Monday, April 16, 2012

Is there really anyone - aside from bullies - who think bullying is a good thing?

I thought long and hard about writing this blog post. I don't want anyone to get the impression that I am anti-Christian or anti-religion. Because I am not. Finally, I decided that I had to go ahead and write it, because I don't recognize what is going on as having anything to do with the Christianity I was brought up with.

In reading an article that appeared earlier this month on Huffington Post's website that was brought to my attention on Twitter, I discovered that certain organizations on the religious right, including the national group Focus on the Family, are agitating against anti-bullying legislation and activities, claiming that these are really part of an agenda to "promote homosexuality and transgenderism", as the author of the article characterizes their position.

Additionally, the article points out that a group called the Center for Arizona Policy lobbied to kill anti-bullying legislation even though the legislation did not specifically mention sexual orientation, while last year legislation was passed that specifically allowed bullying to continue if it was based on "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction", although that clause was removed after lawmakers and the parents of the teenager whose suicide after being bullied inspired the legislation protested the clause that allowed religious bullying.

All I can think when I read about this is What. The. Heck? Well, my reaction was actually a little stronger than that, but I'm trying to be respectful here and not go over the top in my reaction.

What are these so-called Christians thinking? While I do not currently attend any church, I did attend a Christian university and grew up going to church (Methodist, Baptist and LDS, primarily). I've read the New Testament, and I'm pretty familiar with the things that Jesus taught. I don't recall anything about it being okay to bully anyone, ever, under any circumstances. Jesus did, however, teach that Christians are to love their neighbors.

Jesus didn't say that, according to the Bible, just once. He said it three times in the Gospel of Matthew (5:44; 19:19; 22:39). He also said it in the Gospel of Mark (12:31) and in the Gospel of Luke (10:21). Additionally, the Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Romans (13:10) said, "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Bullying does harm. Clearly, then, bullying is not a Christian thing to do.

I understand, I really do, that the Great Commission, which Jesus delivered in Matthew 28:16-20, asks Christians to go out and convert the world. I sincerely doubt that Jesus meant that as a license to bully anyone who will not acquiesce and conform to the one particular version of Christianity that the religious right promotes. And I understand that there were times in the history of Christianity when that sort of force was tolerated. I would hope that we have become more civilized in the 21st century, especially in light of the fact that not every Christian denomination agrees with Focus on the Family's reading of social issues.

The real problem is not that Focus on the Family advocates the positions they do. I certainly do not agree with them, but I believe that followers of that organization have the right to believe whatever they want, and even to say that is what they believe. I'm kind of a First Amendment purist in that regard. The Free Speech clause was meant to protect speech that not everyone agrees with, not just the stuff that nobody has an issue with. The problem comes when organizations such as Focus on the Family start believing that they have the right to force their interpretation of Christianity on those who do not share that interpretation.

And that is where their stand on bullying comes in. They think they have the right to intimidate people into following their program. That's what bullying is: Intimidation. And intimidation is never acceptable. Not even in the name of one's religion.

And think about this: They aren't likely to stop with issues surrounding sexual orientation. With the flurry of legislation regarding reproductive rights from lawmakers on the religious right, it is fairly obvious that their goal is to make anything they don't think conforms to their particular interpretation of Christianity illegal for everyone. They won't stop until they can regulate what books you can read, what you can listen to on the radio, and what you can watch at the movies and on television, and everything else about your life.

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