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Paul Coughlin Christian Blog and Commentary

Paul Coughlin

Contributing Writer, Author, Speaker

Truly He taught us to love one another, 

His law is love and His gospel is peace. 

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 

And in his name all oppression shall cease. 

 

While singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve this week in church, I was startled by the words above. Like you, I've been singing this song all my life--how did I fail to see them before? But given the recent tragedies we've absorbed as a nation, this year they got my attention. 
 
Of course the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was more than tragic. It was also evil. We are familiar with the expression: Evil targets the vulnerable. What we tend to overlook is that it also wants those with the power to help to remain on the sideline: dismayed, fooled, and cynical regarding any substantial opposition and solution. But as this beloved song reminds us, justice as well as love is part of God's nature, a part of his nature and an aspect of our faith that we sometimes forget. I was reminded of it this connection while singing this beloved song, and how in His name oppression should cease. 
 
It is not an exaggeration to say that targets of ongoing bullying, similar to those ensnared by the international sex trade, are enslaved and oppressed as well. What is a stumbling block to some is the nature of their oppression. It is slower-moving and less obvious. It's an oppression that gives the illusion of freedom. But it's real, as this mother's recent plea for help from The Protectors reveals:
 
My son has hemophilia. He is 10 years old at a Christian school. In 3rd grade, he was bullied so badly by another child that he actually wrote a letter to his teacher stating he wished he were dead. He became a recluse and refused to eat. Was mad all the time and wouldn't talk. The school counselled my son and the bully separately but it did not work.
 
This year he is being bullied verbally, emotionally, and now physically by the majority of students in his class. He has no self-esteem. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist. I worry constantly that he is going to kill himself. He sobbed to me for hours tonight and I still have not been able to get him to eat.  
 
I want my son back. He is an amazing kid. I purposefully put him in a Christian private school so that the attention would be more focused on school, rather than sports, which he cannot do due to his bleeding disorder. Ironically, his "weakness" is what started all the constant harassment from other students. I need someone to take this seriously. It is killing me watching my son so totally miserable. 
 
Please don't turn away from the deeper meaning of this mother's plea, because though it's painful to read it also reveals the path back toward peace, love and justice. What we need to see as people of faith is that no matter what this young boy does (and hundreds of thousands like him in America alone), he will not obtain justice and freedom on his own. See how even Christian schools need help combatting this intentional form of abuse that can be so difficult to spot without outside help? He needs protective intervention, which is our specialty. That's the good news for the rest of us. We get the privilege of being God's hands, feet, arms and hands in his life. 
 
With only five days left in our campaign to raise the funds necessary to best create our Hero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program, which brings His gospel of peace to so many, we ask that you act now. This is the ideal resource for this boy, his family, and so many just like them across the country and across the world. Together, we can break the chains that bind so many.   
 
And as Joseph, a recent contributor to this campaign, wrote, this campaign is a great way to grow and spread our faith. "Let’s put action to our faith…bullying is a real problem everywhere and this program is something all Christians should support and stand behind."

 


Survivors of Columbine shooting hug soon after rampage. According to the Secret Service, most school shootings are the result of ongoing bullying. 
 
While school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold continued their killing spree through Columbine High School, one student, Cassie Bernall, hid under a table and prayed fervently to God. "Dear God! Dear God! Why is this happening?! I just want to go home," reports the girl who crouched next to her. Klebold peered under and said sardonically, "Peekaboo." He then killed Cassie. 
 
Fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal, a bespectacled ninth-grader, walked into Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, carrying a large parcel wrapped in a quilt. He lied and told a somewhat suspicious teacher that the bundle contained "props for a science project." 
 
Shortly before 8 am, just before the first bell rang, this son of a respected lawyer and church elder put down his bundle, inserted earplugs, drew a weapon, and fired twelve shots into a circle of students gathered for Christian prayer in the lobby. Students screamed, clutched their own faces and each other, crying hysterically. Soon two girls lay dead. A third died a short time later. Five others were hospitalized; two partially paralyzed for life.
 
"I'm sorry," Carneal calmly told principal Bill Bond. According to Bond, Carneal's school essays and short stories revealed a recurring theme: The nightmare of bullying. He felt "picked on, weak, and powerless." He "had been teased all his life" and "just struck out in anger at the world."
 
School shooter, 16-year-old Luke Woodham, wrote in his journal before murdering two students and injuring seven others: "I am not insane. I am angry. I am not spoiled or lazy.… I killed because people like me are mistreated every day.… I am malicious because I am miserable."
 
Like innocent Cassie Bernall, our nation continues to ask: Dear God, why is this happening? The Secret Service knows why. It interviewed 37 school shooters and asked them why they did it. Nearly all of them said they murdered due to ongoing bullying. The Secret Service concluded that many cases met the legal definition of harassment and the moral definition of torment.
 
