the bullies in life, it has caused me to be always in the position of standing up for others and placing me in the forefront of battles that may seem to not be mine, but I have learned in life if you don’t fight for the rights of others soon your own rights are in jeopardy.

    Such a life can seem to be a solitary one and often frustrating, but standing up against bullies is always the right thing to do and doing right has no end. Even when confronted with battling the ultimate bully (evil) it is to be remembered that with God as our ally what or who can stand against us?

    I hope you all have a pleasant holiday weekend, and reflect on those who have gone on before us and their sacrifices for us.

    Steve

  • remarutho says:

    Good Morning Mart & Friends –

    I have been blessed to sit with the powerful realities of Job’s predicament – which is the predicament of each child of God. We choose hundreds of times a day whether to enter the camp of destruction or to enter the camp of creation. Mart, you wrote:

    “…how easy it is to ignore, to rationalize, and even to morally justify the swaggering, posturing, and misuse of power that does so much damage to others—and to those who love them.”

    My experience this past week has been to view a documentary about a hospital in Jordan where doctors and therapists help children wounded in bombing to make a life out of a hideous reality. Limbs blown off, eyes destroyed by shrapnel, bodies burned and scarred, souls writhing in the dust – all for what? Men seeking control of some parcel of ground? Is it about two regimes slugging it out on a piece of territory? This is bullying gone wild.

    The hospital staff keep suicide watch over these who have lost everybody they loved. After surgery and medical attention, they give therapy of every kind – physical, psychological, spiritual, occupational. It seems to me the staff of this hospital answers the calling that Job’s friends could not answer.

    Blessings,
    Maru