I’ve made it known that soon I’ll be issuing a pastoral letter in response to the recent reports of children, teens and young adults dying by suicide. As I work to craft a letter worthy of sending to the church at large, let me express a few quick thoughts here.
In our time the world has become a little mean. 24/7 cable TV needs lots of material to fill the air, and what they find gets a little goofy sometimes. On talk radio the name calling is out of control. (And these are the adults. Sometimes self-proclaimed Christian adults.) It creates a context in which a circle of grown men can wrestle a woman to the ground and stomp on her – a context where young people lure a gay person into a home to brutalize him.
So is it any wonder that children and youth in our schools think it’s permissible to throw metal objects at a student in shop class (as happened to Jamarcus, age 14, only days before he completed a suicide in the Indianapolis area just a week or so ago) or to daily call names and threaten violence (as happened to Billy, 15, also of the Indianapolis area, who recently died by suicide related in part to the bullying.)
Lots of kids get bullied. They come to the attention of bullies because they are smart, or gay or lesbian, or are overweight, or don’t speak English well, or are too geeky, or . . . Bullying can go on day and night – cyber-bullying, too, has led to death by suicide of precious young persons.
We, in the church, really can’t stay silent on this one. Our silence is interpreted as our consent.
We are Disciples of Christ, of Jesus Christ, who welcomed children, ate with tax collectors, chatted with women – shocking in his time. But Jesus came into the world to show that God loved the world—the whole world. He calls us to love our neighbors – and to reach out to those that the world does not love.
There are lots of laws against bullying, lots of resources (including one just announced by Chalice Press, Bullying: A Spiritual Crisis, by Ronald Hecker Cram). But step one is to take a step – to step alongside our children and accompany them – bullied or bully – to help them negotiate that complicated pathway to adulthood. To help them learn self respect and respect for others. Church, it’s time for us to speak out and to reach out – so that every child, teen or young adult will know they are a precious child of God.