Bullying

Three Reasons I LOVE This Video

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You’ve maybe seen this gem floating around Facebook…

I love this video. Really. I LOVE it, and I have three reasons why I think it’s great.

REASON NUMBER ONE…

I love this video because it truthfully expresses that a woman should not bear the burden of any man’s unwanted attention or sexual aggression. Period. A man at no time or in any place has the right to force his unwanted sexual attention upon a woman. Coercive and aggressive behavior that causes fear or anxiety is wrong and should be stopped. We need to be saying this loudly and often and in every way possible, and the video is a wonderful example of saying it loud and clear.

REASON NUMBER TWO…

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.41.12 AMI love this video because it correctly references and relates to all religions and their concern for women. All religions are found steeped in and in conflict with their host cultures. I love that the video appropriately makes room for all of us to engage this important topic. Too often we use important issues like this to score points for our own group and condemn another group. This issue of responding to sexual aggression belongs to all. And before anyone from my group gets too tweaked over the video’s tagline that “Every religion protects women, protecting women is religion” allow me me remind you that such sentiments come straight from our scriptures. James 1:27 in the NLT, Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. And Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Caring for one another and loving our neighbor means protecting women from sexual violence, fear and aggression. Such truly is religion.

REASON NUMBER THREE…

batmanI love this video because it doesn’t advocate violence. We are so addicted to violent responses. We all want to be Batman, kicking butts and taking names. It’s sad that so many of us grew up only seeing violent responses modeled in media and life. I love loVE LOVE that image of the nonviolent circle of protection created around the woman in this video. Powerful stuff! We don’t need to fight one another. We need to stand together.

AMDG, Todd

Sexuality and Violence

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me its on us profileI took a bit of time off from blogging to get thru Thanksgiving, and it was a great time! I hope your holiday was blessed, happy and safe. I have the same prayer for your Advent Season and celebration of Hanukkah: safety, joy and good times with friends & family!

Sexuality and Violence

I was captivated by the story this morning of two sisters in India who courageously fought back against some young men harassing them on a public bus. But, it stands in stark contrast to the tragic story of Tugce Albayrak who was murdered in Germany for standing up for two other women who were being harassed. Sexuality and it’s tragic link to violence is a conversation that we must all engage, in our homes, within our local communities, across our nation and around our world.

Women’s Sexuality and Violence

Women are whole sexual beings of value and beauty, not sexual commodities to be handled, traded, devalued or owned. I’m glad that in an increasingly post-patriarchal world we can see women’s value on the rise, but we still have a journey ahead of us. I encourage you to support campaigns like It’s On Us and Hollaback! I just started looking through the website of Stop Street Harassment, a group working to equip male allies in the struggle to end this type of sexual violence. Honestly, I’ve been a bit discouraged by the number of men I see on Facebook justifying or laughing about the problem of street harassment. We can do better.

Something that I believe men often miss is the physical and emotional stress caused by verbal violence and actions (proximity and following) which engender fear for women in public places. We’ve probably all seen the recent video highlight the problem of street harassment in NYC, but many men are missing the point. Take for instance this interview with a man who clearly has no clue what kind of violence lurks behind street harassment and defends it as something women secretly desire. Then there’s a video of a muscular man walking in NYC and receiving some similar catcalls and harassment. The creators of that video believe there’s a dynamic equivalent between the experience of the woman and the man in a similar situation. The sad truth is that women are sometimes beaten and killed for rejecting those street harassments whereas the muscular guy has a bit less of a chance of the verbal assault becoming physically violent. Let’s get real.

Here’s a quick look at the global problem of violence against women, courtesy of the World Health Organization.

LGBTQ Sexuality and Violence

One of the saddest parts of engaging the current conversations about our valuable LGBTQ sisters, brothers and neighbors is the prevalence of violence linked with their sexual identity. LGBTQ youth have a high rate of homelessness which leads to vulnerability to crime, exploitation and drug abuse. They are often rejected at home and either driven out by the stresses of nonacceptance or simply told to leave. This is sexual violence. One of the saddest parts of this picture is that religion is often cited as a basis for both the nonacceptance and for kicking these teens out of their homes.

