By FRANCIS REMKIEWICZ
Remember the story of the Tower of Babel? A rather brief story found in the Bible at Genesis Chapter 11:1-9. At that time in the world everyone spoke the same language and lived in the same area. Someone came up with the bright idea that if a tower tall enough was constructed then should a flood come, the builders would all be able to escape. Pretty much a “fool’s errand”. It did attract God’s attention in a very negative way. In fact, God was not happy with these people at all. As a result. God knocked the temple into the “middle of next week” and scattered all the people throughout the world at which time many new languages were developed so that communication between people became incredibly difficult.
Now, whether that literally happened or not is not my point. The point this column will work on is the inability to communicate separated us all and somehow managed to plant the seed of suspicion. And from that time on humanity has found more and more and more reasons to divide us into smaller proprietary groups. And how do we distinguish one group from another? By their differences and not by their similarities. Even today, we continue to find differences between groups.
Today these distinctions have become battlegrounds even to the point where one person is murdered by another person simply because one group wants to dominate one or more of the other groups.
The United States Constitution through the years has laid down the law and continues to do so through Supreme Court decisions. Thus far, to date our Constitution has made it illegal to discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability. Yet we, still do not get it. There are pending cases before the Supreme Court that are still trying to divide us. Let’s take a quick look at some figures. Unless otherwise noted these figures are taken from Pacers National Bullying Prevention Center (pacer.org).
This all can be boiled down to one word – Hate. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines hate in this fashion: Intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.
Hate is a very ugly word. This may surprise my readers. I was a combat Marine in Viet Nam in 1968-1969. I was either in a firefight or looking for a firefight for about 360 days out of a possible 408 days in country. I saw a lot of good young men die, some in my tank. And yet, even as a warrior I never hated the enemy. Certainly, it never felt anything like the description painted by Merriam Webster. Everyone on the battlefield was there for a reason, and hate was not one of those reasons.
I will discuss this “hate attitude” in this month’s column and next month’s column. In this month’s column I will discuss “bullying” and in next month’s column we will discuss “hate crimes”.
Let’s jump right in. I found this great website for those who wish to go in depth on bullying, https://www.pacer.org/bullying/info/stats.asp. I will break bullying apart into non-computer bullying and cyber-bullying. Here is the National Center Against Bullying definition of bullying: “Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behavior that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.
Bullying is a very special kind of hate. The intent in bullying is to specifically torture someone. That is a very special kind of hate in that not only do you hate someone for no reason at all, but you also want to see that person suffer. One derives some form of pleasure by inflicting pain on another. With that in mind let’s look at some statistics. The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019) And does that surprise anyone? Those are the chief reasons for discrimination lawsuits. Apparently, these issues are as old as the Bible itself. In Ephesians Paul writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” If we translate this passage to the modern and massage it just a little it becomes, If you do not have anything good to say, then say nothing at all. It could also become do not tear someone down simply to build yourself up. Matthew puts it into the context of the great commandment, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Twenty-one percent of all young people between the ages of 8-18 have been bullied and more to the point over 40 percent of those believe it will happen again! To me these numbers amaze me coming from some of the most well-educated, most affluent, kids in the world. Perhaps there is something missing in their lives? Here are the most startling and most dangerous of statistics on bullying.
There is a strong association between bullying and suicide-related behaviors, but this relationship is often mediated by other factors, including depression, violent behavior, and substance abuse.
Students who report frequently bullying others and students who report being frequently bullied are at increased risk for suicide-related behavior.
A meta-analysis found that students facing peer victimization are 2.2 times more likely to have suicide ideation and 2.6 times more likely to attempt suicide than students not facing victimization.
The startling fact for me is that BOTH the person bullied AND the bully are at a much higher risk of a catastrophic event. The old idea of “kids will be kids” which I heard from parents of bullies back when I was a principal must change.
There is one type of bullying that Christ never had to deal with. Computers have been around for many, many years. Until recently no one was ever sure what to do with them. In the last 20 years the “social media” has developed into a huge part of everyone’s life. The social media is now ubiquitous (always wanted to use that word). In fact, the social media transcends the computer. Phones, tablets, and all other sorts of talking devices permeate the streets, hallways, and bedrooms of our nation. Social media is a good thing when put to the use for which it is intended. It is a long running nightmare for many of our youth. The practice of cyberbullying is a new and unique way for anyone to torture anyone else AND remain anonymous. Nowadays not only can you be bullied at school but also at home, on the streets, in your car or sitting in a Starbucks drinking a beverage.
If we are Christians, we cannot avoid the mandate Christ gave us, that is, “to love one another as I have loved you.” There is one place where this theme is consistently taught and consistently practiced. That one place is your house of worship. It is clear to me why Christ gave us the line about “in the old days you were told to love your friends and hate your enemies. I say to you, love your friends and love your enemies.” How does one do that? For starters you can attend your house of worship on a regular basis. You get three great gifts by doing so. You get the love and warmth of a family and you get the strength to go out into the world and change all the hatred and animosity into a more loving less bullying world.
Until next time, wrap your arms around your children and grandchildren and hug them. Tell them you love them and Christ loves them.
Francis (Frank) Remkiewicz is an area resident and contributes a monthly column focused primarily on faith and religion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.