Bullying is about unequal power, not common conflict. And what history and today's headlines continue to tell us is that some will eventually reach for a weapon to level or exceed this gross imbalance of power. It's not about guns, knives or related weaponry. It's about unchallenged abuse, neglect, injustice and related afflictions. For people of faith, it's about leaving our spiritual Switzerland: our love for comfortable but faith-damaging neutrality while the war for human dignity rages onward. Bullying is preventable as the following Protectors success story demonstrates.
 
The sound and fury of a bullet ripping through a school's hallway is almost always the language of target rage: of the unheard, neglected, scorned, humiliated and abused. Sometimes it is a plea of a confused and tormented youth at the end of his rope, of someone who can no longer withstand the daily humiliation set around his neck like the millstone that it is.
 
Targets of the intentional and systematic abuse called bullying sometimes choose another drastic measure to relieve themselves of psychological turmoil. They attack themselves. This week The Protectors was contacted by the community of Fenton High School in Michigan for help. This is where around lunch time on November 27, senior Josh Pacheco quoted Bilbo Baggins on Facebook: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye."  Josh was found unresponsive in his truck, which was running in the closed-up garage. He left a note: "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough." Few adults are strong enough to endure what we expect our youth to endure.
 
Help us Help More Children
Help us answer Cassie's haunting question: "Dear God. Why is this happening?" Because hundreds of thousands of children are having their God-given dignity, value and worth stripped from them everyday. These children are made in the image of God, yet some treat targets as if there is no God at all. And due to the unique dynamic of bullying, many targets are incapable of self-rescue.
They need a protector, which is what we do. We're defending them through our unique, faith-based solution. We're raising up a generation of bold, courageous and faith-filled youth who will no longer remain silent when they witness such cruelty. They are Protectors, like Melody, who witnessed bullying on her playground. Melody used assertive but non-violent words straight from The Protectors program, which ended the verbal attack immediately. Now Melody and the former bully, together, protect other children in their Tennessee school.  
 
When Melody (above) shared her Protector's victory story with her class, her 5th grade teacher says, "Her fellow students spontaneously, without my direction, stood up and applauded herThis is one example of how this program empowers students in my class to do the right thing…Thanks for sharing your God-inspired wisdom."
 
We want to create more courageous Protectors like Melody throughout the world. Numerous organizations contact us needing help right away, but they cannot afford our current program. So we've created an inexpensive but still powerful resource just for them. It's called the Hero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program and our fundraising campaign to complete this life-saving resource ends in just 20 days. To help rescue more children from this intentional but preventable form of abuse, click hereHero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Famed painter Vincent van Gogh created this seemingly beautiful painting of The Church at Auvers. But look closely: No doors. It's how he felt after being denied priesthood, and this is how a growing number of families feel, especially those with special-needs children, due to the solvable but challenging problem of bullying. 

Wendy (her real name) writes: "Bullying is why we finally left the church for good. Our special needs child was being picked on by 'good Christian kids' in Sunday School and youth group. Thankfully he doesn’t have the self-awareness to be cognizant of the cruelty, but his sister does, and even though she alerted 'good Christian leaders' as to what was going on, NOTHING was done. After several kids picked on both brother and sister (sister for the apparent crime of having a special needs sibling?), and several emails/phone calls that fell on deaf ears, we were out of there."
 
This is just one of growing number of letters that The Protectors receive from families of bullying, one of the most under-recognized and anti-family forces today. Bullying, which is now the most prevalent form of violence our children will experience this year, is an intentional form of abuse that has nothing to do with conflict, misunderstanding or related myths. It's about deliberate domination and coercion, often through humiliation, isolation, disdain and contempt on behalf of many who believe they are superior to others. So it's no coincidence that special-needs children are among the most bullied: bullies often believe they are children of a lesser god, unworthy of respect and dignity. Bullying represents some of the darkest and least recognized sins within human nature. 
 
We need people of faith, conviction and compassion to join us in this righteous work created in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). If we care about the health, purpose and reputation of the Church, then we must be willing to tackle this growing problem. Because Wendy and her family don't just feel betrayed by the Church. Unrecognized and confronted bullying makes people feel betrayed by God, especially when it takes place inside the Church walls.
 
No one at Wendy's former church intended to be so blind and ignorant to the tell-tale signs of bullying, and in the process fail to minister upon so many levels. Like most in ministry, they have no training when it comes to bullying. Those in ministry are called to a higher standard, and part of that standard is the ability to recognize and intervene against intentional cruelty and in more extreme cases, evil. 
 
We want to help more churches, Christians schools and related organizations diminish bullying--but we currently cannot meet the tremendous need alone. Many Christian organizations can't afford our entire program. That's why we created our introductory, Hero in You faith-based DVD and curriculum. Through this upcoming and inexpensive resource, more organizations will be able to spread God's love, mercy and justice. But we need your help completed this resource that is unlike any other in the United States.
 
We have set a modest goal of $12,500 that will allow us to not just complete this one-of-a-kind project but also make it available for little if any cost to those in need. We have a long way to go in order to help the Church fulfill its mission and purpose, and we hope you'll join us. To partner, click here: Hero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program. Campaign ends December 31. 
 

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