Sadly, we’re all familiar with stories like this one from Philadelphia just a couple months ago when two gay men were harassed and beaten. These stories are all too familiar and they highlight the problem of sexuality and violence. I recently shared the video of Laverne Cox speaking on street harassment and the ugly verbal violence she has faced and the physical violence which sometimes faces transgendered women on the street.

And who can forget the preachers who have used their pulpits to incite violence, both verbal and physical, against our neighbors based on their sexuality? Some of us may want to forget them, but we should face the truth that this is our issue in the church and we still have work to do to address it and move forward.

Here’s a downloadable report on hate crimes and violence against our LGBTQ friends, neighbors and family, courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign.

Speaking Up on Sexuality and Violence

What I ask is that we learn to speak up on behalf of anyone and everyone who faces verbal and/or physical violence because of their sexuality. We’re talking about gender and sexual orientation. We need to develop reflexes as a culture and a species which react to this violence with justice and mercy. We need to be heard from our homes, phones, Facebook streams, blogs and pulpits clearly saying that this kind of violence predicated on issues of sexuality is unacceptable, not funny and unwelcome on our big blue spinning globe.

I’m mediating this week with the beginning of Advent on John’s introduction to who Jesus is as he arrives in the world, from John 1:1-4…

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Word. Powerful Word. Creative Word. We know this truth: that our words have meaning and power. As the Word was a shaping and creative force in God’s founding of creation, we have similar words to shape and make this a world of justice, peace and hope. We know the words of Jesus, who is himself the light and life, claiming that we similarly are “the light of the world.” 

Are we ready to speak up? Are we ready to stand up and use our words to shape the world with God’s peace and grace? The world, every woman and man, every LGBTQ neighbor, awaits our decision. Let the light shine.

Let the light shine.

AMDG, Todd

Transgendered Day of Remembrance and Awareness

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Trans Remembrance Candle

Two Videos for Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014

It’s November 2oth and I just learned this year that Nov. 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day to remember those murdered for their gender expression. This is also a day to face the violence and hate that is perpetrated against transgendered people, and to oppose it. I’m going to dedicate today’s blog post to our trans neighbors who have faced violence and hatred, those youth who have been rejected by families and made homeless, those who have been bullied and those who have been murdered for trying to live as they most authentically understood themselves.

On this day of remembrance I ask that we all make a communal effort to replace any anger, any fear, any confusion, any hurt or lack of empathy, with love and a renewed desire to oppose all violence, verbal and physical, against our transgendered neighbors.

I was blessed recently to stumble on a short snip of Laverne Cox’s speech on the violence and bullying that the trans community often face in daily life. I shared it on Facebook and I offer it again as a place to begin listening and empathizing. Whoa, I just learned how to insert a YouTube video instead of just linking! Sweet!

I’m also happy to share another video, the Thursday Night Keynote from Rev. Allyson Robinson at The Reformation Project conference in DC a couple weekends back. She’s transgendered and a great preacher! Her message was deep and inspiriting.

I do realize that many (LGBTQ and straight) may not share the optimism she expresses on where we are at with LGBTQ acceptance and inclusion, either in churches or civil society. However, this lady can preach! I was blessed to be present hearing her message that evening, and blessed by her humility and gifting.

Talk to ya soon, beloved!

AMDG, Todd

Why Campaigns Matter

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me its on us imageI have to admit that I have not always been a big campaigner.

I guess I’m missing the activist gene, because it just doesn’t come naturally to me. My genetic code seems heavier with apathy and procrastination. But, you know what? When I stop and pay attention I have to say, campaigns do matter.

We talk a lot about civility here at this blog, and I’m not at all apathetic about our need for civil discourse. As a person of faith I am convinced that our kindness, our gentleness and our support of all people’s value and dignity are at the core of being who God has made us to be, in both our words and our actions. Campaigns often help bring important things into focus and remind us of how we are to do life, how we are to do life well.

Someone just today on my Facebook feed shared something from the campaign to get us to stop using the word “retarded” as a humiliating insult or degradation of someone or something. I agree and I shared it along. I hate the word. It sounds and feels like a hit from a baseball bat. We need to do the same with the word “gay,” just like we need to stop using “hit like a girl” and various male and female genitalia as descriptions of negative and inadequate human attributes or behaviors.

Why does it matter? Isn’t this just all “political correctness” gone too far? I’m really done with the idea that we can use speech to offend, hurt and degrade, and then cry “political correctness” when we are held accountable for the destructive qualities of our verbal choices. I’ll tell you why the words we use matter:

1) Words have meaning, history and power. We cannot simply use a hurtful word and claim innocence by the fact that we have decided what it means for ourselves regardless of the word’s meaning and influence in the lives of other people. Retarded is a great example. The word has been used to degrade, hurt and humiliate people for years. It has, as many words do, both denotation and connotation. We do not have the right to ignore it’s negative impact on people around us.
2) We cannot use a word as an insult without insulting that to which the word refers. “That’s so gay” is an insult to gay people. “Hit like a girl” is an insult to girls, not a scientific measurement or expression of applied force. Using phrases like “He’s a real douche” or “Don’t be a dick” attaches negative meaning to things which are not in themselves negative. Feminine hygiene and male genitalia are not bad things. Our thoughtless words and actions can lead us to unintended consequences of meaning and perpetuation of hurtful meanings.
3) We have an obligation to listen and care. When our neighbors are injured by our words and/or actions, we have an obligation to care. There is no healthy philosophical, religious or spiritual system which separates one person’s well being from the well being of the world and people around her/him. We are connected. We should care.

Also…

  • Joining a campaign doesn’t fix the problem. We don’t signal our participation with an anti-bullying campaign believing that to be the solution to bullying. What we hope is that within the sphere our friends and family we might increase the conversation and awareness of a problem, and thus we would hope to participate in concrete steps toward a solution.
  • Joining a campaign does mean you’re thinking about something. Thinking is a good thing.
  • Joining a campaign does mean you’re listening. Listening is polite.
  • Joining a campaign does encourage campaign creators. That’s just neighborly.

Here are a few campaigns I’ve valued over the years and in recent months. I was excited to have had a chance to run in a local ONE Campaign 5k earlier this year and I just got my “It’s On Us” t-shirt a few weeks back. I believe that these kinds of campaigns are hopeful and reflect a lot of positive thinking and action in our world. I just might be becoming an activist…

Spread the Word to End the Word (retarded)

It’s On Us (combatting sexual violence)

He For She (solidarity for gender equality)

Hollaback! (you know, stopping street harassment)

I Choose (anti-bullying)

Human Rights Campaign (civil rights and equality)

The ONE Campaign (ending poverty)

Let’s keep it real. Endorse and support the campaigns you believe in, and let’s make the world a better, shinier, happier place for having supported us through the years of our lives.

AMDG, Todd

The Bullies And The Be’s, and A Boy Name Michael

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This is a blog post about a boy being bullied for liking a cartoon and it’s characters, bullied to point he attempted suicide. Even as we pray for him and his family and we watch for his story to unfold, I want to talk about talking about bullying.

Reading this story about a boy too young to be so terrorized and pushed to a suicide attempt I realize it’s worth the time to encourage our commitment to the discussion of bullies and how we are to “be.” I’m going to say bullies and “be’s” because it’s more than just telling our kids not to be a bully, but it’s also about teaching our kids to support one another, to show compassion and be aware of the other children around them. This is a parental issue. We need to own it. We need to own the story of Michael’s suicide attempt and be taught by his story. We need to pray for him and his family. We need to open our eyes to how we as adults, and especially as parents, model life for the children in our radius of influence.

You caught the allusion to the infamous talk about “The Birds and The Bees” as we have come to call the time when a parent tries to impart our knowledge and wisdom to our child about human sexuality. Talking about sexuality is difficult, but we do it because our kids need to learn from people in whom they can place trust and who are looking out for their best interests. The talk about bullies and becoming the right kind of person is just as important. We hopefully talk about sexuality with our kids before they hurt themselves, before they are victimized or grow into victimizers. The same idea goes for the talk about bullies… it’s not just a talk for the kid who’s being a bully, but for all kids. Every needless death and suicide attempt is a reminder that too many of us as parents aren’t addressing the problem before the victimization begins and remains unchecked. You can search around for yourself, but suicide is third leading cause of death for young people and bullying often has a strong link to suicide attempts.

You Are Not To Be A Bully, Ever.

Start here with your child. It’s not a complicated lesson to impart. We tell our children that they are not to make fun of other kids. We teach them to empathize, to imagine how it hurts to be ridiculed and “left out” at school. Bullying happens on the playground, on Facebook, on MySpace, Twitter and every social media platform that has been invented. We tell our children that they do not speak rudely of or to other kids or even adults, for any reason.

We have to tell our kids that they may not ever hit, kick, push, shove or physically embarrass another child. They may not threaten or intimidate another child. It’s a clear message that can be easily shared with a child, “You may not.” We deliver this message again and again and again. It’s one of parental mantras that we repeat until they’re sick of hearing it and will never forget it. “You are not a bully.”

If a child has been a bully, then they stop and they bully no more. I’m not looking to vilify and hurt kids who hurt other kids. We impart these kinds of lessons because kids often don’t realize the impact of their words and actions. I have heard it many times, and said it myself, “Kids can be cruel.” But that’s a bit of an evasion to be honest. The truth is most often more like, “Kids can be immature and unaware.” The vast majority of kids wouldn’t set out to so emotionally and psychologically hurt another being that the victim is driven to a suicide attempt. We as parents know it can happen, and that’s why the burden of teaching falls to us.

The harder part of the lesson is modeling these things for our children. They have to see us treating people and speaking of people with respect and dignity. They need to hear us speak in ways that show dignity and respect for others, especially those not like us and with whom we disagree. If we continually rail against people and angrily denounce others for their viewpoints, life-styles or for their physical attributes, our children will mirror our behavior at school and in their social circles.

Modeling Bubble 1Parents, we influence our child when we speak of “the gays” with fear, anger or negativity. We influence our children’s behavior and speech when we verbalize fear or anger at “the Jews,” or when we give an angry tirade against “those Christians.” We do no one a favor, especially our children, when we speak with disgust or anger of “the Muslims, the Right Wingers, the Liberals, the Illegals, the Mexicans, the blah blah, <insert people not  like me here>.”

When we model a lifestyle of dividing the people around us into who gets our respect and who doesn’t, our children learn to make the same determinations in their circles and act on them. And let’s be honest, we’re talking about the words we use and the actions we take, but also about the media which we allow into our homes. Media and shows which engender fear, division, hatred or anger should have no place among our families. We can get our news, regardless of our political and social leanings, without subjecting our children to thinly veiled bigotry and divisiveness.

Does this mean we lose our ability to teach our values and beliefs to our children? Of course not. It does mean that we include the values of respect and personal dignity, of civility and responsibility. You may not like the politics and social stances of Republicans, but you can teach your children your political values while teaching them to be respectful of others. The same goes for every issue from immigration to sexual orientation to economics.

You Are to Be Kind.

thumperAgain, the simplicity and clarity of this message is difficult for a child to miss. This is the positive side of the negative message to “be not.” Our message to our kids is not complete if it rests in the “be not” realm, but it has to move into the world of being something.  Our message is this:

1) Kindness is strength, it is power and it is truth. Let’s have a round of applause for Thumper’s dad, shall we? And now one for his mom… they tag team this idea perfectly (for imaginary characters in a cartoon movie). Kindness means that even if what we are going to say is true, it may not be right or kind to say it. The substance of a statement can be correct while the speaking of the statement is not correct. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Thumper’s been teaching it since 1942. “But it’s true” isn’t a good enough reason to say it.
2) Kindness is more than manners, but it includes manners. Kindness is sometimes costly and requires an expenditure of energy. Kindness is practiced and cultivated, it’s learned behavior. Kindness is a choice about the way a person will speak and act, and it’s a choice best made before a situation in which we hope to be kind or to show kindness. We teach our kids to choose to and then practice treating people the way they want to themselves be treated.
3) Kindness is also muscle memory. Grabbing a door to hold it open or moving to help someone when they drop something… these things are best as reflexes. Some kids will learn to point and laugh, and some kids will learn to look away and move on. Who will practice and develop the instinct to kindness? What kids will jump to help?As parents we are at the forefront of teaching our kids how they behave in common, every day situations. Do we model kindness for them? Do we stop and help someone who has dropped something or fallen? Do we hold the door at a restaurant or rush to get in front of one or two people and get our food maybe 60 seconds faster? What do our kids learn of kindness from us? It should be a positive message that they hear and see from us all the time, and not just when they’re being naughty.

You Are To Be Supportive.

Teaching kids to be empathetic and aware of what others are experiencing is easier than you think. Kids know who is being bullied, and they know how it feels to be bullied. In fact, we may be teaching children not to be empathetic or actually removing their empathy by not teaching, modeling and reinforcing a good awareness of others and their suffering or joy. There is evidence showing kids to be naturally empathetic. As our children grow up, they are in general ready to learn this from us and have it affirmed. The seed of empathy is there, but will it be nurtured and grown in our care or neglected and extinguished?

Looking back to the sad story of young Michael attempting to take his life, I’m left wondering how many of his classmates could empathize with his pain, but did not have the formation from parents to act on their empathy? How many times do we say to our children, “Reach out and support the hurting.” A parent may want to argue that putting such moral responsibility on a young person could be too much for them at age 11 or 12, but they have it within them to see another’s pain and offer support.

This is not in any way to suggest that his classmates who did not bully him are responsible for his attempted suicide. It is to ask if we are affirming what our kids already feel, that the pain of another person is something to which they can and should respond in helpful, healthful, constructive ways. Not only can classmates lend support and strength to a bullied student, but they could also engage adults to help and be more aware of the problem.

As I’m writing I’m also reading to my wife and we’re batting things back and forth. She just asked, “So how do we teach kids to be supportive?” She means, “How is this actually done so that my child knows what to do?” Kids are naturally empathetic, but they may not have the knowledge or maturity to act on it in the best ways. Let’s think of several things our kids can do, and we’ll frame these as “we can” statements, because we all can do this:
1) We can speak up. When someone is being hurt, humiliated or bullied, it sometimes just takes one voice in opposition saying, “Enough!” Our kids don’t have to get in a fight to stand up for someone. That don’t have to scream to say, “No more. Not right. Not true.” Thinking back on my statement that kids aren’t always cruel, but often unaware, they can be easily caught up in a moment of escalation. They may not be prepared to not follow when their group is gaining momentum in bullying a classmate, unless we have taught them to watch for it. And if it’s too crazy, the bullying is just too scary and we’re afraid… then we can speak up to someone else who can help. Our kids need to know that we as parents and other adults want to help the hurting. They can come to us.
2) We can give encouragement. Speaking up is not always in opposition, but can be in support of the person being hurt. Our kids can learn to respond to people’s pain with kindness shown in words like, “What they said about you isn’t true.” Maybe it’s written in a note and passed along later. Maybe it’s a smile. When someone else is being robbed of their dignity and worth by hurtful actions and words, we can supply the positive words and actions which help make up the difference. Know what this takes? It takes parents who really do believe that kindness is strength. It takes parents who are willing to model kindness for their children.
3) We can show friendship. It’s done in simple ways like saying hello, goodbye, good job and otherwise acknowledging another’s worth. A bullied child lives in fear and isolation. We can end that isolation. We can say hello to the person that no one greets. We can congratulate another person’s good work. We can let someone know that we are watching to see them again tomorrow. We can make sure someone has a point of contact and are not completely lost and alone.

An ongoing conversation, and Michael’s future…

This is not a lesson that we get to sit down and share once, but it’s a way we model life for our kids and a lesson that we have to reaffirm again and again. I hope you hear in my post that I’m not interested in vilifying or witch-hunting anyone, especially children, even bullying children. I’m interested in being involved and engaged enough to talk with our kids and help them to learn to take their natural empathy and act on it in helpful, healthful ways.

Michael’s full physical injuries are not known at this time. Let’s pray for a full recovery! If you want to help with his medical costs, you can do that here at a GoFundMe campaign. There’s a touching interview with Michael’s step-father here.

And what about My Little Pony? I have to say that I didn’t watch the original series from way back in the 80’s and I barely remember the toys when I was young. I have however watched a lot of episodes of the newer animated series and anyone who says it’s just for girls is simply wrong. The show is funny, clever and wonderfully supportive of moral behavior. Here’s the Hasbro site, Wikipedia, and the MLP Wiki. It’s fun, just simply fun. And nothing as fun as MLP should be used as a weapon to hurt a human being.

AMDG, Todd